Emerson Spartz, MuggleNet (ES): Who do you discuss Harry Potter with?
JKR: When I'm working on it, you mean? Virtually no one, which is, for me, it's a necessary condition of work. I have this
reputation for being reclusive. Now, that came, I'm not sure that it holds so true in America, but in Britain you really can't
read an article on me - and I read probably a hundredth of what's out there so I know it must be happening more - without
the world reclusive being attached to my name. I'm not reclusive in the slightest. What they mean is that I'm secretive and
I don't do a lot of - I'm secretive because that for me is necessary condition of work. It's got nothing to do with the franchise;
it's got nothing to do with trying to protect "the property." I hate it being called "the property," but other people call
it "the property." It's because I think if you discuss the work while you're doing it you tend to dissipate the energy you
need to do it.
You will meet, we've all met, a hell of a lot of people who stand in bars and discuss the novels they are writing. If they
were writing, they'd be at home actually writing it. Very occasionally I might tell Neil that, I say, I've had a good day,
or I've, you know, I wrote a good joke - it made me laugh - whatever, but I would never discuss in details. And then once
I've handed in the manuscript to my editors, and that's Emma, who is my UK editor, and Arthur, who is my American editor,
they would both see the manuscript at the same time. They collaborate on what they both think about it, and then they come
back to me and suggest things. Of course, it's very liberating once someone's read it to be able to then discuss it, so you
know I've kept it quiet for 18 months while I've been working and then you get this explosion, because you really want to
talk to someone about it now, so Emma and Arthur are the ones who get my first effusions and then it's wonderful to hear what
they think. They were both very positive about this book; they really liked it. And then we have arguments as well, obviously.
ES: This is kind of a strange question but how many times have you read your own story?
JKR: That is not a strange question; it's a very valid question because once the book is published, I rarely re-read. A
funny thing is when I do pick up a book to check a fact - which I obviously do a lot - if I start reading, then I do get kind
of sucked in myself and I may read several pages and then I put it away and go back to what I'm doing, but I would never,
if for example I was heading to the bath, and I wanted to pick up something to read, I'd never pick up one of my own books.
Therefore there are thousands of fans who know the books much better than I do. My one advantage is I know what's going to
happen, and I've got a lot of backstory.
Melissa Anelli, The Leaky Cauldron (MA): How many boxes is it now of backstory?
JKR: It really is hard to say because I'm so disorganized, but yeah, there's boxes. It's mainly in notebooks because the
backstory is so valuable, so I mainly need that in a format I can retrieve because I lose stuff. So, it's harder to lose a
book than it is a bit of paper.
ES: When Book 7 is out, will you keep the website open to keep answering questions?
JKR: Yeah, I don't see the Web site closing, like on the stroke of midnight when the seventh book's finished. No, definitely
not. My feeling is, I couldn't possibly answer all the questions, because the novel is the wrong form in which to, for example,
present a catalog of your characters' favorite colors. But people actually want to know - it's that kind of detail, isn't
it? So, I'm never going to answer everything that an obsessive fan would want to know in the novels, and the website is another
way of doing that.
Also I think people will continue to theorize about the characters even at the end of Book 7 because some people are very
interested in certain characters whose past lives are not germane to the plot - they're not central to the story - so there
is big leeway there still for fan fiction, just as there is, I mean - Jane Austen, I'm a huge Jane Austen fan and you wonder
about the characters lives at the end of the story. They still exist, they still live; you're bound to wonder, aren't you?
But I am as sure as I can be currently that 7 will be the final novel, even though I get a lot of really big puppy dog eyes.
"Just one more!" Yeah, I think it will be seven.
ES: Seven books is a long series.
JKR: Yeah, exactly, I don't think they're going to say you wimped out, come on!
MA: If you were to write anything else on the Harry Potter series, would it be about Harry Potter himself or another
character or a reference book?
JKR: The most likely thing I've said this a few times before, would be an encyclopedia in which I could have fun with the
minor characters and I could give the definitive biography of all the characters.
MA: Okay, big, big, big Book 6 question. Is Snape evil?
JKR: [Almost laughing] Well, you've read the book, what do you think?
ES: She's trying to make you say it categorically.
MA: Well, there are conspiracy theorists, and there are people who will claim -
JKR: Cling to some desperate hope [laughter] -
ES: Like certain shippers we know!
JKR: Well, okay, I'm obviously - Harry-Snape is now as personal, if not more so, than Harry-Voldemort. I can't answer that
question because it's a spoiler, isn't it? Whatever I say, and obviously it has such a huge impact on what will happen when
they meet again that I can't. And let's face it, it's going to launch 10,000 theories, and I'm going to get a big kick out
of reading them so [laughs] I'm evil but I just like the theories. I love the theories.
ES: I know Dumbledore likes to see the good in people but he seems trusting almost to the point of recklessness sometimes.
JKR: Yes, I would agree. I would agree.
ES: How can someone so -
JKR: Intelligent -
ES: - be so blind with regard to certain things?
JKR: Well, there is information on that to come, in seven. But I would say that I think it has been demonstrated, particularly
in Books 5 and 6 that immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes, and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies
that. In fact, I would tend to think that being very, very intelligent might create some problems and it has done for Dumbledore,
because his wisdom has isolated him, and I think you can see that in the books, because where is his equal; where is his confidante;
where is his partner? He has none of those things. He's always the one who gives; he's always the one who has the insight
and has the knowledge. So I think that, while I ask the reader to accept that McGonagall is a very worthy second-in-command,
she is not an equal. You have a slightly circuitous answer, but I can't get much closer than that.
ES: No, that was a good answer.
MA: It's interesting about Dumbledore being lonely.
JKR: I see him as isolated, and a few people have said to me rightly I think, that he is detached. My sister said to me
in a moment of frustration - it was when Hagrid was shut up in his house after Rita Skeeter had published that he was a half-breed
- and my sister said to me, "Why didn't Dumbledore go down earlier, why didn't Dumbledore go down earlier?" I said he really
had to let Hagrid stew for a while and see if he was going to come out of this on his own because if he had come out on his
own, he really would have been better. "Well he's too detached, he's too cold, it's like you," she said! [Laughter] By which
she meant that where she would immediately rush in and I would maybe stand back a little bit and say, "Let's wait and see
if he can work this out." I wouldn't leave him a week. I'd leave him maybe an afternoon. But she would chase him into the
ES: This is one of my burning questions since the third book - why did Voldemort offer Lily so many chances to live?
Would he actually have let her live?
JKR: [silence] Can't tell you. But he did offer; you're absolutely right. Don't you want to ask me why James's death didn't
protect Lily and Harry? There's your answer - you've just answered your own question - because she could have lived - and
chose to die. James was going to be killed anyway. Do you see what I mean? I'm not saying James wasn't ready to; he died trying
to protect his family, but he was going to be murdered anyway. He had no - he wasn't given a choice, so he rushed into it
in a kind of animal way. I think there are distinctions in courage. James was immensely brave. But the caliber of Lily's bravery
was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself. Now any mother, any normal mother would have done
what Lily did. So in that sense, her courage too was of an animal quality but she was given time to choose. James wasn't.
It's like an intruder entering your house, isn't it? You would instinctively rush them. But if in cold blood you were told,
"Get out of the way," you know, what would you do? I mean, I don't think any mother would stand aside from their child. But
does that answer it? She did very consciously lay down her life. She had a clear choice. -
ES: And James didn't.
JKR: Did he clearly die to try and protect Harry specifically given a clear choice? No. It's a subtle distinction and there's
slightly more to it than that but that's most of the answer.
MA: Did she know anything about the possible effect of standing in front of Harry?
JKR: No - because as I've tried to make clear in the series, it never happened before. No one ever survived before. And
no one, therefore, knew that could happen.
MA: So no one - Voldemort or anyone using Avada Kedavra - ever gave someone a choice and then they took that option
[to die] -
JKR: They may have been given a choice, but not in that particular way.
ES: When Sirius was framed for the death of Pettigrew and the Muggles, did he actually laugh or was that something made
up to make him look even more insane?
JKR: Did he actually laugh? Yes, I would say he did. Well, he did, because I've created him. Sirius, to me, he's kind of
on the edge. Do you not get that feeling from Sirius? He's a little bit of a loose cannon. I really like him as a character
and a lot of people really liked him as a character and are still asking me when he's going to come back. [Laughter] But Sirius
had his flaws - I've sort of discussed that before - some quite glaring flaws. I see Sirius as someone who was a case of arrested
development. I think you see that from his relationship with Harry in "Phoenix." He kind of wants a mate from Harry, and what
Harry craves is a father. Harry's kind of outgrowing that now. Sirius wasn't equipped to give him that.
The laughter - he was absolutely unhinged by James's death. Harry and Sirius were very similar in the way that both
of them were craving family connections with friends. So, Sirius with James wanted a brother, and Harry has nominated Ron
and Hermione as his family. This is the thing I found interesting - it might have been on MuggleNet's comments, this is a
while back when I was actually looking for fan sites of the month (or whatever arbitrary time period I do) - it was around
the time I was reading comments for the first time and there was something in there where kids were saying, "I don't understand
why he's shouting at Ron and Hermione. I mean, I'd shout at my parents. I would never shout at my best friends." But he has
no one else to shout at. That was interesting from young kids, because I just don't think they could make that leap of imagination.
He's very alone. Anyway I've wandered miles away from Sirius.
He was unhinged. Yes, he laughed. He knew what he'd lost. It was a humorless laugh. Pettigrew, who they, in a slightly
patronizing way - James and Sirius at least - who they allowed to hang round with them, it turned out that he was a better
wizard than they knew. Turned out he was better at hiding secrets than they knew.
MA: You said that during the writing of Book 6 something caused you fiendish glee. Do you remember what that was?
JKR: Oh, god. [Long silence as Jo thinks] What was it? It wasn't really vindictive [laughter] - that was more of a figure
of speech. I know what I've enjoyed writing - you know Luna's commentary during the Quidditch match? [Laughter] It was that.
I really enjoyed doing that. Actually I really enjoyed doing that.
You know, that was the last Quidditch match. I knew as I wrote it that it was the last time I was going to be doing a Quidditch
match. To be honest with you, Quidditch matches have been the bane of my life in the Harry Potter books. They are necessary
in that people expect Harry to play Quidditch, but there is a limit to how many ways you can have them play Quidditch together
and for something new to happen. And then I had this moment of blinding inspiration. I thought, Luna's going to commentate,
and that was just a gift. It's the kind of commentary I'd do on a sports match because I'm -[laughs]. Anyway yeah, it was
MA: That was a lot of fun. She's fun.
JKR: I love Luna, I really love Luna.
ES: Why does Dumbledore allow Peeves to stay in the castle?
JKR: Can't get him out.
ES: He's Dumbledore: he can do anything!
JKR: No, no, no, no, no. Peeves is like dry rot. You can try and eradicate it. It comes with the building. You're stuck.
If you've got Peeves, you're stuck.
ES: But Peeves answers to Dumbledore -
JKR: Yeah. I see Peeves as like a severe plumbing problem in a very old building, and Dumbledore is slightly better with
the spanner than most people, so he can maybe make it function better for a few weeks. Then it's going to start leaking again.
Would you want Peeves gone, honestly?
MA: If I was Harry I might, but as a reader I enjoy him. I enjoyed him most when he started obeying Fred and George
at the end of Book 5.
JKR: Yeah, that was fun. I enjoyed that. That was satisfying. [Laughter]
ES: When I signed onto IM (instant messenger) after the book came out, there were at least four or five people whose
away messages were, "Give her hell from us, Peeves." Everybody loved that line.
JKR: [Laughter] Awww. Well, Umbridge, she's a pretty evil character.
MA: She's still out and about in the world?
JKR: She's still at the Ministry.
MA: Are we going to see more of her? [Jo nods] You say that with an evil nod.
JKR: Yeah, it's too much fun to torture her not to have another little bit more before I finish.
ES: MuggleNet "Ask Jo" contest winner Asrial, who's 22, asks, "If Voldemort saw a Boggart, what would it be?"
JKR: Voldemort's fear is death, ignominious death. I mean, he regards death itself as ignominious. He thinks that it's
a shameful human weakness, as you know. His worst fear is death, but how would a Boggart show that? I'm not too sure. I did
think about that because I knew you were going to ask me that.
ES: A corpse?
JKR: That was my conclusion, that he would see himself dead.
ES: As soon as it became clear this question was going to win, I started getting dozens of emails from people telling
me I shouldn't ask it because the answer was too obvious. Except they all disagreed on what the obvious answer was. Some were
sure it would be Dumbledore, some were sure it would be Harry and some were sure it would be death. A couple of follow-ups
on that, then - what would he see if he were in front of the Mirror of Erised?
JKR: Himself, all-powerful and eternal. That's what he wants.
ES: What would Dumbledore see?
JKR: I can't answer that.
ES: What would Dumbledore's Boggart be?
JKR: I can't answer that either, but for theories you should read 6 again. There you go.
MA: If Harry was to look in the Mirror of Erised at the end of Book 6, what would he see?
JKR: He would have to see Voldemort finished, dead gone, wouldn't he? Because he knows now that he will have no peace and
no rest until this is accomplished.
ES: Is the last word of Book 7 still scar?
JKR: At the moment. I wonder if it will remain that way.
MA: Have you fiddled with it?
JKR: I haven't actually physically fiddled with it. There are definitely a couple of things that will need changing. They're
not big deals but I always knew I would have to rewrite it.
MA: But it's definitely still on that track?
JKR: Oh definitely. Yeah, yeah
MA: How do you feel that you're starting the last book?
JKR: It feels scary, actually. It's been 15 years. Can you imagine? One of the longest adult relationships of my life.
MA: Have you started?
JKR: Yeah. Realistically, I don't think I'm going to be able to do real work on it until next year. I see next year as
the time that I'm really going to write seven. But I've started and I am doing little bits and pieces here and there when
I can. But you've seen how young Mackenzie still is, and you can bear actual witness to the fact that I do have a very small,
real baby, so I'm going to try and give Mackenzie what I gave David, which is pretty much a year of uninterrupted "me time,"
and then I'll start writing seriously again.
ES: What prompted people to start referring to Voldemort as You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?
JKR: It happens many times in history - well, you'll know this because you're that kind of people, but for those who don't,
having a taboo on a name is quite common in certain civilizations. In Africa there are tribes where the name is never used.
Your name is a sacred part of yourself and you are referred to as the son of so-and-so, the brother of so-and-so, and you're
given these pseudonyms, because your name is something that can be used magically against you if it's known. It's like a part
of your soul. That's a powerful taboo in many cultures and across many folklores. On a more prosaic note, in the 1950s in
London, there were a pair of gangsters called the Kray Twins. The story goes that people didn't speak the name Kray. You just
didn't mention it. You didn't talk about them, because retribution was so brutal and bloody. I think this is an impressive
demonstration of strength - that you can convince someone not to use your name. Impressive in the sense that demonstrates
how deep the level of fear is that you can inspire. It's not something to be admired.
ES: I meant, was there a specific event?
JKR: With Voldemort? It was gradual. He was killing and doing some pretty evil things. In the chapter "Lord Voldemort's
Request," when he comes back to request that teaching post in Book 6, you get a real sense that he's already gone quite a
long way into the Dark Arts. By that time, a lot of people would be choosing not to use his name. During that time his name
was never used except by Dumbledore and people who were above the superstition.
MA: Speaking of world events -
JKR: Chapter 1?
MA: Yeah, Chapter 1, and current world events, specifically in the last four years. Terrorism and the like - has it
factored into your writing; has it shaped your writing?
JKR: No, never consciously, in the sense that I've never thought, "It's time for a post-9/11 Harry Potter book," no. But
what Voldemort does, in many senses, is terrorism, and that was quite clear in my mind before 9/11 happened. I was going to
read last night [ie, do the midnight reading at the castle] from Chapter 1. That was the reading until the 7th of July
[bombings in London]. It then became quite clear to me that it was going to be grossly inappropriate for me to read
a passage in which the Muggle Prime Minister is discussing a mass Muggle killing. It just wasn't appropriate, as there are
touches of levity in there. It was totally inappropriate, so that's when I had to change, and I decided to go for the joke
shop, which is all very symbolic because, of course, Harry said to Fred and George, "I've got a feeling we'll all be needing
a few laughs before long." It all ties together nicely. So no, not consciously, but there are parallels, obviously. I think
one of the times I felt the parallels was when I was writing about the arrest of Stan Shunpike, you know? I always planned
that these kinds of things would happen, but these have very powerful resonances, given that I believe - and many people believe
- that there have been instances of persecution of people who did not deserve to be persecuted, even while we're attempting
to find the people who have committed utter atrocities. These things just happen, it's human nature. There were some very
startling parallels at the time I was writing it.
ES: Has the sorting hat ever been wrong?
JKR: Mm-mm. Do you have a theory?
ES: I have heard a lot of theories.
JKR: [laugh] I bet you have. No. [laugh] Sorry.
MA: That's interesting, because that would suggest that the voice comes more from a person's own head than the hat itself
JKR: [makes mysterious noise]
MA: And that maybe when it talks on its own, it comes from -
JKR: The founders themselves.
MA: Yeah. Interesting. How much of a role are the founders going to play in Book 7?
JKR: Some, as you probably have guessed from the end of 6. There's so much that I want to ask you, but you're supposed
to interview me, so come on. [Laughter]
ES: I know you get asked this in every interview, but the length of the book, has it changed at all?
JKR: Seven? Shorter than Phoenix, you mean, Phoenix always being our benchmark of a book that's really, really
nudging the outer limits? I still think it will be shorter than Phoenix.
JKR: I don't know. That is the honest truth, I don't know. I have a plan for seven that's not yet so detailed that I could
honestly gauge the length. I know what's going to happen; I know the story, but I haven't sat down and plotted it to the point
where you think, "We're really looking at 42 chapters," or, "We're looking at 31 chapters." I don't know yet.
JKR: Ohhh, good.
JKR: No, I'm glad! Yes?
MA: Can we figure out who he is, from what we know so far?
[Note: JKR has adopted slightly evil look here]
JKR: Do you have a theory?
MA: We've come up with Regulus Black.
JKR: Have you now?
JKR: Well, I think that would be, um, a fine guess.
MA: And perhaps, being Sirius's brother, he had another mirror -
JKR: [drums fingers on soda can]
MA: Does he have the other mirror, or Sirius's mirror -
JKR: I have no comment at all on that mirror. That mirror is not on the table. [Laughter from all; Jo's is maniacal.]
MA: Let the record note that she has drummed her fingers on her Coke can in a very Mr. Burns-like way.
JKR: Oh, I love Mr. Burns.
ES: If you had the opportunity to rewrite any part of the series so far, what would it be and why?
JKR: There are bits of all six books that I would go back and tighten up. My feeling is that Phoenix is overlong,
but I challenge anyone to find the obvious place to cut. There are places that I would prune now looking back, but they wouldn't
add up to a hugely reduced book, because my feeling is you need what's in there. You need what's in there if I'm going to
play fair for the reader in the resolution in Book 7. One of the reasons Phoenix is so long is that I had to move Harry
around a lot, physically. There were places he had to go he had never been before, and that took time - to get him there,
to get him away. That was the longest non-Hogwarts stretch in any of the books, and that's really what bumps up the length.
I'm trying to think of specifics, it's hard.
ES: Any subplots that you think could have been left out, in hindsight?
JKR: I find it very hard to pinpoint any because I feel that they were necessary. How can any of us judge? Even I, until
seven's finished, will not be able to look back really accurately and say, "That was discursive." And maybe at the end of
seven I'll look back and say, thinking about it, "I didn't really need to be quite so elaborate in that place there." Until
it's written, it's a hard thing to be accurate about. But certainly there are turns of expressions that irritate me in hindsight.
There are repetitions that drive me crazy in hindsight.
MA: Now that Dumbledore is gone, will we ever know the spell that he was trying to cast on Voldemort in the Ministry?
JKR: Umm...[makes clucking noise with tongue ]
ES: Let the record show she made a funny sound with her mouth.
[All laugh, Jo maniacally.]
JKR: It's possible, it's possible that you will know that. You will - [pause] - you will know more about Dumbledore. I
have to be sooo careful on this.
MA: Can we have a book just on Dumbledore? Like a life story?
JKR: Oh, all right then.
ES and MA, hi-fiving: YES!
JKR: That's not a binding contract! [Laughter]
MA: No, it's an oral agreement - where's Neil [her lawyer, not her husband]?
ES: How many wizards are there?
JKR: In the world? Oh, Emerson, my maths is so bad.
ES: Is there a ratio of Muggles to wizards -
MA: Or in Hogwarts.
JKR: Well, Hogwarts. All right. Here is the thing with Hogwarts. Way before I finished Philosopher's Stone, when
I was just amassing stuff for seven years, between having the idea and publishing the book, I sat down and I created 40 kids
who enter Harry's year. I'm delighted I did it, [because] it was so useful. I got 40 pretty fleshed-out characters. I never
have to stop and invent someone. I know who's in the year, I know who's in which house, I know what their parentage is, and
I have a few personal details on all of them. So there were 40. I never consciously thought, "That's it, that' s all the people
in his year," but that's kind of how it's worked out. Then I've been asked a few times how many people and because numbers
are not my strong point, one part of my brain knew 40, and another part of my brain said, "Oh, about 600 sounds right." Then
people started working it out and saying, "Where are the other kids sleeping?" [Laughter] We have a little bit of a dilemma
there. I mean, obviously magic is very rare. I wouldn't want to say a precise ratio. But if you assume that all of the wizarding
children are being sent to Hogwarts, then that's very few wizard-to-Muggle population, isn't it? There will be the odd kid
whose parents don't want them to go to Hogwarts, but 600 out of the whole of Britain is tiny.
Let's say three thousand [in Britain], actually, thinking about it, and then think of all the magical creatures, some of
which appear human. So then you've got things like hags, trolls, ogres and so on, so that's really bumping up your numbers.
And then you've got the world of sad people like Filch and Figg who are kind of part of the world but are hangers-on. That's
going to bump you up a bit as well, so it's a more sizable, total magical community that needs hiding, concealing, but don't
hold me to these figures, because that's not how I think.
MA: How much fun did you have with the romance in this book?
JKR: Oh, loads. Doesn't it show?
JKR: There's a theory - this applies to detective novels, and then Harry, which is not really a detective novel, but it
feels like one sometimes - that you should not have romantic intrigue in a detective book. Dorothy L. Sayers, who is queen
of the genre said - and then broke her own rule - but said that there is no place for romance in a detective story except
that it can be useful to camouflage other people's motives. That's true; it is a very useful trick. I've used that on Percy
and I've used that to a degree on Tonks in this book, as a red herring. But having said that, I disagree inasmuch as mine
are very character-driven books, and it's so important, therefore, that we see these characters fall in love, which is a necessary
part of life. How did you feel about the romance?
[Melissa puts her thumbs up and grins widely]
ES: We were hi-fiving the whole time.
JKR: [laughs] Yes! Good. I'm so glad.
MA: We were running back and forth between rooms yelling at each other.
ES: We thought it was clearer than ever that Harry and Ginny are an item and Ron and Hermione - although we think you
made it painfully obvious in the first five books -
JKR: [points to herself and whispers] So do I!
ES: What was that?
JKR: [More loudly] Well. so do I! So do I!
[All laugh; Melissa doubles over, hysterical, and may have died.]
ES: Harry/Hermione shippers: delusional!
JKR: Well no, I'm not going to - Emerson, I am not going to say they're delusional! They are still valued members
of my readership! I am not going to use the word delusional. I am however, going to say - now I am trusting both of you to
do the spoiler thing when you write this up -
JKR: I will say, that yes, I personally feel - well it's going to be clear once people have read Book 6. I mean, that's
it. It's done, isn't it? We know. Yes, we do now know that it's Ron and Hermione. I do feel that I have dropped heavy -
[All crack up]
JKR: - hints. ANVIL-sized, actually, hints, prior to this point. I certainly think even if subtle clues hadn't been
picked up by the end of Azkaban, that by the time we hit Krum in Goblet...
But Ron - I had a lot of fun with that in this book. I really enjoyed writing the Ron/Lavender business, and the reason
that was enjoyable was Ron up to this point has been quite immature compared to the other two, and he kind of needed to make
himself worthy of Hermione. Now, that didn't mean necessarily physical experience, but he had to grow up emotionally and now
he's taken a big step up. Because he's had the meaningless physical experience - let's face it, his emotions were never deeply
engaged with Lavender -
[Much laughter in which Melissa emits a "Won-Won"]
JKR: - and he's realized that that is ultimately not what he wants, which takes him a huge emotional step forward.
ES: So he's got a little bit more than a teaspoon; now there's a tablespoon?
JKR: Yeah, I think. [Laughter]
MA: Watching all this, were you surprised when you first logged on and found this intense devotion to this thing that
you knew was not going to happen?
JKR: Yes. Well, you see, I'm a relative newcomer to the world of shipping, because for a long time, I didn't go on the
net and look up Harry Potter. A long time. Occasionally I had to, because there were weird news stories or something that
I would have to go and check, because I was supposed to have said something I hadn't said. I had never gone and looked at
fan sites, and then one day I did and oh - my - god. Five hours later or something, I get up from the computer shaking slightly
[All laugh]. "What is going on?" And it was during that first mammoth session that I met the shippers, and it was a most extraordinary
thing. I had no idea there was this huge underworld seething beneath me.
ES: She's putting it into a positive light!
JKR: Well I am, I am, but you know. I want to make it clear that delusional is your word and not mine! [Much laughter]
MA: You're making our lives a lot easier by laying it on the table -
JKR: Well I think anyone who is still shipping Harry/Hermione after this book -
ES: [whispered] Delusional!
JKR: Uh - no! But they need to go back and re-read, I think.
ES: Thank you.
MA: That is going to -
JKR: Will it make your lives slightly easier?
[All three]: Yeah, yeah.
JKR: I think so.
MA: I have to tell you, I'm looking forward to [this coming out], because, you know, a lot of this is predicated upon
a necessary hate for another character. Ron has suffered horribly at the hands of Harry/Hermione shippers.
JKR: That bit makes me very uncomfortable, actually. Yeah, that bit does make me uncomfortable.
ES: Honestly, I think the Harry/Hermione shippers are a very small percentage of the population anyway.
MA: Yeah, if you do a general poll -
ES: They seem more prominent online, but that's just because the online fandom is very -
MA: Militant was the best word I heard -
JKR: Militant is a beautifully chosen word. Energetic. Feisty.
MA: What does it do to you to see a character that you love, for people to express sheer hate -
ES: Or vice versa.
JKR: It amuses me. It honestly amuses me. People have been waxing lyrical [in letters] about Draco Malfoy, and I think
that's the only time when it stopped amusing me and started almost worrying me. I'm trying to clearly distinguish between
Tom Felton, who is a good-looking young boy, and Draco, who, whatever he looks like, is not a nice man. It's a romantic, but
unhealthy, and unfortunately all too common delusion of - delusion, there you go - of girls, and you [nods to Melissa] will
know this, that they are going to change someone. And that persists through many women's lives, 'til their deathbed, and it
is uncomfortable and unhealthy and it actually worried me a little bit, to see young girls swearing undying devotion to this
really imperfect character, because there must be an element in there, that "I'd be the one who [changes him]." I mean, I
understand the psychology of it, but it is pretty unhealthy. So, a couple of times I have written back, possibly quite sharply,
saying [Laughter], "You want to rethink your priorities here."
JKR: Again, your word!
ES: On our websites we have a tendency to have very different stances on shipping. On The Leaky Cauldron, they toe this
fine political line.
MA: Down the line. We say, "If that's your thing, that's your thing."
ES: And on MuggleNet, we say -
JKR: [Laughing] You say you're delusional lunatics?
MA: He basically says, "If you don't think this, just get off my site."
[JKR cracks up]
ES: We say, "You're clearly delusional!"
JKR: What's that section on your site again, when you post the absolute absurdities that you've received?
ES: The Wall of Shame?
JKR: The Wall of Shame. We could have a Wall of Shame. We could have them pasted up here, some of the ludicrous things
MA: What kind of things?
JKR: Very similar stuff. Very similar. From pure abuse, to just ramblings - we could say of an existential nature. Not
from kids, from older people. What made me laugh out loud, I think, was your [Emerson's] comment on there saying, "Please
don't try and send me a stupid email so you end up on the Wall of Shame." Isn't that human nature? It starts off as let's
expose these [laughter], and people are competing to be on there?
ES: Delusional, like I said. It's my word of the day.
JKR: Sorry, I just snorted my drink. Sorry, go on.
MA: I wanted to go back to Draco.
JKR: OK, yeah, let's talk about Draco.
MA: He was utterly fascinating in this book.
JKR: Well, I'm glad you think so, because I enjoyed this one. Draco did a lot of growing up in this book as well. I had
an interesting discussion, I thought, with my editor Emma, about Draco. She said to me, "So, Malfoy can do Occlumency," which
obviously Harry never mastered and has now pretty much given up on doing, or attempting. And she was querying this and wondering
whether he should be as good as it, but I think Draco would be very gifted in Occlumency, unlike Harry. Harry's problem with
it was always that his emotions were too near the surface and that he is in some ways too damaged. But he's also very in touch
with his feelings about what's happened to him. He's not repressed, he's quite honest about facing them, and he couldn't suppress
them, he couldn't suppress these memories. But I thought of Draco as someone who is very capable of compartmentalizing his
life and his emotions, and always has done. So he's shut down his pity, enabling him to bully effectively. He's shut down
compassion - how else would you become a Death Eater? So he suppresses virtually all of the good side of himself. But then
he's playing with the big boys, as the phrase has it, and suddenly, having talked the talk he's asked to walk it for the first
time and it is absolutely terrifying. And I think that that is an accurate depiction of how some people fall into that kind
of way of life and they realize what they're in for. I felt sorry for Draco. Well, I've always known this was coming for Draco,
obviously, however nasty he was.
Harry is correct in believing that Draco would not have killed Dumbledore, which I think is clear when he starts to lower
his wand, when the matter is taken out of his hands.
ES: Was Dumbledore planning to die?
JKR: [Pause] Do you think that's going to be the big theory?
MA and ES: Yes. It'll be a big theory.
JKR: [Pause] Well, I don't want to shoot that one down. [A little laughter] I have to give people hope.
MA: It goes back to the question of whether Snape is a double-double-double-triple-
JKR: [Laughs] Double-double-quadruple-to-the-power-of - yeah.
MA: - whether this had been planned, and since Dumbledore had this knowledge of Draco the whole year, had they had a
discussion that said, "Should this happen, you have to act as if it is entirely your intention to just walk forward and kill
me, because if you don't, Draco will die, the Unbreakable Vow, you'll die," and so on -
JKR: No, I see that, and yeah, I follow your line there. I can't - I mean, obviously, there are lines of speculation I
don't want to shut down. Generally speaking, I shut down those lines of speculation that are plain unprofitable. Even with
the shippers. God bless them, but they had a lot of fun with it. It's when people get really off the wall - it's when people
devote hours of their time to proving that Snape is a vampire that I feel it's time to step in, because there's really nothing
in the canon that supports that.
ES: It's when you look for those things -
JKR: Yeah, it's after the 15th rereading when you have spots in front of your eyes that you start seeing clues about Snape
being the Lord of Darkness. So, there are things I shut down just because I think, well, don't waste your time, there's better
stuff to be debating, and even if it's wrong, it will probably lead you somewhere interesting. That's my rough theory anyway.
ES: What's one question you wished to be asked and what would be the answer to that question?
JKR: Um - [long pause] - such a good question. What do I wish I could be asked? [Pause] Today, just today, July the 16th,
I was really hoping someone would ask me about R.A.B., and you did it. Just today, because I think that is - well, I hoped
that people would.
MA: Is there more we should ask about him?
JKR: There are things you will deduce on further readings, I think - well you two definitely will, for sure - that, yeah,
I was really hoping that R.A.B. would come out.
MA: Forgive me if I'm remembering incorrectly, but was Regulus the one who was murdered by Voldemort -
JKR: Well Sirius said he wouldn't have been because he wasn't important enough, remember?
MA: But that doesn't have to be true, if [R.A.B.] is writing Voldemort a personal note.
JKR: That doesn't necessarily show that Voldemort killed him personally, but Sirius himself suspected that Regulus got
in a little too deep. Like Draco. He was attracted to it, but the reality of what it meant was way too much to handle.
Oh, how did you feel about Lupin/Tonks?
ES: That was -
MA: I was surprised!
ES: I was surprised, but not shocked.
MA: I think I was a little shocked.
JKR: Someone out there, and I don't know if it was on either of your sites -I nearly fell off my chair. Someone, this is
when I do my trawls - I mean, I sound like I spend my life on the Internet and that's why I don't get my novels finished more
quickly. I swear that's not true, and I'd like to make that clear for all the recording devices on the table. Because I've
now got my site, I go looking for the FAQs and for fan sites that I like to put up, so that's how I find out comments and
things. And someone out there, I could not believe it, had said it. Had said, "Oh no, Tonks can't marry so-and-so, (God knows
who it was) because Tonks is going to end up with Lupin, and they're going to have lots of little multi-colored werewolf cubs
together," or something.
MA: I've seen that!
JKR: Did you see that? Was that on Leaky, then?
MA: Maybe - no offense [to Emerson] but I don't usually have time to read the MuggleNet comments -
JKR: I suppose, so many people are posting, that you would expect them to come up with virtually every possibility.
ES: Oh, yeah, they have come up with everything.
[All crack up.]
JKR: Ain't it the truth. I know! I suppose if I did spend all my time on there, pretty much my whole future plot would
be on there somewhere.
ES: How much time do you go on the fan sites?
JKR: It really varies. When my site is quiet, it is genuinely because I'm working really hard or I'm busy with the kids
or something. When I update a few times in a row, I've obviously been on the net. So the FAQs and that kind of stuff is just
compiled by hard copy post that I get here and fan sites. I go looking to see what people want answered. It's fantastic, it's
sometimes frustrating, but I do want to make clear, I do not post in comments, because I know that's been cropping up. You've
both been really responsible about that, but that slightly worries me. I did go in the MuggleNet chatroom, it was hysterical.
That was the first time I ever Googled Harry Potter. I was just falling into these things and Leaky - actually Leaky I already
knew about, but I discovered MuggleNet that first-ever afternoon and I went in the chatroom, and it was so funny. I was treated
with outright contempt. [Laughter] It was funny, I can't tell you.
ES: I'd like to apologize for, uh -
JKR: No, no no no, not in a horrible way, but, "Yeah, yeah, shut up, you're not a regular, you don't know a thing." You
MA: One of our Leaky "Ask Jo" poll winners is theotherhermit, she's 50 and lives in a small town in the eastern US.
I think this was addressed in the sixth book, but, "Do the memories stored in a Pensieve reflect reality or the views of the
person they belong to?"
JKR: It's reality. It's important that I have got that across, because Slughorn gave Dumbledore this pathetic cut-and-paste
memory. He didn't want to give the real thing, and he very obviously patched it up and cobbled it together. So, what you remember
is accurate in the Pensieve.
ES: I was dead wrong about that.
ES: I thought for sure that it was your interpretation of it. It didn't make sense to me to be able to examine your
own thoughts from a third-person perspective. It almost feels like you'd be cheating because you'd always be able to look
at things from someone else's point of view.
MA: So there are things in there that you haven't noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?
JKR: Yes, and that's the magic of the Pensieve, that's what brings it alive.
ES: I want one of those!
JKR: Yeah. Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn't it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve
recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn't notice the time. It's somewhere
in your head, which I'm sure it is, in all of our brains. I'm sure if you could access it, things that you don't know you
remember are all in there somewhere.
ES: Our other "Ask Jo" question (the one about James and Lily's sacrifices), was from Maria Vlasiou, who is 25, of the
Netherlands. And then the third is from Helen Poole, 18, from Thirsk, Yorkshire - also one of the Plot Thickens fan
book authors. It's the one about Grindelwald, which I'm sure you've been gearing up for us to ask.
ES: Clearly -
JKR: Come on then, remind me. Is he dead?
ES: Yeah, is he dead?
JKR: Yeah, he is.
ES: Is he important?
JKR: [regretful] Ohhh...
ES: You don't have to answer but can you give us some backstory on him?
JKR: I'm going to tell you as much as I told someone earlier who asked me. You know Owen who won the [UK television] competition
to interview me? He asked about Grindelwald [pronounced "Grindelvald" HMM...]. He said, "Is it coincidence that he died in
1945," and I said no. It amuses me to make allusions to things that were happening in the Muggle world, so my feeling would
be that while there's a global Muggle war going on, there's also a global wizarding war going on.
ES: Does he have any connection to -
JKR: I have no comment to make on that subject.
MA: Do they feed each other, the Muggle and wizarding wars?
JKR: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Mmm.
MA: You've gone very quiet.
[All laugh; JKR maniacally]
MA: We like when you get very quiet, it means -
ES: You're clearly hiding something.
MA: Our next winner question is from Delaney Monaghan, who is six years old, via her mother, Vanessa Monaghan. They're
from Canberra, Australia. "What is the significance, if any of the gum wrappers that Mrs. Longbottom keeps giving Neville?"
ES: Quick, go on the record [with what you think] before she answers -
MA: I think they're a sad mark of an insane woman.
JKR: That was also asked of me this morning. That idea was one of the very few that was inspired by a real event. I was
told what, to me, was a very sad story by someone I know about their elderly mother who had Alzheimer's, and the elderly mother
was in a closed ward. She was very severely demented and no longer recognized her son, but he went faithfully to visit her
twice a week, and he used to take her sweets. That was their point of connection; she had a sweet tooth. She recognized him
as the sweet-giver. That was very poignant to me. So I embroidered the story. Neville gives his mother what she wants, and
(it makes me sad to think of it) she wants to give something back to him, but what she gives back to him is essentially worthless.
But he still takes it as worth something because she's trying to give, so it does mean something, in emotional terms.
But, the theories on the sweet wrappers, are really out there.
ES: You can't blame them.
JKR: I mean she's not trying to pass him secret messages.
MA: She's not really sane -
JKR: No. You're right. But that's a classic example of, "Let's just shut that one down," because it doesn't really lead
anywhere very interesting even if they're wrong.
MA: It's probably one of the most touching moments in the books.
JKR: I think it is important as a character moment.
MA: Our third winner question is from Monique Padelis, who's 15, of Surrey. How and when was the veil created?
JKR: The veil's been there as long as the Ministry of Magic has been there, and the Ministry of Magic has been there, not
as long as Hogwarts, but a long time. We're talking hundreds of years. It's not particularly important to know exactly when,
but centuries, definitely.
MA: Was it used as an execution chamber or just studying?
JKR: No, it's just studying. The Department of Mysteries is all about studying. They study the mind, the universe, death...
MA: Are we going back to that room, that locked room?
JKR: No comment.
ES: Dumbledore is unrivaled in his knowledge of magic -
ES: Where did he learn it all?
JKR: I see him primarily as someone who would be self-taught. However, he in his time had access to superb teachers at
Hogwarts, so he was educated in the same way that everyone else is educated. Dumbledore's family would be a profitable line
of inquiry, more profitable than sweet wrappers.
MA: His family?
JKR: Family, yes.
MA: Should we talk about that a little more?
JKR: No. But you can! [Laughter]
MA: What about Harry's family - his grandparents - were they killed?
JKR: No. This takes us into more mundane territory. As a writer, it was more interesting, plot-wise, if Harry was completely
alone. So I rather ruthlessly disposed of his entire family apart from Aunt Petunia. I mean, James and Lily are massively
important to the plot, of course, but the grandparents? No. And, because I do like my backstory: Petunia and Lily's parents,
normal Muggle death. James's parents were elderly, were getting on a little when he was born, which explains the only child,
very pampered, had-him-late-in-life-so-he's-an-extra-treasure, as often happens, I think. They were old in wizarding terms,
and they died. They succumbed to a wizarding illness. That's as far as it goes. There's nothing serious or sinister about
those deaths. I just needed them out of the way so I killed them.
MA: That sort of shuts down Heir of Gryffindor [theories], as well.
JKR: [Pause] Yeah. Well - yeah.
MA: Another one bites the dust.
JKR: Well, there you go. See, I'm aware that Half-Blood Prince will not delight everyone, because it does shoot
down some theories. I mean, if it didn't, I haven't done my job right. A few people won't particularly like it, and a lot
of people aren't going to like the death very much, but that was always what was planned to come.
We still don't know whether there was a genuine leak on that, or whether it was speculation that happened to be accurate.
ES: With this book?
MA: Remember the bets?
ES: Oh yeah -
JKR: Yeah, the betting scam. Well, we're now 50/50. If you remember, on Phoenix, the betting went for Cho Chang,
and it was exactly the same thing. Suddenly someone put up something like £10,000 on Cho Chang to die, and you wouldn't think
someone would waste that kind of money, so we think that they thought they had inside information. On the Dumbledore
one, we still don't know. Was there a genuine leak or did someone just guess, and get it right?
ES: I remember actually putting a poll up on MuggleNet asking people if they thought he was going to bite it.
JKR: And what was the result? That's really interesting.
ES: The majority thought he was going to die in Book 6 - well, 6 or 7. Most thought it was going to be in 7.
JKR: Really. Yeah.
ES: It was probably 65/35, but definitely, most thought he was going to die.
JKR: Yeah, well, I think if you take a step back, in the genre of writing that I'm working in, almost always the hero must
go on alone. That's the way it is. We all know that, so the question is when and how, isn't it? If you know anything about
the construction of that kind of plot.
ES: The wise old wizard with the beard always dies.
JKR: Well, that's basically what I'm saying, yes.
MA: It's interesting, because that moment - I think we all sort of felt like he was going to die as soon as he started
imparting these huge swallows of wisdom.
MA: And the moment when Harry said, "I realize this, and my parents realized this, and this is about this choice," we
stopped, and we said, "All right, let's let everyone catch up, and talk about this, because a) Dumbledore is dying, b) this
is the flag that signals that we're going to power through to the end." I feel like that was a defining moment of the entire
series. Do you tend to agree?
JKR: Yes, definitely, because I think there's a line there between the moment in Chamber of Secrets when Dumbledore
says so famously, "It's our choices that define us, not our abilities," straight through to Dumbledore sitting in his office,
saying to Harry, "The prophecy is significant only because you and Voldemort choose to make it so. If you both chose to walk
away, you could both live!" That's the bottom line. If both of them decided, "We're not playing," and walked away... but,
it's not going to happen, because as far as Voldemort's concerned, Harry's a threat. They must meet each other.
ES: I remember thinking when I read Order of the Phoenix, what would happen if Harry and Voldemort just decided
JKR: Shake hands, and walk away? We'll agree to disagree!
ES: What if he never heard the prophecy?
JKR: And that's it, isn't it? As I said, that's what I posted on my site -
ES: I'm glad you put that up.
JKR: It's the "Macbeth" idea. I absolutely adore "Macbeth." It is possibly my favorite Shakespeare play. And that's the
question isn't it? If Macbeth hadn't met the witches, would he have killed Duncan? Would any of it have happened? Is it fated
or did he make it happen? I believe he made it happen.
MA: If everyone would just shake hands and play a round of golf, everything would be fine.
MA: There are a lot of intense loyalty and bravery issues that are really tied to self-sacrifice - specifically in Book
3, "You should have died rather than betray your friends." And then, there's a ton of that throughout. That's a pretty intense
message to pass to, say, an eight-year-old, or a ten-year-old, who is reading the book, saying we should die for our friends.
JKR: Obviously I imagine it in the context of a very highly charged situation. God forbid - I hope that in the general
run of things, an eight-year-old would not be required to die for anyone, but we're talking here about a fully grown man who
was in, what I consider to be, a war situation. This was a full-fledged war situation. I think the question really is do you,
as readers, believe that Sirius would have died? Because Sirius is saying that.
ES: Oh, absolutely.
JKR: Right, well, that's what I believed. Sirius would have done it. He, with all his faults and flaws, he has this profound
sense of honor, ultimately, and he would rather have died honorably, as he would see it, than live with the dishonor and shame
of knowing that he sent those three people to their deaths, those three people that he loved beyond any others, because like
Harry he is a displaced person without family.
You're right, it is an intense message, but I am ultimately writing about evil, and I have said before, I think, that I'm
surprised when sometimes people say to me, "Oh, you know, the books are getting so dark." I'm thinking, "Well, which part
of Philosopher's Stone did you think was light and fluffy?" You know, there is an innocence about it, Harry is very
young when he goes to the school, but the book opens with a double murder. The possibility of death, I think, is present throughout
Philosopher's Stone, and I feel that there are a couple of really gruesome images in Philosopher's Stone. I
think the first book contains more gruesome imagery than the second, despite the giant snake, because the cloaked figure drinking
the unicorn blood is pretty damn creepy. It was to me when I thought of it, and I really, right up until now, all these years
later, think that the idea of the face in the back of the head [Voldemort sharing Quirrell's body] is one of the most
disturbing images in the whole book. (The whole book; I call it one big book. In the whole series.)
So, yes, it's intense, I agree with you, but I would say it's been pretty intense throughout. There are a lot of things
in there that are disturbing, intentionally so, but I really don't think I've ever crossed the line into shocking for shocking's
sake. I feel that I could justify every single piece of morbid imagery in those books. The one that I wondered whether I was
going to be able to get past the editors was the physical condition of Voldemort before he went into the cauldron, do you
remember? He was kind of fetal. I felt an almost visceral distaste for what I had conjured up, but there's a reason it was
in there and you will see that. And I discussed that with my editor, and she was okay with it. In fact, she was more disturbed
with the idea of the grave cracking open. I think it's the desecration idea, isn't it, again. There's nothing really to see
there - but again it's the violation of a taboo.
MA: What color are Ron's eyes?
JKR: Ron's eyes are blue. Have I never said that, ever? [JKR covers her eyes]
MA: They've been dying for us to ask this.
JKR: Blue. Harry's green, Ron's blue, and Hermione's are brown.
MA: What's Ron's Patronus?
JKR: Ron's Patronus? Have I never said that either? Oh no, that's shocking! [Laughter] Ron's Patronus is a small dog, like
a Jack Russell, and that's a really sentimental choice, because we've got a Jack Russell. He's insane.
MA: This is not a short one but I really want to ask you this: with all the fame and wealth you've amassed, how do you
keep your kids grounded and normal and rooted in the real world?
JKR: It is my top priority in life. I think and I hope that we lead a pretty normal life, believe it or not. Surreal things
happen where I walk out of my house and into an illuminated castle, and so on, but that really has very little effect on them.
I think as much as one can, we do lead a very normal life. We go out to the shops like anyone else, we walk around town like
anyone else. That's my feeling anyway. I also think that, importantly, all three children will grow up seeing Neil and I both
working. There are no plans on either of our parts to stop working, put our feet up and go yachting around the world or anything,
pleasant though that would be and does seem sometimes. We keep working and I think that's a pretty good example to set to
your children: that whatever money you might have, self-worth really lies in finding out what you do best. It's doing your
proper job, isn't it?
MA: Yeah. Have you discovered the two missing Gryffindor students?
JKR: [Covers eyes] Ohh! [Frustrated] I was going to go and get that for you, I'm sorry I haven't got it, I'll put it on
MA: Did Ginny send Harry the valentine?
JKR: Yeah, bless her.
MA: Was it a Tom Riddle thing, or Ginny Weasley?
JKR: No, Ginny Weasley.
MA: Well, she got paid back for it.
JKR: [laughs] Eventually.
MA: I think you set that up from the train compartment scene [in Book 1], where he was watching - all the relationships,
that scene probably set it up.
JKR: I think so. I hope so. So you liked Harry/Ginny, did you, when it happened?
ES: We've been waiting for this for years!
JKR: Oh, I'm so glad.
MA: Oh my gosh, that kiss!
ES: It actually materialized!
JKR: It actually happened, I know! I felt a little bit like that.
MA: Had you been trying to get them -
JKR: Well I always knew that that was going to happen, that they were going to come together and then part.
ES: Were you always -----ing it? [We can't figure out what Emerson actually said here.]
JKR: Well, no, not really, because the plan was, which I really hope I fulfilled, is that the reader, like Harry, would
gradually discover Ginny as pretty much the ideal girl for Harry. She's tough, not in an unpleasant way, but she's gutsy.
He needs to be with someone who can stand the demands of being with Harry Potter, because he's a scary boyfriend in a lot
of ways. He's a marked man. I think she's funny, and I think that she's very warm and compassionate. These are all things
that Harry requires in his ideal woman. But, I felt - and I'm talking years ago when all this was planned - initially, she's
terrified by his image. I mean, he's a bit of a rock god to her when she sees him first at 10 or 11, and he's this famous
boy. So Ginny had to go through a journey as well. And rather like with Ron, I didn't want Ginny to be the first girl that
Harry ever kissed. That's something I meant to say, and it's kind of tied in.
One of the ways in which I tried to show that Harry has done a lot of growing up - in Phoenix, remember when Cho
comes into the compartment, and he thinks, "I wish I could have been discovered sitting with better people," basically? He's
with Luna and Neville. So literally the identical thing happens in Prince, and he's with Luna and Neville again, but
this time, he has grown up, and as far as he's concerned he is with two of the coolest people on the train. They may not look
that cool. Harry has really grown. And I feel that Ginny and Harry, in this book, they are total equals. They are worthy of
each other. They've both gone through a big emotional journey, and they've really got over a lot of delusions, to use your
word, together. So, I enjoyed writing that. I really like Ginny as a character.
MA: Does she have a larger importance; the Tom Riddle stuff, being the seventh girl -
JKR: The backstory with Ginny was, she was the first girl to arrive in the Weasley family in generations, but there's that
old tradition of the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and a seventh son of a seventh son, so that's why she's the seventh,
because she is a gifted witch. I think you get hints of that, because she does some pretty impressive stuff here and there,
and you'll see that again.
ES: Why is Slytherin house still -
JKR: Still allowed!
ES: Yes! I mean, it's such a stigma.
JKR: But they're not all bad. They literally are not all bad. [Pause] Well, the deeper answer, the non-flippant answer,
would be that you have to embrace all of a person, you have to take them with their flaws, and everyone's got them. It's the
same way with the student body. If only they could achieve perfect unity, you would have an absolute unstoppable force, and
I suppose it's that craving for unity and wholeness that means that they keep that quarter of the school that maybe does not
encapsulate the most generous and noble qualities, in the hope, in the very Dumbledore-esque hope that they will achieve union,
and they will achieve harmony. Harmony is the word.
ES: Couldn't -
JKR: Couldn't they just shoot them all? NO, Emerson, they really couldn't!
ES: Couldn't they just put them into the other three houses, and maybe it wouldn't be a perfect fit for all of them,
but a close enough fit that they would get by and wouldn't be in such a negative environment?
JKR: They could. But you must remember, I have thought about this -
ES: Even their common room is a gloomy dark room-
JKR: Well, I don't know, because I think the Slytherin common room has a spooky beauty.
ES: It's gotta be a bad idea to stick all the Death Eaters' kids together in one place.
[All crack up again ]
JKR: But they're not all - don't think I don't take your point, but - we, the reader, and I as the writer, because I'm
leading you all there - you are seeing Slytherin house always from the perspective of Death Eaters' children. They are a small
fraction of the total Slytherin population. I'm not saying all the other Slytherins are adorable, but they're certainly not
Draco; they're certainly not, you know, Crabbe and Goyle. They're not all like that. That would be too brutal for words, wouldn't
ES: But there aren't a lot of Death Eater children in the other houses, are there?
JKR: You will have people connected with Death Eaters in the other houses, yeah, absolutely.
ES: Just in lesser numbers.
JKR: Probably. I hear you. It is the tradition to have four houses, but in this case, I wanted them to correspond roughly
to the four elements. So Gryffindor is fire, Ravenclaw is air, Hufflepuff is earth, and Slytherin is water; hence the fact
that their common room is under the lake. So again, it was this idea of harmony and balance, that you had four necessary components
and by integrating them you would make a very strong place. But they remain fragmented, as we know.
ES: Was James the only one who had romantic feelings for Lily?
JKR: No. [Pause] She was like Ginny: she was a popular girl.
JKR: That is a theory that's been put to me repeatedly.
ES: What about Lupin?
JKR: I can answer either one.
ES: How about both? One at a time.
JKR: I can't answer, can I, really?
ES: Can you give us any clue, without misleading us [Emerson misspoke; he meant "without giving too much away"] --?
JKR: I've never, to my knowledge, lied when posed a question about the books. To my knowledge. You can imagine, I've now
been asked hundreds of questions; it's perfectly possible at some point I misspoke or I gave a misleading answer unintentionally,
or I may have answered truthfully at the time and then changed my mind in a subsequent book. That makes me cagey about answering
some questions in too much detail because I have to have some leeway to get there and do it my way, but never on a major plot
Lupin was very fond of Lily. We'll put it like that, but I wouldn't want anyone to run around thinking that he competed
with James for her. She was a popular girl, and that is relevant. But I think you've seen that already. She was a bit of a
MA: How did they get together? She hated James, from what we've seen.
JKR: Did she really? You're a woman, you know what I'm saying. [Laughter]
ES: How on earth did Fred and George know that Ireland would win and Bulgaria would get the Snitch?
JKR: Well, I think that if you were really into Quidditch, you could have predicted that. What they had -
ES: But how can you predict that, because you don't know when the Snitch is going to show up.
JKR: It was a risk. They risked everything on it. That is Fred and George, isn't it? They are the risk-takers in the family.
You've got Percy at one end of the family - conform, do everything correctly - and you've got Fred and George, who just take
a totally different life path and were prepared to risk everything. They risked all they had, which is as much as anyone can
MA: How did they figure out how to work the map?
JKR: Don't you - well. This is how I explained it to myself at the time, and this does sound glib. Don't you think it would
be quite a Fred and Georgeish thing to say in jest, and then see this thing transform?
JKR: Can't you just see them?
ES: But the exact word combination? Is that just a lot of luck, or Felix Felicis -
JKR: Or, the map helped.
MA: Yep, yeah. You can see them sort of answering and joking with each other -
JKR: And the map flickering into life here and there when they got closer and closer, and finally they hit upon the exact
right word combination and it just erupts.
ES: What on earth was Aberforth Dumbledore doing with those goats?
[Big laughs from all]
JKR: Your guess is as good as mine! [Evil laugh!]
MA: Excellent. And Dumbledore makes a little joke about him in this one, about knowing people in bars.
JKR: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, that's right. And you of course see Aberforth very briefly.
MA: Does the gleam of triumph still have yet to make an appearance?
JKR: That's still enormously significant. And let's face it, I haven't told you that much is enormously significant, so
you can let your imaginations run free there.
ES: I think everybody realized it was significant when they read it but we didn't see it materialize in 5 or 6.
JKR: Well, it still is.
ES:We've been kind of waiting for the big revelation.
JKR: Absolutely, that's for seven. That's for seven.
MA: Here at the end you sort of get the feeling that we know what Harry's setting out to do, but can this really be
the entire throughline of the rest of the story?
JKR: It's not all of it. Obviously it's not all of it, but still, that is the way to kill Voldemort. That's not to say
it won't be extremely an torturous and winding journey, but that's what he's got to do. Harry now knows - well he believe
he knows - what he's facing. Dumbledore's guesses are never very far wide of the mark. I don't want to give too much away
here, but Dumbledore says, "There are four out there, you've got to get rid of four, and then you go for Voldemort." So that's
where he is, and that's what he's got to do.
ES: It's a tall order.
JKR: It's a huge order. But Dumbledore has given him some pretty valuable clues and Harry, also, in the course of previous
six books has amassed more knowledge than he realizes. That's all I am going to say.
ES: It seems like it would be impossible. If Harry had gone to the cave, he never could have done it on his own, it
JKR: Well, I'm prepared to bet you now, that at least before the week is out, at least one of the Horcruxes will have been
correctly identified by careful re-readers of the books.
MA: Someone put it to me last night, that if Ginny, with the diary -
JKR: Harry definitely destroyed that piece of soul. You saw it take shape, you saw it destroyed, it's gone. And Ginny is
definitely in no way possessed by Voldemort.
MA: Is she still a Parselmouth?
MA: Does she have a life debt to Harry from Book 2?
JKR: No, not really. Wormtail is different. You know, part of me would just love to explain the whole thing to you, plot
of Book 7, you know, I honestly would.
ES: We wouldn't want to hear it.
JKR: "Yeah, go on, we're not listening!"
ES: Who is Harry's godmother?
JKR: Didn't have one.
JKR:Well, Sirius never had time to get a girlfriend, let alone marry.
ES: They could have just picked some other close friend of the family.
JKR: At the time that they christened Harry, they were in hiding. This was not going to be a widely attended christening
because he was already in danger. So this is something they were going to do very quietly, with as few people as possible,
that they wanted to make this commitment with Sirius. And - yeah. Can't say much more.
[We're starting to realize the time...]
MA: Can we do this again?
JKR: It's a possibility.
MA: I mean, seriously, for a week.
JKR: Just lock me in some underground room -
MA: Well, my family is Sicilian, Jo -
MA: Hold on, we have to ask you one more question [Melissa puts on the green glasses and takes out the green quill that
Lexicon_Bel~ and Puffin from the LeakyLounge prepared for her as a joke for Jo] -
[All crack up]
JKR: RITA! I've missed you!
JKR: I tell you, there is only one way to deal with the Rita articles, and that's laugh; otherwise you're going to go slightly
mad. And of course, I now have my Rubbish Bin [on my site]. It's really amazing how liberating that is, to be able to say
directly to people who read the books, "That was rubbish." It's never important stuff, but taken as a whole, it can really
mislead a person, I think. Anyway, Rita. I like this, very much.
MA: Isn't this funny? They made this up for me.
JKR: That's fantastic. You know, Miranda Richardson is playing her in the Goblet of Fire. I'm so looking forward
MA: We've seen, we went to the set on a day that she was working.
JKR: Did you?
ES: She looks fantastic for the role.
JKR: She's such a great actress.
ES: Oh, I have a question about that. When you write the books now, do you see the actors from the movies, or do you
see your own characters?
JKR: My own characters. Every time.
ES: Their faces don't infiltrate your head at all?
JKR: Not at all. I still see my Ron; I still see my Harry; I still see my Hermione. I was writing them for too long before
the films came out for the film images to displace what's in my head. I was lucky in that sense. I'd lived with these characters
so long, it just couldn't have any effect. Occasionally I will - Ron/Lavender, I did kind of think of Rupert. I mean, it was
always planned that way, obviously, but I would kind of emerge for a coffee break and I might have a wry smile about Rupert.
MA: Doing that?
JKR: Not so much doing it, he'll be more than adequate to the task of doing it, but thinking about him attending the castings
for Lavender, stuff like that. It just kind of makes you smile once you know the people who are acting it. But I really mean
what I've said before - you would have to go a very long way to find three better-adjusted people, given what they've been
through - Rupert, Dan and Emma. They're incredible.
[Pause as we look at time]
JKR: I know.
MA: Sixty-six pages of questions, Jo.
JKR: Oh my goodness.
ES: Let's just keep asking questions until she throws us out.
ES: Hagrid's Keeper of the Keys title: does that mean anything?
JKR: Just simply that he will let you in and out of Hogwarts, so it's slightly more interesting than that but it's not
loads more interesting. So, again, that is something that people shouldn't get too excited about.
MA: Will Harry and Ron ever read Hogwarts, a History?
JKR: Never. [Laughter] It's a gift to me, because all my exposition can be dressed up as, "When are you going to
read it?" So Hermione fills in the reader as well, so I could never let them read it.
MA: Did Dobby know about the prophecy?
MA: Did he know about the Potters?
JKR: He knew their story, but obviously his knowledge would be narrowed down to what was known in the Malfoy household.
MA: Oh, here's one [from our forums] that I've really got to ask you. Has Snape ever been loved by anyone?
JKR: Yes, he has, which in some ways makes him more culpable even than Voldemort, who never has. Okay, one more each!
ES: Why don't witches and wizards Disapparate when they're in danger?
JKR: Well. This is like all of these things. It's tedious to stop and tell the reader when you're writing an action scene
but there would be ways of stopping that happening. Sometimes they do Disapparate, but very often, when you're watching that
kind of scene, it's within a place that you can't Disapparate from, like Hogwarts. So, that's not an option when Harry's at
school. There would be other reasons why you wouldn't Disapparate. You might want to stand your ground and fight. But they
do Disapparate sometimes. There has to be an equal and opposite action. [to Melissa] Go on, hit me with it.
MA: Was there anyone else present in Godric's Hollow the night Harry's parents were killed?
JKR: No comment.
JKR: I'm sorry!