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Video and Quotes from an Early Interview with J.K. Rowling: "Very Happy with Book Two"

JKR Interviews
Posted by: Rosi
January 04, 2011, 08:16 PM

Leaky reader Miriam has brought our attention to a very early interview with J.K. Rowling seemingly conducted in 1998 in Edinburgh's "The Elephant House" café. In the interview, the Harry Potter author talks to STV about why she thinks the first book is popular, agent Christopher Little's now famous words of warning that there is not much money in writing children's books and about a month of struggle whilst writing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

You can watch the interview here on YouTube, or embedded below; quotes from the interview can be found below the embedded video. Many thanks for the heads up Miriam!

On the idea:

  • "I had been writing for years intending to write for adults but never tried to get anything published before. When this story came to me, it was a children's story, it came to me rather than the other way around. I never sat down and thought, 'right I'm going to write for children now'."
  • "In some ways it's a very traditional story, you have several classic elements, a small child that has powers no other child has. I think that's a very common fantasy for children. The idea that you escape - he comes from a very horrible background and he escapes and I think that's a very perennial fantasy, to escape. There isn't much adult control, the school he goes to is seriously haunted and quite a dangerous place but it's also fun, a lot of fun."
  • "I know there will be [many more Harry Potters]. I always planned it as a series of seven books which would see Harry into being a fully trained wizard at 17. I've written two so far, the second one has been sold and I'm writing book three at the moment."
  • "I think it's funny and... I think it's frightening. [...] Judging by letters I've received I'd say I've succeeded in that and that's all I wanted."
On the success of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
  • "It sold very well, which wildly overshot my expectations, I have to say, because it sold about 30,000 copies in the U.K. which is phenomenal. To me it's phenomenal. To me more than anyone else, probably! It won the Smarties book prize recently which was fantastic, mainly because [...] you're shortlisted by adults, but children vote the gold, silver and bronze medals. So children have a say in that."
  • "You dream of supporting yourself through writing."
  • "My realistic side has not allowed me to dream half of what's happened to me."
  • The American deal with Scholastic is described as "the big one, unprecedented for a first time children's book."
  • The success "scared the hell out of me, truthfully. It really scared me. I was halfway through the second book and became blocked and panic-stricken. I became very self-conscious about what I was writing. I did get over that, it took about a month to relax again and sort of force myself to believe I was just writing for me again and I did and I'm very happy with book two."
  • "I love the idea of being able to say 'I'm big in Finland!'"
  • "Hopefully, after Harry, I'll still be publishing, that's what I want."
On a film version of Harry Potter:
  • "The interest is there [for a film] which is amazing, but nothing has been signed."
  • "If it were done right, I think it could make a great film. And if it was done right, yes that would be wild, that would be wonderful to see it as a film. But I wanted to write books, do you know what I mean? So my absolute ambition was not Hollywood."
On Scotland:
  • "I'm a quarter Scottish by blood, on my mother's side. My parents met and married in Scotland and then settled in the Forest of Dean in England and for some odd reason my sister and I have both gravitated back to Scotland. I have to say too, I've always imagined... Harry starts off in London, or near London in Surrey, but he ends up in Scotland, the haunted school for wizards I always imagined to be next to a loch, this big gothic thing set in all the mountains of Scotland. That's never made clear in the books, that's just left open, but in my imagination it's in Scotland."
  • Interviewer: "In further books do you think we will see Harry in Scotland?" JKR: "I think it is likely that it will be slightly more identifiable, it's identifiable if you know your geography! He travels due north from London for a day so where's he going to end up?"

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212 Points

Awww ginger Jo! There’s hardly any footage of ginger Jo! Can you imagine her doing an interview slumped with her chin in her hand now hahah! Ahh I’ve sat at that table I wonder if it’s still the same one =P I thought she’d like that table because of the view of the castle out the window!

I wish the interviewer had asked more questions about the plot of the books it would have been fun to see how things have changed since then!

Posted by JoRowlingRocks on January 05, 2011, 08:09 AM report to moderator
566 Points

What a lovely flashback. It is inspiring to see her then knowing where it would go.

Posted by 2tal - SpiritMagic174 on January 05, 2011, 11:29 AM report to moderator

It seems she had a bit of a lisp back then. You can actually see her tongue’s a bit lazy.. I wonder if she had speech therapy for that..

Posted by Redbeard on January 05, 2011, 12:09 PM report to moderator
4215 Points

How wonderful and humble Jo is. She is amazing! It’s a delight to find an old interview from a time when Harry Potter was still emerging!

Posted by Butterfly Boy on January 05, 2011, 01:05 PM report to moderator
4208 Points

The success could not have happened to a nicer person. I hope that she does continue writing after Harry, or more about his world. That would be awesome!

Posted by Fresca ROAR on January 05, 2011, 02:59 PM report to moderator
56 Points

I love her being so normal. Still now, after all her success :)

Posted by Pigwidgeon on January 05, 2011, 04:24 PM report to moderator
150 Points

Go JO!=D <3

Posted by Winkyxx on January 05, 2011, 05:10 PM report to moderator
3750 Points

I loved reading this, JKR is amazing!

Posted by Want to be a Weasley on January 05, 2011, 05:39 PM report to moderator
4852 Points

Wow! Thats so interesting to here what she thought would happen then! Especially about the movies! And she had nothing to worry about, the films are AMAZING!!

Posted by #1 Witch ROAR! on January 05, 2011, 07:06 PM report to moderator
924 Points

I loved this…
I’d love to see a collection of all Jo’s interviews.
It’s hysterical (now) to think that selling 30,000 books was
considered “phenomonal”. The last four of her books probably sold that in an hour at midnight.
I love her red hair. Now I see another connection with Lily Potter.

Posted by sessionka oom4 CW on January 05, 2011, 11:20 PM report to moderator

Deathly Hallows sold about 30,000 copies within the first three minutes after it went on sale (15 million copies in the first 24 hours).

Posted by Fragesteller on January 06, 2011, 02:06 AM report to moderator

I love that she’s actually been consistent in her opinions over the years. She still talks about the phenomenon in the same way now. Her answers aren’t calculated to make her look good, she just tells what the truth. Otherwise her opinions would have probably changed over the years.

Posted by Redbeard on January 06, 2011, 02:36 AM report to moderator
277 Points

Wow, she must have been pinching herself for the last 12 years! She is so humble in this, and so grateful, and I think she’s an amazing woman and a total inspiration, and totally deserves to have all that she does now. I love the connection with the Forest of Dean as well!

Posted by eccentricalice on January 06, 2011, 07:48 AM report to moderator
4366 Points

I love her hair like this: red and curly!

Posted by devilskinn on January 06, 2011, 12:00 PM report to moderator
1985 Points

This is a really nice interview to hear before her success..or at least huge success.

Posted by jhangelgurl (ITC!) on January 06, 2011, 05:06 PM report to moderator
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