She is known worldwide as one of the greatest children’s fiction writers that ever lived. JK Rowling has managed time and time again to capture the essence of a magical world we all would love to believe exists. And why not? Anything is possible.
Famous for her bestselling Harry Potter books, JK Rowling has captured and enchanted a truly worldwide audience. The books are sold in over 200 countries and 60 languages.
We recently interviewed Mrs. Rowling on her life, her books and, of course, Harry Potter:
Urbanette Magazine: We’ve heard that with your first book, The Philosopher’s Stone, you had to use a typewriter to write the manuscript, is that true?
JK Rowling: That’s true. The first manuscript I had to do on a typewriter and then had to re-type the entire chapter if I changed a paragraph. Then I had to re-type the whole book all over again because it wasn’t double spaced.
Urbanette: I couldn’t imagine doing that. It must’ve taken a lot of time and effort to get the book just right. When did you come up with the idea for Harry Potter?
JK Rowling: In 1990, my then boyfriend and I decided to get a flat and move to Manchester together. We would flat hunt every once in awhile. One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head.
I had been writing since I was six, but I had never been as excited about an idea as I was for this book. Coincidentally, I didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask anyone for one on the train, which frustrated me at the time, but when I look back at it was the best thing for me. It gave me the full four hours on the train to think up all the ideas for the book.
A scrawny, little black haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me. He became more real. I think if I might have slowed down on the ideas and began to write them down. I would’ve stifled some of those ideas. I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening. Although, the first couple of pages look nothing like the finished product.
Urbanette: How long did it take you to complete the novel?
JK Rowling: After I began to write “Philosopher’s Stone,” something horrible had happened. My mother died. She was only forty-five. Nine months afterwards, I desperately wanted to get away from everything and took a job in Portugal as an English teacher at a language institute. I took my manuscript with me in hopes of working on it while I was there. My feelings about Harry Potter’s parents’ death became more real to me, and more emotional.
In my first week in Portugal, I wrote my favorite chapter in Philosopher’s Stone – The Mirror of Erised. I had hoped that I would’ve been done with the book by the time I was back from Portugal, but I came back with something better, my daughter, Jessica. The marriage didn’t work out, but the best thing I had ever had came into my life.
Urbanette: It must have been hard to finish the book now with a small child in your life.
JK Rowling: It was hard, but I made it work. Every time Jessica would fall asleep in her pushchair/stroller, I’d dash to the nearest café and write as much as I could. I wrote nearly every evening. Then, I had to type everything out myself. Sometimes, I hated the book, and all the while I still loved it.
Urbanette: When you sent it off to agents, did they take the manuscript right away or do you have to send it to several people?
JK Rowling: The first agent I had sent my first three chapters off to had sent my manuscript back so fast that it seemed like they sent it back the same day it arrived. The second agent however, wrote back and asked to see the rest of the manuscript. It was one of the best letters I had ever seen and it was only two sentences long.
Urbanette: How long did it take your agent to find someone to publish your book?
JK Rowling: It took my agent, Christopher, a year to find a publisher. Many of them turned it down. Then finally in August of 1996, Christopher called to let me know that he had an offer from Bloomsbury. I couldn’t believe my ears. After I had hung up, I screamed and jumped into the air. Jessica, who was sitting in her high chair, enjoying her tea, looked thoroughly scared. And the rest as you may guess is history.
JK Rowling has managed time and time again to capture the essence of a magical world we all would love to believe exists.
Urbanette: In your opinion, where was the best place for you to write?
JK Rowling: It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think. The best writing café is crowded enough to where you blend in, but not too crowded that you have to share a table with someone else.
Urbanette: Many people wonder what Squibs are. Could you explain?
JK Rowling: I’ve been asked this question many times since it was introduced in Chamber of Secrets. Squibs are the opposite of muggle-born wizards. They are non-magical people born to one magical parent. Squibs are rare, magic is a dominant and resilient gene.
Urbanette: Do you have any advice for people who want to get their work published as well?
JK Rowling: First, you need to write something a publisher would want to read. It only takes one, but it might take awhile to find them. Next, you need to approach the publisher, either directly, or I recommend you find an agent you can help act on your behalf. The best way to find agents and publishers is to consult, “The Writer’s and Artists Yearbook,’ which is updated every year. Then wait, and pray. This is the way I got Harry Potter published.