Saturday, 9 March 2013

In Which There is A Very Famous Writer

As you'll have seen from my last post, I wasn't very efficient in booking tickets for this years Bath Festival of Literature, and ended up missing some events I'd like to have seen. One I didn't miss, however, was last night's interview with J.K. Rowling.

Rowling was being interviewed by James Runcie, who, as well as being a novelist in his own right, is Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival and also a long-standing friend of Rowling's, which came through in the interview, as they laughed and joked together.

The event was held in the Forum, which seats around 1,600 people, and which was pretty full - I think the event was sold out, or pretty close. Having booked late, I was seated in the very back row of the circle. This may have been a good thing. There were some pretty intense fans nearer the front, from what I can gather!

The event was primarily an opportunity to talk about Rowling's recent adult novel, The Casual Vacancy but also covered aspects of the writers life and, inevitably, Harry Potter.

'The Casual Vacancy' has some very troubled teenage characters, and Rowling was asked about her own teenage years, and specifically, her first French kiss (She was 12. He tasted of cheese and onion crisps). She counter attacked, asking Runcie about his, and he revealed he was 17, pointing out that as a ginger with glasses he was at a disadvantage!

She explained her wish to write realistic teenagers, and that she felt that all of the characters in the novel were real, in that they are not exaggerated - she had known people like that, when growing up, and while working as a teacher (but also stressed that she does not put actual people into the books), and that without seeking to claim to be a 'modern Trollope or Gaskell' that she did the novel as being in a similar tradition of parochial,  fiction, looking at a small and limited group of people. She also mentioned that she drew on aspects of herself in writing Hermione, and was very clear that she wanted Hermione to be, not 'the pretty girl' or 'the tomboy' but a clever girl, and for that to be OK, and to be someone whom she would have identified with as a child.

Rowling described how liberating she had found it, after finishing the Harry Potter series, to be writing without a deadline, and knowing that nothing would ever be the same as Potter - she described having been on a train at Kings Cross organised by her publishers in around 2000, thinking "you will never top this" and feeling, now, that she could either dwell on knowing she'll never top Potter, or that she can see how lucky she is to be free to write whatever she, knowing she can pay the bills even if only 5 people like the new book!
J.K. Rowling at the Bath Literature Festival
Those hoping for the possibility of new stories set in the Potterverse were doomed to disappointment - while she admitted one can never say never, she has no plans for any new books; she commented that prequels are, in her view, rarely successful, and that in adding the Epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows she had made it very clear how things turned out, and that there was a happy ending. "A lot of people didn't like it, but. . .My Characters, My Rules"

However, she did disclose that is she is currently writing a new children's book, but nothing further - the conversation was;
     -"Would you like to tell us anything about it?"
     - "No."

During the QandA session at the end of the interview there were more questions about Harry Potter. Asked whether she felt that Grindelwald loved Dumbledore back, she said no, that she'd always felt he manipulated Albus, and that he was never able to fully trust or love another after that. She went on to say that one of her proudest moments had been when, after her disclosure that Dumbledore was gay, a young man at the signing told her had just come out, as a direct result!

In response to a question about Harry Potter gaming she said her first experience of them was seeing one of her children playing the Harry Potter Lego game, and repeatedly running Ron over...!

Rowling was very articulate about her love of books and reading, and reported that she'd been asked by one of the children whether she would chose them or books, if she had to chose. Her reply? "You. But I'd be really grumpy"

It was an interesting evening. I came away liking the lady, as well as her books.

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