J. K. Rowling Interview on BBC Radio

Courtesy of Patricio Tarantino at TheRowlingLibrary.com!


  1. A very nice interview all around. In fact, unless I’ve missed something, this has to be the closest I’ve ever heard the author speak out at length, and in-depth about herself and her work. There are a lot of things that stand out as clarifying and edifying.

    Some items of note: how her first “shed” belonged to her father, and how that was “a scary place”. It’s the kind of thing where a just a little says a lot.

    Then there was the either/or – both/and question session. The two elements that jump out at me the most there are the way she prefers to hedge her bets and provide a non-answer to whether she believes in ghosts. It’s a non-denial denial that opens up more doors than I think most readers will ever realize. Then there is her reaction to the choice of immortality. It’s thoroughly in keeping with what we’ve heard of her so far. Though that just makes me even more curious.

    In particular, I wish I could have asked her a very specific trick question: J.W. Dunne, or J.B. Priestley? The trick there is that both writers are sort of joined at the hip in terms of their creative output. As it turns out, Priestley wound up being the most enthusiastic disciple and proponent that Dunne ever had. Both men spent their whole lives trying to understand the afterlife. That means Priestley is technically the second writer whose entire oeuvre is concerned with the otherworld, with particular emphasis on its relation to dreams.

    If Rowling had revealed that she was familiar with Priestley’s work, then it could have meant she knew something about that writer’s Dunnian enthusiasms, even if just at second hand. Therefore the second question I would liked to have asked her is if she was a fan of his? If the answer was yes again, then I would have inquired what is it about Priestley that seems outstanding to her? If only, though. Well, you know what they say about beggars.

    Anybody else have their favorite moment?

  2. Louise Freeman says

    I was happy she re-confirmed the fact that the Dementors are manifestations of clinical depression, and thought the part about her childhood nightmare was fascinating.

    Also interesting that she said she wrote Cuckoo’s Calling before Casual Vacancy.

    I plan to listen again when I can take notes.

  3. Dr. Freeman,

    Rowling’s admittance that she began the “Strike” series before “Casual Vacancy” tells me that she might have seen the standalone book in two interrelated lights. The first is as a means to an end, the second as a kind of placeholder.

    She knew when commencing on the saga of Denmark Street that she would be switching gears in a big way. It’s the kind of thing that even die-hard fans might not be able to get behind. To transition from the Fantastic to a very muted form of Gothic fiction might create a contrast that is too jarring for certain readers, even if there’s no intrinsic cause for cognitive dissonance. Some folks just seem to have greater difficulty set switching (or mixing several genres within a single narrative) than others. Hence, the part that “Vacancy” might have had to play in all this.

    Her words make me think she decided to release “Mugglemarch” first as a way of signaling her change of direction (if not theme) to her readers. It was her way of saying get ready for what’s coming next. And what better (albiet mixed) way of doing that than by showcasing a story that will contain a great deal of themes, settings, and ideas in the “Strike” novels? Granted, it’s easy to say they are tackled with better finesse in her detective fiction. That said, thinking over that book now makes me wonder if Rowling wished that Christie has never written “And Then There Were None”, as it occurs to me that “Vacancy” reads like she’d like to maroon half the cast of that book on Soldier Island with “Mr. Owen”.

    Besides this, however, there is one other thing I remember from her interview that sort of jumps out at me. It’s her admission that in retrospect she seems to wish she’d written “Strike” first before “Potter”. Something tells me that’s the kind of statement with a lot to unpack in it. A good way to state what I’m trying to get at here is to put the idea in the form of a question. Is there anything going on with “Strike” that’s giving her a sense of greater enthusiasm right now? If so, what is it? And what does it say about her current relation to the books that made her famous? More to the point, how would such a scenario have shaped Hogwarts if Rowling had in fact written “Strike” first? As I say, there’s a lot to unpack in a statement like that.

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