Rowling, Inc., to Follow Christie Estate Lead and Commission Harry Potter Fan Fiction Under Its Own Trademark Brand?

All I’m trying to do here is start a conversation. Well, maybe a rumor, too. One without any basis in fact.

Except that the Agatha Christie Estate has commissioned noted mystery author Sophie Hannah to write a new Hercule Poirot novel:

Hercule Poirot is to test his famous grey cells once again in a “new” Agatha Christie novel – the first featuring the Belgian detective since Christie’s death in 1976.


Christie is the latest author to be resurrected by her estate, following novels in the style of Ian Fleming and PG Wodehouse written by contemporary authors. Bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah is to write the as-yet untitled novel in Christie’s style, which will be published next year.

She said: “Writing a book with Poirot in it will be like writing about someone I know really well. I’ve read all the books so many times – I wouldn’t want to do this for any other writer. It was Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple who, between them, made me want to devote my working life to crime fiction.” The work, published by HarperCollins, will be the first fully-authorised Poirot novel since the author’s death.

The grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie, Limited, explains why he thinks grandmama would have liked the idea:

“The argument that might convince her is that it’s an attempt to reintroduce an already enthusiastic public to the books she wrote. That would have made her sympathetic to what we’re trying to do. When we heard that someone of Sophie’s eminence wanted to be involved in a project like this, we felt the opportunity was too good to miss.”

If you’re half as jaded as I am, you snorted at that. I wrote Potter Pundit and Friend of this Blog Heidi Tandy, who works as a copyright lawyer when wearing Muggle dress, to ask about the possibility of there being another motivation to this move (besides making the Christie books and plays generate even more millions annually), as well as what she thought of the rumor I’m trying to start. Y’know, that Ms Rowling would do the same?

Here are my three questions to Heidi Tandy, Potter Pundit and Copyright Lawyer, after reading about a commissioned Poirot story:

(1) I’m guessing the Christie Estate is not doing this to “revive interest” in a cash-cow property. Am I right in believing it is to protect the originals from entering the Public Domain, i.e., the same reason the Dr. Seuss continues to come up with new products around the old properties lest they become everybody’s plaything (and money maker)?

The text of the originals will still enter the public domain, but these new stories may prevent the copyright in the character of Poirot from entering the public domain, which would mean only the Christie estate and its designees could sell stories with him. However, someone else could write about any of the less completely drawn characters, and can reprint those books for sale or free distribution, and as ebooks once the original Christies are in the public domain.

(2a) Do you think Ms Rowling will ever grow so sick of requests for a new Harry Potter novel that she might commission one?

If she did it would feel like the Nancy Drew books to me – but really, I don’t KNOW why she won’t write a Marauders-era story, or something set pre-Voldemort in the 20s, or frankly, Austen-era Regency wizardry. It would be SO wonderful, even if it was a collection of short stories from each of the eras. I think if she commissioned something it would be more like that (oh my can you imagine a Neil Gaiman HP story set in Shakespearean times???) rather than have one author write another set of “Wizarding World” novels.

(2b) If not, how cold will her body be before her Estate commissions one to release the Warner Brothers money-making machine and re-prime the Theme Park pump?

Copyright in a work lasts for 70 years after the physical death of the author in both the US and the UK under current law ( So the Harry Potter series won’t enter the public domain in our lifetimes, no matter what. Which is good! But, still, just think of how groundbreaking and awardwinning “The Hermione Granger Diaries” will be in 2213, or the audience reactions to every three-episode serieses of “SIRIUS” produced by some future incarnation of the BBC.

Thank you, Heidi! I’m guessing none of you think it is likely that Rowling, Inc., will ever franchise out the Wizarding World story-telling, even to first tier writers (or screenwriters for that matter — don’t ever forget the pressure from Warner Brothers to follow-up on the most successful film franchise ever). Here are reasons that Ms Rowling would approve of such licensing:

A. She’s tired of hearing the whiny requests for more Harry Potter-like stories when she’s creating other works, other worlds, in other genres for readers to enjoy. Call this the ‘Throw Them a Bone’ motivation or ‘Get Off My Back. Will ‘Ya?’

B. She has a series of charitable institutions she has founded and others she supports. That she has donated all her Cuckoo’s Calling royalties to charity reflects that she still isn’t hurting for money — but it also suggests she works for her charities now. Commissioned work revives interest in the original books and keeps the MS Society, Caged Children, and Wounded Warrior projects up and running.

C. Ms. Rowling is generous to a fault but there is a streak of bitterness and pride that is hard to miss in her continued complaints about her suffering as a dole recipient while she was writing the first Harry Potter novel. She should, of course, be grateful that there was a safety net to help her regain her footing (a net her tax dollars have certainly made that much stronger!) but it is a rare person that accepts government help gracefully. Forgive me for wondering if she might not become bitter, too, if, after a few more of her writing experiments fail to meet the Hogwarts Saga bar of expectations (as they all must, alas), if she doesn’t decide to open the gates and flood the market with Potter stories every few months.

Okay, that’s not probable, I admit. But I’d love to read your ideas, like Heidi’s above about Neil Gaiman writing an Elizabethan Hogwarts tale or two. What author(s) would you commission to write which stories?

Hat tip to Dolores for the Independent link!


  1. Neil Gaiman, yes. Stephen King might also be tempted to build a little castle in Rowling’s sandbox. Some distant maybes come to mind, such as Charles Stross, Susanna Clarke and Kim Newman, all of whom have also dabbled in dark whimsy, borrowed worlds, and institutional lampooning.

  2. wayne stauffer says

    i’d be happy if the suits just didn’t get so cranky litigious about fan fiction. george lucas and gene roddenberry allowed fan fiction and found some good writers to fill in lots of back story in both star wars and star trek worlds…and they both did not suffer funding shortages or writing quality loss in the process…the editors at the publishers will keep the readers and coffers in mind for that…a series on voldemort’s rise would be good…one on dumbledore and grindelwald…one on the children of harry’s generation…one on the founding of hogwarts…i can hear the ching of the cash registers already…and jkr could require all to contribute/donate a significant portion of proceeds to whatever charities she desires as a condition of licensing…one can hope…

  3. Me. I want to write this. (And by want to, I mean I have.)

    Like my story about Harry’s last descendant who, in the year 3003, has her own quest regarding the Hallows:

    Or the one about Molly Weasley ii, the daughter of the Minister for Magic, as she navigates her twenties and her love life in the spotlight of “Witch Weekly”:

    Or Molly and Arthur’s love story:

    You know. Stories where Harry Potter himself is only mentioned. She’s given us an amazing world to play around in.

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