Early interviews with J.K. Rowling followed a very familiar pattern. The interviewer would tell the tale of the poor, penniless single mother who wrote the first Harry Potter book in cafes because her flat wasn’t heated. Much of this story was exaggerated, by the way. Then they would ask the same familiar questions: How did you invent the story? What books did you read as a child? Can you give advice to someone who wants to be a writer?
The first interview with Rowling that wasn’t simply a rehash of the same questions was published on the Barnes and Noble website in 1999. It wasn’t exactly an interview, since the questions came from readers, not journalists. To be honest, although the questions for Rowling were excellent, most didn’t receive a proper answer aside from “That’s coming in future books.” Readers noticed the hints and clues and asked about them, but Rowling wasn’t about to give anything away.
There were a few interesting nuggets in there, though, such as Harry’s middle name being James, after his father.
There is also one interesting comment which turned out not to be true. When asked if we would ever hear about the flying car again, she says:
Yes, you will hear from Mr. Weasley’s car again, but yet again, I’m not telling you how.
In fact, the Ford Anglia never appears again in the books. One can’t help but wonder what interesting episode she had planned which never made it into the final version of her story. I personally was just waiting for that battered old Ford to come trundling out into the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts. Sadly it was not to be.
But by far the greatest treasure trove of new canon to appear in those early interviews is from the online chats with Scholastic.com. The first of these chats happened on the third of February in 2000 with the second one following on October the sixteenth. The participants in these chats were not professional journalists, they were fans. Fans have the best questions, because we have SO much about the Wizarding World that we want to know.
Here are the kinds of questions serious Potter readers asked her:
In the first book you said Slytherin house Quidditch captain was sixth year Marcus Flint. If there are only seven years of Hogwarts, why is he in the third book?
Here’s another one.
How do students at Hogwarts get educated in Muggle subjects? Do they even need to know other things besides magic?
A. They can choose to study Muggle subjects. In the third book, Hermione takes the class Muggles Studies, and that’s where they learn about Muggles in school.
Fans were very curious about how wizarding children learned reading and writing, since clearly the kids all come to Hogwarts knowing these skills.
Do you think that you will write about Harry after he graduates from Hogwarts? Isn’t there a University of Wizardry?
A. No, there’s no University for Wizards. At the moment I’m only planning to write seven Harry Potter books. I won’t say “never,” but I have no plans to write an eighth book.
This is the only place in canon where Rowling actually addresses the question of whether there are Wizarding universities. Many fans don’t realize that this quote even exists.
Do you have an actual floorplan for Hogwarts? Do you use it when writing the books?
A. I haven’t drawn it, because it would be difficult for the most skilled architect to draw, owing to the fact that the staircases and the rooms keep moving. However, I have a very vivid mental image of what it looks like.
I’ve used this quote in my talks about mapping the Wizarding World. Rowling’s vivid mental image of her world serves her very well. From the text of the books, we can determine the relative positions of almost everything in and around Hogwarts.
How can two Muggles have a kid with magical powers? Also how does the Ministry of Magic find out these kids have powers?
A. It’s the same as two black-haired people producing a redheaded child. Sometimes these things just happen, and no one really knows why! The Ministry of Magic doesn’t find out which children are magic. In Hogwarts there’s a magical quill which detects the birth of a magical child, and writes his or her name down in a large parchment book. Every year Professor McGonagall checks the book, and sends owls to the people who are turning 11.
This is a particularly interesting quote given the supposed canonicity of Cursed Child. Judging by this and by Rowling’s further description on Pottermore of the magical book and quill, the birth of Delphi would have been noticed immediately and the family would have been contacted.
There are a number of other fascinating facts in the chats. It’s definitely worth taking a ramble over to Accio Quote and reading the transcripts.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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