Q: There’s an important kind of redemptive pattern to Snape-
...um, there’s so much I wish I could say to you, and I can’t because it would ruin. I promise you, whoever asked that question, can I just say to you that I’m slightly stunned that you’ve said that and you’ll find out why I’m so stunned if you read Book 7. That’s all I’m going to say.
-- J. K. Rowling (Con)
J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999
Interesting facts and notes
JKR: I’m big on names. I like names, generally. You have to be really careful giving me your name if it’s an unusual one because you will turn up in Book 6. I collect --- Some of them are invented. Voldemort is an invented name. Malfoy is an invented name. Quiddich is invented. But I also collect them from all kinds of places, maps, street names, names of people I meet, old books on saints. Mrs. Norris, people will recognize comes from Jane Austin. Dumbledore is an old English word meaning bumblebee. Since Albus Dumbledore is very fond of music, I always imagined him sort of humming to himself a lot.
...Hagrid is also another old English word meaning if you were Hagrid, it’s a dialect word meaning you’d had a bad night. Hagrid’s a big drinker. He has a lot of bad nights.
...McGonagall is a very, very bad Scottish poet. McGonagall is, I just love the name.
...Hermione is a Shakespearean name.
...Tell us more about Draco Malfoy. There’s a name that sort of gives it away.
JKR: There’s a name I conjured up.
Draco, bad faith or something.
JKR: Yeah. Exactly.
Why 7 and what is the contour that you want to complete?
JKR: Well 7 is for several reasons, but I suppose the main one, I was 7 years at my secondary school. That’s kind of standard in England. 7 is also a magical number. I wanted him to come of age at 17. It just seems a good number for a wizard to come of age. So that meant 7 books, that meant 7 years in his life. Also, it will take 7 books to get Harry to the point where he has to face, um I can’t say. But in Book 7, you know, there’s a big climax coming here and it will take that many books to get him there.
Initially I had said to her I would wait until she was 7, but she kept asking me and asking me and I thought oh well, we’ll try and it was the most important reading ever in my life. I’ve read to about a thousand people and I read to my own daughter in our sitting room and it was the most incredible reading ever, and it was the most nerve racking. I was more frightened reading to her than I was to a thousand people at a time because obviously, I really, really want her to like what I’m doing. It’s very important. Then she went away and she painted a lightening scar on her own forehead so I assumed that she did like them. Well, in fact I know that she does like them. She asks me all the time to read her more.
We’ve all met him [Draco]. He is the bully of the most refined type in that unlike Dudley, Harry’s cousin who is a physical bully, but really not bright enough to access all of your weak points. Draco is, um, he’s a snob. He’s a bigot and he’s a bully, and as I say, in the most refined sense, he knows exactly what will hurt people and the scary thing is, but the predictable thing is that most of the children I meet say that they know him or they know her because you get female Malfoys as well.
Who on earth would want Snape in love with them? That’s a very horrible idea.
Well, Hagrid’s sort of West Country, Yocal, which is where I grew up, the part of Britain where I grew up. I didn’t grow up in Scotland, I grew up on the border with Wales so Hagrid‘s kind of (does Hagrid voice), like that, very slurred words. It’s the accent English people always put on to sound stupid. Hagrid isn’t stupid, but he’s got that kind of very country, you know, way of speaking.
Harry is someone who is forced, for such a young person, to make his own choices. He has very limited access to truly caring adults and he is guided by his conscience. Now, Harry makes mistakes repeatedly. Harry did things like --- he did steal the flying car. That was a very stupid thing to do, but it seemed like a great idea at the time. We’ve all been there. But, ultimately Harry is guided by his conscience. He is flanked by 2 friends. They work far better as a team than apart though Harry tends to be the one who has to shoulder most of the burden. He is a true hero in that sense. Hermione, who’s really the brains of the outfit and Ron who is also a very brave character. I mean I deeply admire bravery in all forms. That’s why in Book 1, if people have read Book 1, they’ll remember that Neville Longbottom who is a comic, but he’s not a wholly comic figure to me. Neville is actually quite a tragic figure to me as well, because there’s a lot of Neville in me. This feeling of just never being quite good enough. I mean we’ve all felt that atsome point, and I felt that a lot when I was younger. I wanted to show Neville doing something brave. It’s not as spectacularly brave as Harry and Hermione do, but he finds true moral courage in standing up to his closest friends, the people who are on his side, but he still thinks they are doing wrong and he tells them so. So, that’s a very important moment for me too in the first book.
Well, it would be nice, but I’ll tell you something. You’ve raised a really interesting point there, Peter, because when I started writing the books, the first thing I had to decide was not what magic can do, but what it can’t do. I had to set limits on it immediately and decide what the perimeters are. One of the most important things I decided was that magic cannot bring dead people back to life. That’s one of the most profound things. The natural laws of death applies to wizards as it applies to Muggles and there is no returning once you’re properly dead. You know, they might be able to save very close to death people better than we can, by magic. They have certain knowledge we don’t, but once you’re dead, you’re dead. So, yeah, I’m afraid there will be no coming back for Harry’s parents.
The Connection (WBUR Radio)