Comic Relief live chat, March 2001. [transcript]
This interview coincided with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. These books were written to raise money for the charity Comic Relief.
Calendar and Dates
This interview was given in 2001. At that time, which was between books four and five and therefore in the summer of 1995 in the story, Rowling stated that Snape was "35 or 6." Now we know that Snape was born in 1960, so she pegged it perfectly. Snape would have turned 35 on January 9 of that year. Rowling's statement that Dumbledore was 150 is off, however. When we learn more details of Dumbledore's past, we learn that he was born in 1881, which means that in 1995 he would have been 114 years old.
Interesting facts and notes
Q: How do you choose the names for your books?
JKR: With difficulty... I've changed my mind a few times. That was a problem with Goblet of Fire which was originally called 'The Doomspell Tournament'
Q: How old are Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape?
JKR: Dumbledore's about 150 years old ... wizards have a longer life expectancy than us Muggles, Snape's 35 or 6.
Q: Why did you chose the name Harry Potter and did you base the character on someone you know?
JKR: Harry is completely imaginary. I took his surname from a family I lived near when I was a child, just because I liked the name and 'Harry' has always been one of my favourite Christian names.
Q: Do you need a Wand to do Magic?
JKR: You can do unfocused and uncontrolled magic without a wand (for instance when Harry blows up Aunt Marge) but to do really good spells, yes, you need a wand.
Q: Is Hagrid EVER going to get cooking lessons?
JKR: Hee hee hee no, Hagrid LIKES what he cooks he can't see any room for improvement. He likes stoat sandwiches, bless him.
Q: I think the Harry Potter books are great, what do you think makes them appealing to such a wide age group?
JKR: I think (but I don't really know, because I'm not good at being objective about my own work) that as I wrote primarily for myself, that probably shows in the books. The sense of humour is mine, not what I think children find funny, for instance.
Q: Does it bother you that in America they changed the names of your books?
JKR: They changed the first title, but with my consent to be honest. I wish I hadn't agreed now but it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy.
Q: Has Harry got a middle name and if so what is it?
JKR: Yes, he has, it's James, of course!
Q: How did you come up with the name Quidditch?
JKR: I played around with words beginning with 'Q' for ages I don't know why 'Q', it was just a whim and then I came up with Quidditch and knew it was the one.
Q: How do you feel about thousands of fans writing fanfiction about your books, and having them posted on the Internet?
JKR: It's wonderful ... I love writing more than almost anything in the world so the idea that Harry has inspired other people to write makes me very happy.
Q: Do you think Hogwarts will be doing anything for Red Nose Day?! Will there be a spell for casting red noses on everyone!!!
JKR: Ooooo, yes I think so and they'll probably dress up as Muggles for a day.
Q: How carefully do you plan your books?
JKR: So carefully I sometimes feel as though my brain is going to explode.
Q: Do you feel that the Harry Potter film will take away the imagination and magic from the book?
JKR: Well, obviously I hope not! I'm excited about seeing the film, but then no film could ever ruin my favourite books for me.
Q: Have you ever suffered from writers block, and how did you get over it?
JKR: I don't know whether it was really writers' block, because I was still having ideas. However, during the writing of Chamber of Secrets I sort of froze it was really panic, because the first book suddenly received a lot of publicity and I hadn't expected it and got into a right old state.
Q: Why were there no pictures in your books?
JKR: Actually, I drew some pictures for book one and the publishers didn't want them. They felt that putting in pictures implied the books were for younger children but I drew the pics for Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts, so that was fun.
Q: Are you going to write a cook book about all the sweets in the Harry Potter Books?
JKR: Hmmmmm... probably not... if you read 'Fantastic Beasts' you'll find out that a few of the ingredients would be difficult to find in Sainsburys!
Q: What is the approximate value of a galleon?
JKR: About five pounds, though the exchange rate varies!
Q: If you could travel to Hogwarts for an hour, what would you do there?
JKR: Go straight into a certain room, mentioned in book four which has certain magical properties Harry hasn't discovered yet! [a reference to the Room of Requirement --ed]
Q: On the Hogwarts crest there is a motto written in Latin, what does it stand for?
JKR: It means 'never tickle a sleeping dragon', good sound practical advice.
Q: How many rough copies do you have to do before you get it right?
JKR: Loads and loads and loads. The worst ever was thirteen different versions of one chapter (chapter nine in Goblet of Fire). I hated that chapter so much; at one point, I thought of missing it out altogether and just putting in a page saying 'Chapter Nine was too difficult' and going straight to Chapter Ten.
Q: Which character do you most enjoy writing for?
JKR: Good question... Gilderoy Lockhart was loads of fun, but he was a bit of a one-joke character, and I think I did as much as I could with him. I love writing Hagrid and the Dursleys, too oh, and Fred and George, all of them, now I come to think of it.
Q: Why did you choose "never tickle a sleeping dragon" as your motto?
JKR: Lots of schools have pointless mottos like 'reach for the stars' or 'persevere and endure;' I wanted something useful.
Q: Did you read the Narnia books when you were a child?
JKR: Yes I did and I liked them though all the Christian symbolism utterly escaped me it was only when I re-read them later in life that it struck me forcibly.
Q: Is JK Rowling your real name or is it your 'writers' name?
JKR: My real name is Joanne Rowling. My publishers wanted another initial, so I gave myself my favourite grandmother's name as a middle name, 'Kathleen'
Q: When is Ron's Birthday?
JKR: First of March, in case you're thinking of sending him a card and Hermione is the nineteenth of September.
Q: Have any of the Hogwarts professors had spouses?
JKR: Good question - yes, a few of them but that information is sort of restricted - you'll find out why.
Q: Where did you get your idea for the house elves?
JKR: House-elves exist in folklore. I didn't invent the tradition that if you present them with clothes they will leave. I thought it would be funny if they thought clothes were a disgrace except, of course, for Dobby.
Q: How much background information did you have before you started to write the first book?
JKR: Not too much. None, now I come to think of it! I made up my own background information for five years at the same time as writing the first book.
Q: What gave you the idea of having the Owl postal system?
JKR: Pigeon post!
Q: What would you say to those people who think that Harry Potter is too scary for children?
JKR: Well, I think it's foolish to try and 'protect' children from Harry I can't think of any surer way to make them desperate to read the books! And as I've already said, I think of them as very moral.
Q: If you could pick your own wand core what would it be?
JKR: Phoenix feather and... let's see... possibly walnut, I love walnut wood.
Comic Relief live chat