"Best one so far, that one!"
-- JK Rowling's comment at the end of the interview
Interview with the South West News Service, July 8, 2000, the day that Goblet of Fire was published.
Interesting facts and notes
"World Exclusive Interview with J K Rowling," South West News Service, 8 July 2000
Q: Can American kids go to Hogwarts?
A: No, they have their own school. You'll find out in Book 4. Hogwarts just serves Britain and Ireland.
Q: Can Muggles see Hogwarts?
A: You find out in Book 4. When they look towards it, as a safety precaution, they see a ruin with a sign saying it's unsafe. . .they mustn't enter. They can't see it as it really is.
Q: Since Hagrid's name was cleared in Book 2, will he ever be allowed to do magic openly again?
A: He is allowed. He has been allowed to do magic openly ever since he became a teacher but because he was never fully trained his magic is never going to be what it should be. He is always going to be a bit inept.
Q: It seems that the wizards and witches at Hogwarts are able to conjure up many things, such as food for the feasts, chairs and sleeping bags. . .if this is so, why does the wizarding world need money ? What are the limitations on the material objects you can conjure up ? It seems unnecessary that the Weasleys would be in such need of money. . .
A: Very good question. There is legislation about what you can conjure and what you can't. Something that you conjure out of thin air will not last. This is a rule I set down for myself early on. I love these logical questions!
Q: Talking about rules. . .I watched this TV programme about the making of The Simpsons and Matt Groening was talking about rules - like you never see any of the characters going cross-eyed like you do in other cartoons - the characters show quite normal behaviour, by cartoon standards. When you started all this off, did you have a set of rules ?
A: Yes. Absolutely. The five years I spent on HP and the Philosopher's Stone were spent constructing The Rules. I had to lay down all my parameters. The most important thing to decide when you're creating a fantasy world is what the characters CAN'T do. . .you can tell with The Simpsons. It's a work of genius. You can tell that they've structured it in such a way that they're never at a loss for what their characters can and can't do. That's why they're so believable - even though they're little yellow people.
Q: You mentioned something in a recent interview about a flaw in Book 4. . .
A: Did I? Oh yes. . .I repaired it! This is why Book 4 nearly caused me a nervous breakdown - because for the first time ever I lost my careful plot - which I've had since 1994, I think. I really should have gone through it with a fine toothcomb before I started writing and I didn't. I had a false sense of security because all my other plans had held up so well. So I sailed straight into the writing of Four, having just finished Azkaban. I had written what I thought at the time was half the book - it turns out now to have been about a third of the book - and I realised there was this big hole in the middle of the plot and I had to go back and unpick and redo. That's part of the reason it's longer than I thought it was going to be.
Q: Can you say what the flaw was, or would that spoil things?
A: No, because that would ruin it.
Q: If Harry had a magic duel with Hermione, who would win?
A: Very good question! Because until about halfway through Azkaban, Hermione would have won. But Harry - without anyone really noticing it - is becoming exceptionally good at Defence Against the Dark Arts. So that's the one area in which, almost instinctively, he is particularly talented. Apart from Quidditch.
Q: Do you assist with the vernacular, idiomatic expression and other vocabulary changes between the UK and the US versions of the HP series?
A: Do I assist? I do it all! A lot has been made of this but I have to say too much has been made of it. The word changes were miniscule. I don't think it would be as much as one per cent. And they were literally words that meant something utterly different - like 'jumper', which means 'pinafore dress' in America. I didn't want people to think Harry was walking around in a pinafore dress.
Q: What do you do when you have writer's block?
A: I got it during Chamber of Secrets but that was the only book in which I've had writer's block. In fact I doubt whether it was true writer's block. I think it was panic because I got this big burst of publicity for Philosopher's Stone and I froze. I thought Chamber of Secrets would never be as good. I think it was panic rather than actual lack of ideas. The publicity happened when the American deal happened. Before that, sales of Philosopher's Stone had been climbing very healthily for a completely unknown book so people were getting interested, but only in the book trade. Then Arthur Levine in America bought Philosopher's Stone for the American market for what I think may have been an unprecedented amount of money for a completely unknown children's book. And then people sat up and looked around and thought 'Well, what happened there? Why is that worth all that money?' and then I had a lot of press interest - it seemed like a lot to me at the time. Looking back, it probably wasn't that much.
Q: Do you believe in witchcraft and have you ever done any witchcraft ?
Q: Where do the Hogwarts teachers live during the school holidays ? Do they stay at Hogwarts?
A: No, they don't. Filch, the caretaker, stays.
Q: Do Hogwarts chefs accommodate vegetarians?
A: If you ask them very nicely. You'll find out something about that in Book Four as well. . .these are all very good questions.
SN: South West News Service interview