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Until very recently, JKRowling.com was a list of links to my publishers - boring, I think you'll agree. So I thought I'd liven it up a little.
I receive so many thousands and thousands of letters these days that it is impossible to read, let alone answer, them all. A proper website seems like a great way to communicate directly with Harry Potter fans. Everything on here was written by ME, J. K. Rowling. This is where I can tell you the truth about rumours or news stories, where I can share the extra information I haven't put in the books, where I can give you hints and clues about what's going to happen to Harry next, and where I can announce I've finished book seven... and no, that's not going to happen very soon.
Occasionally the Dark Mark will flash at you. This is a SPOILER WARNING. It refers only to information hidden in book five, The Order of the Phoenix - if you haven't yet finished reading the other four, proceed at your peril!
Anyway, I really hope you enjoy wandering around my desk (which was specially tidied for your visit). Don't knock anything over, please. And watch out for Peeves.
With love from JK Rowling
(Jo to you)
That tired old welcome page was starting to bug me, so I thought I'd give you something new for Christmas. I've tried keeping a diary many times in the past and never got much further than January 15th, but I've been feeling the need for a place to put everyday updates that don't qualify as real 'news'. As ever, if there is a quiet spell you should not take it as a sign that I've given up diary writing, but rather that I am working hard on something a little more eagerly anticipated…
For 2006 will be the year when I write the final book in the Harry Potter series. I contemplate the task with mingled feelings of excitement and dread, because I can't wait to get started, to tell the final part of the story and, at last, to answer all the questions (will I ever answer all of the questions? Let's aim for most of the questions); and yet it will all be over at last and I can't quite imagine life without Harry.
However (clears throat in stern British manner) this is no time to get maudlin.
I have been fine-tuning the fine-tuned plan of seven during the past few weeks so that I can really set to work in January. Reading through the plan is like contemplating the map of an unknown country in which I will soon find myself. Sometimes, even at this stage, you can see trouble looming; nearly all of the six published books have had Chapters of Doom. The quintessential, never, I hope, to be beaten Chapter That Nearly Broke My Will To Go On was chapter nine, 'Goblet of Fire' (appropriately enough, 'The Dark Mark'.)
As for this website, I've got plans… you'll find out what they are in due course (constant vigilance, my friends). In the meantime, happy holidays to everyone, and if Father Christmas has already squeezed down your chimney, I hope he left something good.
New Year's Writing Resolutions
1. Muck out my study.
My study is easily the messiest room in the house, and probably our street; I won't say in the whole of Edinburgh, because there must be a squat somewhere that's worse. Frankly, I shudder to think what I will find when I finally reach the bottom of all these teetering piles of garbage. However, as I currently have to negotiate an assault course just to reach my desk I think the time has come for my annual tidy-up.
2. Do not lose any more notebooks.
After a somewhat panicky few weeks I have finally located a missing notebook. As always when I mislay these things, I had been 'remembering', in its absence, that it contained notes so essential and ideas so imaginative that I would never be able to duplicate them, and the whole of the next book would be impoverished if they were never found. Now that I have said notebook beside me on this desk, however, I see that it contains few useful nuggets amid a lot of complete dross. Nevertheless, the stress I endured while believing it to be the notebook equivalent of the Holy Grail was enough to remind me that I must take better care of my working materials.
3. Be ruthless about protecting writing days
, ie, do not cave in to endless requests to have 'essential' and 'long overdue' meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.
4. Follow advice from critics on how to be a better writer.
I always try to act on constructive criticism. When I fail, I attempt to embrace my faults and call them my 'style'.
5. Try and keep children healthy.
As we leave behind the sickliest winter ever known in this family, I pray that none of my kids develops a runny nose for at least a week, thus enabling me to set about serious writing with at least a few hours' sleep behind me.
Sometimes writing goes so smoothly that you feel as though you are simply taking dictation from your muse. In my case, this often happens after a period where I am unable to write, such as over the Christmas period (compounded this year by the children's colds mentioned in the previous diary entry). It is as though all the ideas that ought to have leaked out in the usual intermittent fashion over the preceding couple of weeks explode out of my pen once I have a few hours in which to work. I am usually most productive when I have, or have recently had, limited time.
Of course, this heavenly state of affairs will not last, it never does. I'm bound to get all snarled up in a plot tangle, or else find myself temporarily stranded on the edge of a large hole in the story. Until then, however, I shall enjoy floating along on this flood of inspiration.
This always happens. I make a plan, it looks nice and neat, then I get to actually write the book and realise that Harry can't possibly do all that in just one chapter. So what I thought were going to be two chapters have now become four. I still don't think the book will be as long as 'Phoenix', but if that keeps happening... no, it won't. I'm looking at the plan, and it can't. Surely. Please.
Nothing else I can tell you at the moment. Well, there's LOADS I could tell you at the moment, but I can't. Sorry.
There is only one thing that annoys me about living in Edinburgh - well, two, but I'm pretty much resigned to the weather now. Why is it so difficult to buy paper in the middle of town? What is a writer who likes to write longhand supposed to do when she hits her stride and then realises, to her horror, that she has covered every bit of blank paper in her bag? Forty-five minutes it took me, this morning, to find somewhere that would sell me some normal, lined paper. And there's a university here! What do the students use? Don't tell me laptops, it makes me feel like something out of the eighteenth century.
The book's still going well, I'm sure you're pleased to hear, lack of paper notwithstanding. There was a small interruption last week so that I could go down to London for the British Book Awards, a.k.a. the Nibbies, which was a lot of fun, and rather thrilling as Half-Blood Prince won Book of the Year. I also took the opportunity to visit Leavesden (the studio where they make the Potter films), which I hadn't done in ages due to being pregnant/having tiny babies for what feels like ages. It was exciting to see some of the new Order of the Phoenix sets, but most of all to see the actors again – slightly unnerving to realise that nearly all of them are taller than me now (I speak, of course, of the teenagers; Michael Gambon was always taller than me, and very lovely he looked in his new robes, too.) Apart from the pleasure of seeing Tom Felton, Devon Murray, Alfred Enoch, Sitara Shah (and waving through the door at Bonnie Wright, who was busy being tutored), I had a great time talking to Dan and Matthew about books, Rupert about how his sisters never wind him up, Oliver and James about how difficult they find it to wind each other up, and Emma about Hermione's love life. Also met, and had a long chat, with Evanna Lynch (Luna), about whom there is only one possible thing to say: perfect.
Be careful what you wish for, it might come true. Since complaining that I had difficulty finding anything to write on after running out of paper while working in town, I have been deluged with paper. Some of you sent single sheets, others entire pads, one enterprising paper merchants sent a large stack of notebooks embossed boldly with J K ROWLING, which I might not use in public, but which are very lovely all the same. Others took a different approach, telling me exactly where you can buy writing paper in Edinburgh; some even enclosed maps. Anyway, I've now got enough paper to write several book sevens, so no excuse there.
I've been having house-elf trouble this week, though I think I've got them sorted out now. I'm all for house-elf rights, but the author is dictator and the sooner they accept that, the better.
Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. I know it’s been a very long time since I was last in touch. I’ve been writing a novel, you see.
My readings in New York with Stephen King and John Irving were so much fun. It’s not often that I do something like that and wish I could do it all over again, but I would have happily done a third night. If you were there, and yelling, thank you: the crowds, both nights, could not have been more wonderful.
I did mess up one answer, though. I was asked, ‘what question have you never been asked that you ought to have been asked?’ – or something very similar – and my mind went blank. Blame long years of trying not to give away the plot. But it occurred to me almost as soon as I got off stage that there IS a question I’ve always been surprised nobody’s put to me, and that I really should have said it while I was still on-stage. I can’t make amends to the girl who asked, but it is in tribute to her that I give the answer, belatedly, under ‘Miscellaneous’, Extras section.
Sitting at my desk trying to invent a word yesterday brought back memories of the last time I did so. I had tried for days and days to hit upon the right name for 'the receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a fragment of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.' Finally, after much transposition of syllables, I scribbled 'Horcrux' on a piece of paper and knew it was The One. But what if somebody had already used it? With some trepidation I typed 'Horcrux' into Google and, to my delight, saw what I was looking for: 'Your search - "Horcrux" - did not match any documents.'
So anyway, yesterday I Googled 'Horcrux' again. 401,000 results. As you might imagine, this gave me something of a lift as I went back to scribbling nonsense words on the back of a takeaway menu.
I've now got a third title. I've been thinking back, and I know that I've had more titles than this for a couple of the previous books, so I'm not too worried by this. Title three currently ahead by a short nose, or perhaps that should be a vowel and two consonants.
I've just had a great writing week. There are few feelings more joyous than reading back over the week's work and thinking 'that's not bad at all', as opposed to the all-too-frequent, 'it's rubbish, I've wasted a week and I'll have to re-write the lot.' And if you think that's an exaggeration or false modesty, you are very, very wrong. It's perfectly possible to put in eight hour days and have nothing to show for them but a single idea that, if reworked completely, might be passable.
Congratulations on your W.O.M.B.A.T. scores, incidentally. You're getting pretty good.
The long lack of updates has been due to some very hard work. I'm now writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more. I don't think anyone who has not been in a similar situation can possibly know how this feels: I am alternately elated and overwrought. I both want, and don't want, to finish this book (don't worry, I will.)
For years now, people have asked me whether I ever dream that I am 'in' Harry's world. The answer was 'no' until a few nights ago, when I had an epic dream in which I was, simultaneously, Harry and the narrator. I was searching for a Horcrux in a gigantic, crowded hall, which bore no resemblance to the Great Hall as I imagine it. As the narrator I knew perfectly well that the Horcrux was jammed in a hidden nook in the fireplace, while as Harry I was searching for it in all kinds of other places, while trying to make the people around me say lines I had pre-arranged for them. Meanwhile waiters and waitresses who work in the real café in which I have written huge parts of book seven roamed around me as though on stilts, all of them at least fifteen feet high. Perhaps I should cut back on the caffeine?
I made another daytrip to Leavesden a few weeks ago, where I saw twenty minutes of Order of the Phoenix, which looks fantastic. Also got a chance, before they all took off in their different directions (it was the last week of live actor filming) to talk to Dan, Rupert, Emma and Evanna, which is always wonderful. Dan has changed his theory on Snape; he says he doesn't want to be like one of those people who are photographed, beaming, next to mad dictators.
Charles Dickens put it better than I ever could:
'It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two-years' imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever.'
To which I can only sigh, try seventeen years, Charles...
I always knew that Harry's story would end with the seventh book, but saying goodbye has been just as hard as I always knew it would be. Even while I'm mourning, though, I feel an incredible sense of achievement. I can hardly believe that I've finally written the ending I've been planning for so many years. I've never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric.
Some of you have expressed a (much more muted!) mixture of happiness and sadness at the prospect of the last book being published, and that has meant more than I can tell you. If it comes as any consolation, I think that there will be plenty to continue arguing and speculating about, even after 'Deathly Hallows' comes out. So if you're not yet ready to quit the message boards, do not despair...
I'm almost scared to admit this, but one thing has stopped me collapsing in a puddle of misery on the floor. While each of the previous Potter books has strong claims on my affections, 'Deathly Hallows' is my favourite, and that is the most wonderful way to finish the series.
A couple of weeks ago (April 28th, if you want to go and search the archive) the Potter fansite The Leaky Cauldron posted an editorial on potential spoilers for "Deathly Hallows". It made me laugh, but I was also incredibly moved and grateful.
We're a little under three months away, now, and the first distant rumblings of the weirdness that usually precedes a Harry Potter publication can be heard on the horizon. The Leaky Cauldron's early mission statement on spoilers (ie, don't, and we're not putting them up if you do) is deeply appreciated by yours truly.
I add my own plea to Melissa's for one reason, and one only: I want the readers who have, in many instances, grown up with Harry, to embark on the last adventure they will share with him without knowing where they are they going.
Some, perhaps, will read this and take the view that all publicity is good publicity, that spoilers are part of hype, and that I am trying to protect sales rather than my readership. However, spoilers won't stop people buying the book, they never have - all it will do is diminish their pleasure in the book.
There will always be sad individuals who get their kicks from ruining other people's fun, but while sites like Leaky take such an active stance against them, we may yet win. Even if the biggest secret gets out - even if somebody discovers the Giant Squid is actually the world's largest Animagus, which rises from the lake at the eleventh hour, transforms into Godric Gryffindor and... well, I wouldn't like to spoil it.
We are almost there! As launch night looms, let's all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!
Where did the last four months go? It feels as though Hallows was published, and then I slipped through some strange time portal in which everything went at double-quick time, only to be spat out in early December.
People keep saying to me, ‘I expect things have calmed down now you’ve finished?’ to which my answer some days is a fairly humourless laugh. I have been exceptionally busy since July, what with the US/Canadian tour, Beedle the Bard, assorted charitable commitments, a massive post-publication mountain of correspondence, plus those three children I insisted on bringing into the world. Consequence: neglect of website! However, I am putting up a few updates today in News (where you will see that I have also been busy with a documentary), FAQs and Extras. I hope to put up a few more titbits in due course.
The US/Canadian tour was my favourite ever. If anybody reading this was in the audience for any of those events, thank you, because they were only as wonderful as they were because of the brilliant questions and the overwhelming warmth of those present.
Delving even further back into the Lost Four Months, the launch of ‘Hallows’ at the Natural History Museum in London was also my favourite of all time, and to all those who queued so long and patiently, you were incredible, and I loved meeting every single one of you.
‘Deathly Hallows’ remains my favourite book of the series. I hope that, even if it is not yours, you understood, at least, that this was where the story was always leading; it was the ending I had planned for seventeen years, and there was more satisfaction than you can probably imagine in finally sharing it with my readers.
As for mourning Harry – and I doubt I will be believed when I say this – nobody can have felt the end as deeply as I did. The writing of Harry Potter has been inextricably linked with my life for seventeen years, and saying goodbye has been just as tough as I always knew it would be. So I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has written to me since publication, saying such wonderful things about what the books meant to them, because your words meant the world to me at this very bittersweet time.