‘Harry got what he wanted’

IN THE five days since

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Published: Sat 28 Jul 2007, 10:49 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:43 PM

sure signs she's ready to get back to a normal life.

Or as normal as possible when you're the publishing industry's author of the moment and, with earnings of about $1 billion, probably its richest as well.

Rowling's seven-book fantasy series about a boy wizard has smashed publishing records.

In an interview on Wednesday with USA Today, the British author says she's sad her 'Potter' series has come to an end, but is excited about two new writing projects she's begun - one for children, one for adults.

Rowling, 41, believes her 'Potter' books will be read for years to come - 'Do I think they'll last? Honestly, yes' - but she has no illusions about duplicating their success.

'Of course I won't write anything as popular as this again,' Rowling says. 'But I have truthfully known that since 1999, when the thing began to become a little bit insane. So I've had a good long time to know that, and I accept it.'

So Rowling is ready to move on, but not before taking a jab at those who posted spoilers on the Internet just days before 'Hallows 'was published. Digital photos of every page of the book were put on the Web by an unknown party.

'I felt angry,' she says, her voice getting louder as she talks about it. 'I knew it was about other people's egos.' She says she was concerned for her young fans, the '10- and 11-year-olds who really wanted not to know' how the book ended until they'd had a chance to read it.

Two days before the release of 'Hallows' at midnight last Friday, Rowling says, she was alarmed by how prevalent the spoilers had become on the Internet. She likened it to watching a massive dam spring several leaks. It was inevitable, perhaps, with a book of worldwide interest being published in the Internet age, but upsetting nonetheless.

'The (leak of the) epilogue upset me most,' she said. 'I had been working toward that point for a long time. I did have a sense-of-humour failure when the epilogue went up.'

Despite her fierce protectiveness of the final 'Potter' installment last week (she also lashed out at The New York Times after it ran an early review), Rowling is now eager to talk about what happens to Harry.

The interview takes place at the stately Bonham Hotel in this ancient city where Rowling lives. She pulls up in a silver minivan driven by her second husband, Neil Murray, 36, a general practitioner she married in 2001. She leans toward him, gives him a kiss and, looking very hip, steps out in a blue-and-black-striped tunic, fitted jeans and black high-heeled boots.

Rowling - who recalls sobbing as she finished writing the final 'Potter' book - appears relaxed and happy after a 17-year stretch in which she produced the seven 'Potter' books that became a lifeblood to booksellers and attracted millions of young fans.

In the weeks leading up to the release of 'Hallows,' there was intense speculation about whether the teenage Harry would survive a final showdown of good versus evil with his archnemesis, the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

In the book, Voldemort meets his end and Harry survives. Rowling says Harry's survival was not always guaranteed, however.

'In the early days, everything was up for grabs,' she says. 'But early on I knew I wanted Harry to believe he was walking toward his death, but would survive.'

She is pleased fans worried about her hero's fate before 'Deathly Hallows' was released.

'I was very proud that people thought Harry's death was a genuine possibility. I was very proud, because my story had to make the possibility of death real. I wanted the reader to feel that anyone might die, as in life.'

There were deaths that were traumatic to write, she says.

'Fred (Weasley, brother of Harry's friend Ron), Lupin (a former teacher at Hogwarts, the school for wizards and witches that Harry attended) and Tonks (Lupin's wife) really caused me a lot of pain,' Rowling says.

'Lupin and Tonks were two who were killed who I had intended to keep alive. 'It's like an exchange of hostages, isn't it? And I kept Mr. Weasley (Ron's father) alive. He was slated to die in the very, very original draft of the story.'

With the publication of 'Deathly Hallows,' Rowling begins a new chapter in her writing life - a life, she says, that will not include filling in the 19-year gap between Harry's final battle with Voldemort and the epilogue, which revisits Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione as happy adults.

'I truly have no desire to do that,' she says, 'and I feel it would be an enormous anticlimax. After the arc of the Voldemort story, what could match up?'

That, she says, would require creating a new supervillain. And to revisit Harry's story would be 'continuing it for the sake of continuing it. I don't feel that's (another battle of good versus evil) what happened in Harry's life. I think Harry gained peace. He got what he always wanted, which was a happy family.'

Joanne Rowling's phenomenal single-mother success story has become lore. Rowling - pronounced like 'rolling,' and her friends call her Jo - writes on her Web site that in 1990, while riding a train in England from Manchester to London, 'the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.' She began to write that evening.

Later that year, Rowling's mother, who had multiple sclerosis, died at age 45. Devastated and in need of a change, Rowling moved to Portugal and taught English. She worked on her novel, fell in love and married a Portuguese journalist. The marriage didn't last and in 1994, Rowling and her infant daughter, Jessica, moved to Edinburgh to be near Rowling's sister.

With pressure growing to support herself and her child, Rowling kept writing, often in Edinburgh's cafes, while Jessica napped in her stroller.

Rowling finished 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,' found a literary agent, and in 1996, British publisher Bloomsbury made her an offer. The book was published in the United Kingdom in 1997 and in the United States in 1998 as 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.'

Children and adults were enraptured by the magical story about an 11-year-old orphan who discovers he's a wizard when he's accepted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The rest is publishing history.

Money will never again be an issue for Rowling. She is listed as the second-richest woman in entertainment in a 2007 Forbes list, with estimated earnings of $1 billion. She's second only to Oprah Winfrey (estimated earnings: $1.5 billion).

'The money was the very last thing I expected because I was just very used to being quite broke,' Rowling says. 'Never in my wildest, wildest imagining - and as we know, I have a good imagination - had I dreamt that I would have a hundredth or a thousandth of the money 'Harry' has brought me.'

In Scotland, she has supported charities that help single mothers and those with multiple sclerosis.

'I think you have a moral responsibility when you've been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently,' she says.

People who know her say she hasn't changed much since the first book was published.

'For the most part, she remains the same person she was 10 years ago,' says David Heyman, producer of the five 'Harry Potter' films released so far, which have grossed $1.4 billion in the United States. 'It's just that now she can afford nicer clothes and her home is much nicer. She wants to be treated as a regular person.'

Rowling and her family - Jessica turns 14 on Friday; Rowling and Murray are the parents of David, 4, and Mackenzie, 2 - spend most of their time at their Edinburgh home. They have another in the Scottish highlands and one in London.

'I feel 80 per cent of my life is completely normal,' Rowling says. 'It involves me raising my children, going to the supermarket and just living normally. My husband and I both work. Ten per cent is fabulous in that you get invited to a 'Harry Potter' premiere and you have a lot of fun at it. And 10 per cent is the downside when you have tabloid journalists banging on your relatives' doors offering them money for their stories.'

As the final 'Potter' book continues to fly off the shelves, there is much discussion in the publishing industry about Rowling's legacy - and whether future generations of young readers who missed the Potter Decade will embrace the books and movies with the passion of those who grew up with Harry.

Many booksellers believe - and hope - they will.

'Harry Potter is a classic and will continue to sell,' says Ann Binkley of Borders, the national bookstore chain. 'It will always find a new audience because of this incredible world Rowling has created. I think the magic of 'Harry Potter' will live on for many years.'

Rowling thinks the books will have to prove their own worth.

'When all the hype and everything else dies down, they will have to float or sink on their own merits, won't they? So in 50 years time, if people are still reading them, they deserve to be read, and if they're not, then that's OK.'

Her job, Rowling says, is done. Now, it's up to the books.

But no matter what she writes in the future, she realises it will be compared with her beloved boy wizard. (Rowling says she's 'luckier than a lot of writers' because she'll have Harry for a few more years. The sixth 'Potter' movie is scheduled for release in November 2008, and will be followed by a seventh film.)

In the July 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King, a 'Potter' fan, lamented the end of the series, writing that 'Rowling will almost certainly go on to other works, and they may be terrific, but it won't be quite the same, and I'm sure she knows that.'

Rowling agrees and says she knows expectations for future books will be enormous, particularly from the 'Potter' fan base.

'I think that there will be some disappointment if I don't write another fantasy,' she says. 'But I must admit, I think I've done my fantasy. To go and create another fantasy universe would feel wrong, and I don't know if I'm capable of it.'

She wants to take off 'lots' of time to spend with her family. But good news, 'Potter' fans - she's writing.

'I'm sort of writing two things at the moment,' she says. 'One is for children and the other is not for children. The weird thing is that this is exactly the way I started writing 'Harry.' I was writing two things simultaneously for a year before 'Harry' took over. So one will oust the other in due course, and I'll know that's my next thing.'

But it may be a while before the world sees another book from her.

'What's quite uplifting is that in the middle of all this sadness I feel about 'Harry' ending - and I do feel a lot of sadness about it - is the thought that financially I don't have to publish immediately,' she says. 'So I can take my time. And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss. Heaven. No pressure.'

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