News: Interview with JK Rowling, Issue 3: "Greyer Havens"
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
* Where did "Greyer Havens" come from; what were you thinking?
I wanted to write something sinister, something to help me escape from the view that my writing should always provide somewhere safe for children to escape to, some sort of Never-never land where they can't age. I have children myself, and, let me tell you, they do age. They're always growing out of their shirts and their shoes and their PlayStations. One minute they're running around waving their magic wands, and next thing you know, it's an AK-47. Take it from me.
When you're writing children's books, you need to be a ruthless killer. Look at CS Lewis. Did he have Aslan escape from the Stone Table: "with just one bound he was free"? No. The girls get to watch the lion being trussed up, shaved, and executed. Are we going to say children aren't as tough now as they were in Lewis's day? But all this namby-pamby stuff about not scaring the children made me realise that I needed to move into adult writing. I've served my apprenticeship among the kiddies and now it's time to write for grown-ups.
I don't feel any need to apologise for creating Harry, but I do worry that I'm going to be one of these authors who, even if they're writting splatterpunk--which of course I would never, ever do--are going to be typecast as 'Harry Potter creator JK Rowling'. That happened to AA Milne, you know. And Guy N. Smith.
* What was the process of its creation like, and how does that compare to your norm? Do you tend to schedule your writing time, have specific daily goals, etc?
My writing day used to start with sitting down at my desk, and my first words were always, "Harry Potter". So, obviously that has changed. I've had to file all those pieces of paper where the Death-Eaters were called the Knights of Walpurgis, and the totally off-the-wall plot bunnies, like Hermione falling in love with Moaning Myrtle, you know, the complete hopelessness of loving a disembodied spirit. Because no matter how much you love them, they aren't really there.
* Has 'Greyer Havens' been rejected much, and if so what sort of criticism did it engender?
Mostly the editors write back, if they write back at all--and people are so rude these days, don't you find?--and complain that my writing is a poor impersonation of JK Rowling's. You have to laugh, really. They think I'm impersonating myself.
I blame fanfic writers, in part. They've turned my name into a tarnished commodity for so many magazines, like AlienSkin or even Analog. But I don't keep my rejections. I'm not sentimental about them, not like some of these authors who paper the smallest room. I'm confident enough that my writing will always be more important than the people who don't appreciate it.
* What made you think of sending "Greyer Haves" to GUD, and what are some of your other favorite markets for short fiction?
I was sitting in the kitchen talking with Neil, and he said he'd heard of this fabulous place where writers could find markets, and it was called Duodenum, or Duplicitous. Something like that. Anyway, I found it on the internet, and there GUD was. Of course, I'd have loved to buy a copy before submitting, but the pile of things I'm supposed to be reading has reached an hitherto unknown level. I need to be able to find my Gucci sandals.
* What makes you think you can write?
I've written several books the size of house bricks, and would be happy to use them to convince you of my weight in words--interested?
* What's the strongest reaction "Greyer Havens" has gotten to date, from friend, enemy, workshop, editor, or busboy?
Oh, dear, well, that is a funny story. I accidentally left a copy on the bus, you know, with all the red pen marks and the comments from Neil, and of course it had my name on it, on the top. So some kind person sent it back to me, and wrote on the bottom, 'I do think you shouldn't let your husband read your writing, dear--he has no taste!'. Of course, I couldn't show that to Neil. I imagine he'd be so hurt.
* Do you read poetry, in general? Short fiction?
I started widening my reading once I got the last Harry book done. At last, I thought, I have some time for myself. So I started reading Borges, and Umberto Eco, and Thomas Mann. And of course Beatrix Potter. So I feel that the dark undertones in their work have really helped me break free from feeling my writing is a waste of space, that I'm only creating bulging scripts for movie blockbusters. The short form feels like it's been waiting for me to be ready.
* How do you plan to spend your advance from GUD; and if royalties eventually meant GUD was cutting you a million dollars for "Greyer Havens", how would you spend those?
The advance? Oh, I think I tipped the cleaning lady with it. As for another million dollars, you don't really think I need that, do you, darling?
* If you could change GUD's website in any one way, what would it be?
Well, obviously it could do with wizards. And maybe a unicorn.
* Do you have a favorite website, besides your own, of course?
Bloomsbury, my publishers, have a very nice website. I'm on it a lot, which only helps, of course.
* To wrap up, what else do you have going on?
I'm thinking of writing a series of short stories, an inter-connected series of alternate events in the Harry Potter universe. Of course, these would be for adults, not children, and there's always that problem of preventing children being exposed to the more adult themes of these stories. I mean, they see Harry Potter and they expect spells and flying cars. But I was thinking more of exploring the sexual aspect of magic. There's a very rich tradition in Britain of skyclad witches and the whole potency inherent in sexuality that definitely offers me inspiration for all sorts of stories. But I don't want to create a new magical world. People would say I was just repeating myself. So I thought I'd use the world I already have.
* And really, where should people go to find out more about you and your projects?
Darling, I'm everywhere!
* Lastly, truly lastly, how do you feel being a sounding board for our April Fool's prank?
Well, I certainly hope I don't mind! That would be awkward. But I think everyone pretty much suspected from the beginning.
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