Hey guys! Harry, A History has just debuted in its Portugese translation in Brazil, and I spent last week speaking to such passionate, excited Brazilian journalists because of it. And nothing, lately, has made me happier than my Brazilian publisher Rocco's Harry e Sues Fãs blog - not because it's a blog about my book or anything like that, but because of how intently they get it.
The blog is only partly about the book, and only minimally about me. They've been interviewing fans, featuring them on the page every day, sharing stories and memories about their time in the Harry Potter phenomenon. That's what the book is about - the book is nothing without it. It's so wonderful to see the core messages of not only Harry, A History but the fans themselves translate seamlessly over so many borders. Every time I look at it I get a very specific type of smile on my face that I don't think can be replicated by anyone who doesn't know how this feels, to be a big part of this kind of shared experience. Even if I don't understand a word - and even if Google Translate has come up with some very funny English renditions of the text - it is inspiring.
When I started hearing from the Brazilian fans of my book and of Harry itself, one of them Twittered me with a very excited message - they HAD TO KNOW how I got the information that was on page 384 (I think it was 384?) of my book. I had no idea what they were talking about or what, in the Portugese edition, page 384 was. I prodded and they told me they were from Potterish.com (who, along with ClubedoSlugue.com and a host of other Portugese-language sites have been so unbelievably supportive of this book and I'm so grateful), and they were part of the group that was standing outside Jo's Deathly Hallows signing, the ones who waited until dawn for her to leave the museum, and the ones who were rewarded with a brief, private signing from her car window. When I told this person that Jo herself told me the story, I thought they were going to have a heart attack (as I certainly would have if it were me right after the first time I'd met her) - so I thought, what better way to celebrate Brazilian publication than a new Vault entry with the full snip from that moment? (And true to form, Rocco has snagged reports and pictures of the encounter and published it on the blog. Thanks guys!)
Thanks to all, as always, for your patience with my less-frequent updates. I think I will have at least one very cool announcement regarding the book in what I hope will be the near future. How's that for vague? Don't blame me, Jo taught me everything I know.
Roll the interview clip! In this one we discuss several different book releases, a little bit on Carnegie Hall, and, of course, the moment Jo met Brazil.
MA: For five, you just showed up at Waterstone's?
JKR: Yes. ...That was a really weird launch actually. Very strange. Yeah, I didn't really want to do that again.
MA: What was weird about it?
JKR: What was weird about it was the kids had absolutely no idea who I was when I stepped out from behind the curtain! I'd put up my hair ... and they really definitely didn't know who the hell was this woman who had stepped out from behind the curtain to hand out the books ... so [laughs] that was a bit of a bizarre moment for everyone concerned! It was very funny. But it was weird because I didn't really get to read or anything. I just handed out books. And it was all very controlled, very tightly-controlled, limited people ... and on seven I was really trying to make it more uncontrolled...but that did turn out to be a little bit unrealistic.
MA: They would have queued a full day for the chance...
JKR: Yeah, I think so, but in a way, wouldn't that have been nice?
JKR: You know - in a way. And if you say to me well what if it had been 24 hours? Well, do you know what - I would have stayed for 24 hours.
MA: Your hand would have fallen off!
JKR: No - you know it's not your hand actually, it's your shoulder.
MA: Really? Hah.
JKR: Yeah, my hand is not a problem. But my right shoulder of the American tour - although believe you me, it's hardly a big deal - you get a little bit sore in the shoulder because you're constantly doing this. You're lifting your arm on and off books all the time, and after a while your shoulder starts to feel a little sore.
MA: 2000 arm raises.
MA: And then over a week - 10,000!
JKR: It was 10,000.
MA: You must have a very developed deltoid from all the signing.
JKR: My right arm is so much stronger than my left arm.
MA: How many books would you say you've signed over the years?
JKR: God, I don't know. At a wild guess, something like 50, 60,000? I don't know.
MA: That night, was there anything specific that anyone said to you behind the scenes? I know you had moments with Evanna.
JKR: was great having Evanna there. I met some people I'd been writing to for a while, some I'd met before and some I hadn't. I kind of would have liked to invite all the cast along. Evanna... I'm always kind of protective. I thought what's going to happen when she turns up? I do think for Dan, or Rupert ... it really wouldn't have been a smart idea for them to come along. For their sake, not for mine. But yeah, Evanna was very keen to come along and I was so delighted to see her. I adore her, I really do. I met people I'd been writing to for a long time ... it was lovely. It just felt so right, and I think you can tell. I've looked back at footage of the night and I remember feeling so happy to be there. And that's how it should be ... you should be really happy to be there. I was thrilled. I loved them all. There was one moment when I came very close to crying. I looked out over the sea of little faces before I started reading. We have this sort of informal question and answer session off camera and this wave of emotion crashed over me and I thought, this is the last time. And I could easily have bawled my eyes out at that point. I had to exercise a lot of self-control to keep myself on track. But I will always remember that as the best, the very best launch ever and Carnegie Hall - the second Carnegie Hall event - as the very best Q & A I ever did.
MA: That was wild.
JKR: It was just ... perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better audience, I couldn't have asked for a better venue and I felt happy and free that I could just talk about it all and never once have to answer a question with, "I'm afraid I can't tell you that, you'll find that out in book five." It was great - so wonderful, so freeing. And then as we drove in the dawn - at seven a.m. we left the Natural History Museum, and outside, just on the off-chance that they might see me drive by, were a gang from Potterish.com from Brazil who had come over to get their copy of the books - they hadn't gotten into the event, they were standing there with a Brazilian flag, they all had a copy of the book and they'd all been sitting out on the pavement reading it, and then the car drew up and they started to jump, jump, jump, jump up and down and my driver went to put his foot down and I knew who they were, I could tell. So we unwound the window and signed some stuff and had a quick chat and that was again a perfect way to end. It was such a great night. I loved it.
Brazilian fans, I hope you enjoy the book! And I hope to meet you one day!
I have three - no, seriously, THREE - speaking appearances next week. By the third you may be able to see through me, I'm going to be so weary, considering that right now I'm in London to help the team with coverage of the DH premiere, and by next week the jetlag will be EPIC. But it's all right! I love doing it, and I never have a better chance to get together with Harry Potter fans than in the weeks leading up to some sort of massive event, like the release of the first Deathly Hallows film (which I've just seen, tiny bit about that below).
If you are near Tampa, FL, or Troy, NY, or Catholic University in Washington, DC, I will see you soon! Here are the details:
University of South Florida (Marshall Student Center, Tampa, FL)
7:00 pm, free!
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) (Darrin Communication Center 308, Troy, NY)
7:30 pm, free!
Catholic University of America (Pryzbyla Center, Washington D.C.)
7:00 pm, free!
I can't wait to see some of you there!
We at Leaky and MuggleNet are attempting to plan a fan premiere party in NYC on the 15th. Visit this page for more details.
So, I've just seen Deathly Hallows, and I can't say anything about it except this one thing: It's a very brave, very excellent film. (And Rupert Grint freakin' OWNS it and it makes me so happy. OK, I'll stop. I have to stop saying things now. I can see WB approaching with a pitchfork.)
But, it got me thinking about 2007, and the endings we all were so sure were coming. None of them did: we're still here, we're still celebrating, we're still connecting through Harry Potter. It may never be like it was then, but the fandom didn't curl up and die, either. Cheery! No, what I mean is this: in 2007, back when the book was about to be released, all we heard was how things were ending, the series was done, this extraordinary time was over. And an element of it was, for sure. But we who connected through something so beautiful and so human were never just going to drift apart. There's still plenty we can take from the Boy Who Lived, because this was never a flash in the pan, it was never something that lacked the substance that a piece of pop culture needs if it's going to survive the slashings of time.
We've always known this. We've known as sure as we've known how the series spread, how the series became so beloved. As soon as J.K. Rowling said what I've quoted below, in our interview, I knew it was the ending of my book - and what better time to rehash it and supply the full quote than now, when we are again at the beginning of an end.
Enjoy the first part of Deathly Hallows, everyone. I'll be back here to get your thoughts (promise). And if you're in one of the three places mentioned above, I will see you soon!
MA: So, are you working?
JKR: I am working. And I'm enjoying it, and it's great to be back where I was and no doubt when the royalties come in or the sales figures come in - I've been so spoilt, I'll think, shouldn't there be another coulple of zeroes on there? [laughter.] But that's, you know, I will never write anything as popular again, that's a given. I've known that, quite honestly, and I'm ready for that. I'm okay with that. I was so lucky to have Harry Potter, so you're not going to find me whining in 10 years time. No, you won't.
MA: I'm going to ask the same question I asked at the beginning, at the end: what do you want to make sure people know, reading this book, about this time?
JKR: I've already said it to you but, when all the fuss and the hoopla dies away, and when all the press comment dies away, I think it will be seen that this phenomenon was generated, in the first instance, by kids loving a book. There was no marketing campaign. There was no clever strategy. A book went on the shelves, and a few people loved it.
Luckily for me, one person who loved it was Arthur Levine. Luckily for me, some of the people who loved it were on the panels of children's book prizes. But that's where it grew from, and it's very low-profile people who deserve the credit for what happened, in terms of the phenomenon that was Harry Potter. Booksellers deserve massive credit. I know that booksellers pushed this book when Harry Potter's name had never appeared in any kind of advertisement, on any bus hoarding or poster, or underground campaign. It hadn't happened. But booksellers were leading customers to Harry Potter and saying, "He--"(often 'he'), "He might like this." Specific gender thing - "A boy might like this, I know he doesn't like reading much, try him on this." I know they did that because I've met the booksellers who did that, and I've met the kids who told me that booksellers told them about it.
And I think that's a wonderful thing, that something can come from a totally unknown writer, of a length that was deemed to be uncommercial, with a subject matter that was deemed to be uncommercial, and that it could do what it did - not because it was linked to any commercially-driven sales campaign. It did what it did through sheer love of reading.
I do think that in time people will - when all of the smoke and lights die away - that's what you'll be left with. And that's the most wonderful thought for an author.
A few quick things! I have two speaking announcements:
My appearance at Georgetown University is in the process of being rescheduled and it probably will be the end of April. Details as soon as they're confirmed! Yeeeee! (Yeeeee, noun. An exclamation one makes when one is equal parts nervous, excited, nauseated, thrilled, overwhelmed, and just unbelievably honored to be speaking at one's alma mater.)
I am super excited to be keynoting Expeditious 2010, a Harry Potter conference in Michigan. I know the people running this conference, which is what makes me excited about it: if it's half as awesome as they are, it's going to be my favorite weekend of 2010. Not to mention this is the same weekend, in the same town, that StarKidPotter is unveiling A Very Potter Sequel, the followup to the smash YouTube hit A Very Potter Musical. If you at all can be in Ann Arbor, MI, that weekend, trust me, you will not regret it! Tickets are very limited to Expeditious - 250 only, and the price is only $50, a ridiculous steal if you know how conferences work. The keynote is $5 additional but anyone who got an early bird registration will be given a free ticket. Registration is here.
I've been answering a lot of questions on Formspring, because it's fun, an easy break in my day, and not too time consuming. I get these two questions A LOT, so I thought I would address them here:
What are you writing now / what is your next book about / when is your next book due to your publisher? I can't answer any of these three questions. The first one I hope to be able to answer soon. The second one, as well. The third one I would have an answer about at the same time that I had an answer to the others. So I guess once I have an answer to any of these I'll have an answer to all. The reason I don't have an answer is that I'm a superstitious freak, and I don't like talking about this stuff publicly until I'm 100% sure it's going to happen - that is, the book is sold. And I had a few months of absolute crazy between August (when I settled down to start working on this) and now, in which Murphy's Law might have easily been mistaken for a twee country day trip. We're talking, mandatory cleaning out of my entire apartment, family medical scares, random surprise business trips, etc. Everything worked out fine in the end but a funny thing happens when you have a couple of months of crazy - it's really, really hard to settle into a good research/writing space. This is no one's fault but mine: I should know by now how to bust through that wall, and to a certain extent I do. Lately I have been. Whenever I feel guilty about how long it has taken me to get to this point I try and remember it's all about the process. This helps me from picking the process up and chucking it out a window and possibly killing a helpless old lady who was just trying to get to the store to buy baklava. <-- that is an example of a crappy sentence, fellow writers. Take note. I'm leaving it there because I am feeling brave today.
Are you going to put more Vault entries on HarryAHistory.com? Yes! Yes, yes, yes. I've got a ton. I mean a ton. I may not put them up as fast as you or I would like but you should never consider a period of relative inactivity on this site as an indication it's dead. This site is a document that will continue to change throughout time, because the Harry Potter phenomenon is as well. (Me and my crappy sentences today...) All inactivity means is that I've become too busy on some other things, and that's good, because that relates to answering the question up there ^^.
If you are interested in more of my hysterical ramblings hit me up on Formspring.
I'm a jerk, I said there'd be a vault entry here about... oh, six years ago. Sorry! It's been an absolutely mad fall, and is settling into an even crazier winter, if only because I am trying to finally break through to book number two's first steps in the real world, and having all the normal spasms and seizures that come with that.
Second, as of right now I am speaking at Georgetown University, my beloved alma mater, tomorrow night (and having a lot of nausea-related symptoms because of it) - however, there are more snowstorms threatening the area and the campus is pretty well snowed under as it is, so I'll have an update soon about whether we're still scheduled. (Update: it has been rescheduled, I will post new dates soon!) (Follow me on Twitter for updates.) I have a real talent for having events in snowstorms; my first Boston area signing was in a blizzard as well and those 35 people who came will live forever in my heart.
It's important to note that Georgetown students and faculty will be allowed in the event FIRST, with seating to the general public opening at 6:45. The Facebook info about the event is here.
And now as promised... a vault entry! I quite like this one. It's another with Jo (as an apology for waiting so long on it), and example of what I wrote about in the book, how we kept talking about canon and not the phenomenon, because we were, let's face it, like two junkies with a fix just out of reach. Had I been in Scotland for two days just to talk about the books we would have spent the entire two days talking about the plot and the themes and the characters and what happened to what character when and why and what would happen in the future. No one was happier than me to research this phenomenon and do the kind of legwork I did leading up, and no one was more thrilled than me to be getting the interview I was getting on that subject - but there were moments, many of them, like this one, that my fannish side just won and I indulged curiosity (then promptly felt guilty and went back to the real work at hand).
Which is how we got to Dumbledore, and his relationship with Grindelwald.
JKR: [re: Grindelwald] I think he was a user and a narcissist and I think someone like that would use it, would use the infatuation. I don't think that he would reciprocate in that way, although he would be as dazzled by Dumbledore as Dumbledore was by him, because he would see in Dumbledore, 'My God, I never knew there was someone as brilliant as me, as talented as me, as powerful as me. Together, we are unstoppable!' So I think he would take anything from Dumbledore to have him on his side.
MA: It reminds me of WICKED, did you ever read WICKED?
MA: Maguire does retellings of old fairytales and he made a very cerebral book about the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, and how they used to be best friends.
JKR: Oh really...
MA: It's very similar; she went one way to fight injustice and fight the wizard, and Glinda went the other, to be the political figure and play into the system. Really interesting.
JKR: Well, it's the old fallen angel idea in some ways, isn't it? It's God and Lucifer.
MA: I wanted to ask you about that, because Grindelwald resembles - the golden curls, the first person I thought of was Lucifer.
JKR: Mm-hm. So you can call it a fraternal bond, but I think it makes it more tragic for Dumbledore. I also think it makes Dumbledore a little less culpable. I see him as fundamentally a very intellectual, brilliant and precocious person whose emotional life was absolutely subjugated to the life of the mind - by his choice - and then his first foray into the world of emotion is catastrophic and I think that would forevermore stun that part of his life and leave it stultified and he would be, what he becomes. That's what I saw as Dumbledore's past. That's always what I saw was in his past. And he keeps a distance between himself and others through humour, a certain detachment and a frivolity of manner.
But he's also isolated by his brain. He's isolated by the fact he knows so much, guesses so much, guesses correctly. He has to play his cards close to his chest because he doesn't want Voldemort to know what he suspects. Terrible to be Dumbledore, really, by the end he must have thought it would be quite nice to check out and just hope that everything works out well. [Laughter.]
MA: Because he's set up this massive chess game -
JKR: Mm, this massive chess game. But I said to Arthur, my American editor - we had an interesting conversation during the editing of seven - the moment when Harry takes Draco's wand, Arthur said, God, that's the moment when the ownership of the Elder wand is actually transferred? And I said, that's right. He said, shouldn't that be a bit more dramatic? And I said, no, not at all, the reverse. I said to Arthur, I think it really puts the elaborate, grandiose plans of Dumbledore and Voldemort in their place. That actually the history of the wizarding world hinged on two teenage boys wrestling with each other. They weren't even using magic. It became an ugly little corner tussle for the possession of wands. And I really liked that - that very human moment, as opposed to these two wizards who were twitching strings and manipulating and implanting information and husbanding information and guarding information, you know?
Ultimately it just came down to that, a little scuffle and fistfight in the corner and pulling a wand away.
MA: It says a lot about the world at large, I think, about conflict in the world, it's these little things -
JKR: And the difference one individual can make. Always, the difference one individual can make.
It has been a crazy summer and I am back at home, but not without stories and pics. Soon there will also be another Vault update here.
Part of what was so gratifying about traveling the country with PotterCast was that even if I wasn't doing a dedicated book event, I met a ton of you who had read Harry, A History and either wanted to talk to me about it or have me sign the book. From my desk in New York it's really hard to appreciate how many of you out there have interacted with this book and helped fill out the other half of its story - that is, yours. As I said at LeakyCon, this book does not exist without the reader, and I don't mean that in terms of sales: I mean part of the point of this book was for it to tie into your own history, to make the book and the person reading the book part of one shared reading experience. It's my sincerest wish - and I've been told it occurs - that anyone even slightly open to that kind of experience gets it with this book. Thank you for sharing those stories with me.
I really only took iPhone pics this summer so I hope you'll deal with some less-than-stellar quality.
This is half of the room at the Potter panel at Comic-Con international. About 500 people were in line. It was insane.
Right after the panel was my signing. This is the line. I actually had to barrel my way down from the panel to the convention floor for this and was late to my own signing; when I got there I was panting and sweating. I was shocked to discover this many people had made it down there faster. I absolutely booked it down there, knocking over a few Storm Troopers and possibly one pint-sized Avatar, and they beat me. Curse you giant conference hall!
In Texas I ran into not ONE -
But TWO -
loud-and-proud nerds carrying Harry, A Historys.
He really might be the youngest Harry, A History fan.
Onstage with Harry and the Potters!
A Harry display in Los Angeles!
And finally the Paramus mall where I got to play host to a Tom Felton event.
Thank you all for a great summer! Hang on for a Vault entry!
Wow, it's been awhile! Apologies: updates about summer and related events are coming soon. Meanwhile...vault entry! This is another piece from the Jo interview, although I did, and still do, promise I will publish bits of other ones as well. I just thought we needed a nice kickstart here.
The part of this quote that ended up in the book (about the little men in balaclavas) did so because it made me laugh so hard I couldn't help it. It also happened to perfectly sum up Jo's feeling of paranoia about her own Internet usage. This little gem includes her admission that despite security warnings she used her internet on the same laptop as writing the book, another statement that made me laugh, this time because the level of secrecy was so ludicrous. Enjoy:
JKR: "Have they got it from my hard drive?" I'm so ignorant about PC's - I would think, "Can they? Can they crawl through the wires and get it? Physically? In little balaclavas?"
Every time my computer did anything that computers do, freeze or something, it would always cross my mind and I'd think, 'what have I let happen?'
At the very final stages of seven, I did take everything off my PC completely and it was just on the laptop, and I even resented having to think like that, but this was the last book, and I so wanted people to get it in paper form to read, and not from a scam or a spoiler. So i did get a little bit more security conscious right at the end.
MA: So it was never connected to the internet?
JKR: Yeah. Actually, no, that's not true. I did connect it to the Internet - what am I saying? [laughs] I did. But I did treat it all with a little bit more reverence. But actually, yes, I did connect it to the Internet so what's the difference? Oops. It's so nice to be able to say these things now.
MA: It must be a relief...
"Yeah, it's so liberating. I wouldn't ever willingly go back to that. Definitely people would find that hard to believe. 'Come on. Look at the money you've made.' You know what? I wouldn't ever want to live with that kind of stress again. I miss writing Harry so much, but still, to an extent, what makes me resistant to the idea of a book eight or a novel eight, is the knowledge of stepping back into that hothouse.
"People will be vomiting to hear me say this because I know how lucky I was to be published, and I know how lucky I am to have had the success, and I thank God every day for it, and unpublished writers everywhere will be throwing things at your book if they read this, but still...they haven't lived with the stress of it. It was sometimes a lot of pressure."
The German edition of H,AH is out in stores now, and I thought you'd like to see the awesomeness of it. I recently received a copy in the mail and it's just gorgeous. I then made a video for my personal channel and realized belatedly, as the German HP site posted about it, that you guys might like to see the book too. So... enjoy? This video was part of NEMA, my project to make vlogs in May without editing at all (= my project to vlog without doing a lot of work).
Plans are shaping up for the summer and beyond, and I'm starting to put together events for the book, so here's some info:
As you see in the sidebar, I'll be at the Contra Costa Library just outside San Francisco on May 3, where I'll be doing a keynote as well as a signing and a Q-n-A. I'm also speaking about and signing the book at two Harry Potter conferences (LeakyCon in Boston in May and Azkatraz in San Francisco in July). I'll get more specific about times and dates soon: for both conferences you must be a registered guest to attend - and at LeakyCon, I'll be putting together a program that includes information from the JKR interview and other bits that would otherwise be Vault entries.
There's more info about upcoming events on the way, but in the meantime, before I forget again: if you are interested in having a Harry, A History event (I love going to schools and libraries!) please contact David Buchalter at firstname.lastname@example.org.