This interview was held by Jeremy Paxman of the BBC in June 2003.

Original copy can be found here


JK Rowling on the BBC with Jeremy Paxman, June 2003 There are books, and there is Harry Potter. They're the biggest phenomenon in the history of modern publishing. 200 million copies, about a boy who discovers he's a world-famous wizard.

They're sold in over 200 countries, and translated into over fifty languages. Beyond the books is an industry - films, dolls, games and merchandise making hundreds of millions pounds a year. All this from an idea which wandered into the mind of the then pretty penniless JK Rowling as she sat on a train. She imagined his story as a series of seven books, each spanning a year at the Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards. The fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, goes on sale in 28 and a half hours. It is confidently expected to to have the biggest print run in history. The author of this phenomenon lives in Edinburgh

JP: So this is it?

JKR: This is it.

JP: Are we allowed to look inside it?

JKR: Hmmmm. Yes a bit. You can have a look there...yes so, that's it.

JP: How many pages?

JKR: 766 ... All with writer's block, which I think you'll agree is a bit of an achievement.

JP: But do you find the whole secrecy issue, the need for secrecy, a bit ridiculous?

JKR: No.

JP: Why not?

JKR: No not at all. Well, a lot of it comes from me.

JP: Really?

JKR: Yeah definitely. I mean, of course one could be cynical, and I'm sure you would be disposed to be so and say it was a marketing ploy, but I don't want the kids to know what's coming. Because that's part of the excitement of the story, and having - you know - sweated blood to create all my red herrings and lay all my clues... to me it's not a ... this is my ... this is my ... I was going to say this is my life, it's not my life, but it is a very important part of my life.

JP: Has it come at a price this success and fame?

JKR:The fame thing is interesting because I never wanted to be famous, and I never dreamt I would be famous. You know, my fantasy of being a famous writer, and again there's a slight disconnect with reality which happens a lot with me. I imagined being a famous writer would be like being like Jane Austen. Being able to sit at home in the parsonage and your books would be very famous and occasionally you would correspond with the Prince of Wales's secretary. You know I didn't think they'd rake through my bins, I didn't expect to be photographed on the beach through long lenses. I never dreamt it would impact my daughter's life negatively, which at times it has. It would be churlish to say there's nothing good about being famous; to have a total stranger walk up to you as you're walking around Safeways, and say a number of nice things that they might say about your work ... I mean of course you walk on with a bit more spring in your step. That's a very, very nice thing to happen. I just wish they wouldn't approach me when I'm buying you know ...

JP: Loo roll?

JKR: Items of a questionable nature, exactly. Always, always. Never when you're in the fresh fruit and veg section. Never.

JP: Do you think success has changed you?

JKR: Yes.

JP: In what way?

JKR: I don't feel like quite such a waste of space anymore.

JP: You didn't really feel a waste of space?

JKR: I totally felt a waste of space. I was lousy. Yeah I did, yeah. And now I feel that, it turns out there was one thing I was good at, and I'd always expected I could tell a story, and I suppose it's rather sad that I needed confirmation by being published.

JP: And what about the money? A lot of people when they suddenly make a lot of money, feel guilty about it. Do you feel guilt?

JKR:Yes I do feel guilty about it. Definitely I feel guilty.

JP: Why?

JKR: When it first happened I didn't immediately become very rich. The biggest jump for me was the American advance which was enough for me to buy a house, not outright, but you know we'd been renting until then. And I didn't feel guilty, I felt scared at that point. Because I thought I mustn't blow this: I've got some money, I mustn't do anything stupid with it. And then yeah, yeah, I felt guilty. Yeah I did. I mean at least I could see cause and effect. I knew I had worked quite hard for quite a long time. Of course the rewards were completely disproportionate but I could see how I got there so that made it easier to rationalise.