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Transcript of J.K. Rowling’s live interview for Comic Relief
March 12, 2001
In her own words! J.K. Rowling talks all about Quidditch, Beasts and Comic Relief
WARNING: The transcript below reveals plot elements from Harry Potter Books 1 through 4. If you have not read all these books, you may not want to continue.
  Back to Meet J.K. Rowling
Question: Why did you want to write Quidditch Through The Ages and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them?
J.K. Rowling responds: They are two titles that appear in the novels — Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a book that Harry buys to go to Hogwarts so it's one of his school textbooks and Quidditch Through The Ages is a library title. I always write more than I need for the books so bits of them were just written for my own fun. So when Comic Relief asked me to write something I thought I would just love to write them, I just thought it would be so much fun and I was completely correct. It was more fun than I've had writing the others.
Question: You're giving the money raised to Comic Relief in the UK. What will they do with it?
J.K. Rowling responds: The books are going to be sold all around the world. The money that's raised in the UK will be used partly to fund projects in the UK and partly to fund projects in the poorest parts of Africa. The rest of the money raised internationally will go into an international fund to help children in the poorest countries of the world.
Question: When people buy the book, how much money will be going to charity?
J.K. Rowling responds: Everyone who would usually take a cut from the book is giving their services for free and they're donating what would've been their proceeds to Comic Relief which means booksellers, paper suppliers, publishers and my royalties, everything will be going to Comic Relief, over 80% of the cover price will be going to Comic Relief.
Question: What do you like most about Comic Relief UK?
J.K. Rowling responds: Lots of things I like about Comic Relief. They have a Golden Pound principal which means that every pound that's given to them, or any money that's given to them, will go directly to the causes involved. And it's fun. There is something wonderful about the idea that laughter should be used to combat real tragedy and poverty and suffering and it just is the most wonderful thing.
Question: Did the books take you a long time to write?
J.K. Rowling responds: Not a very long time; I wrote them right after I'd finished Book 4, so compared to Book 4, which as you probably know is a very, very long book, they didn't take long at all.
Question: One of them has extra stuff written in it by Harry. What's all that about?
J.K. Rowling responds: That's Harry and Ron graffiti-ing the book, as you do to your schoolbooks. You do doodle on them, I always wrote all over mine. Teachers reading this will not be happy that I'm saying it but you do, don't you? So they've just scribbled things on them and said rude things in them, the name of their favourite Quidditch team and stuff in the book.
Question: Can you tell me where and when Quidditch was invented?
J.K. Rowling responds: Quidditch started in the 11th century, at a place called Queerditch Marsh which you probably won't find marked on maps. But obviously that's because wizards have made the place unplottable (which means you can't plot it on a map). Originally it was quite a crude game played on broomsticks, and over the subsequent two centuries they added more balls until it became the game we know now.
Question: Why do they have 4 balls?
J.K. Rowling responds: They started off with only 1 ball — the Quaffle, which is the ball you use for goal scoring. Then there was the addition of the Bludgers to make things a bit more interesting and finally you've got the Golden Snitch. The story about the Golden Snitch is so long and convoluted you will have to buy the book to find out.
Question: Is Quidditch just as popular as it is in England all around the world?
J.K. Rowling responds: It's popular nearly everywhere, but not so much in the Far East as they prefer the flying carpet to the broomstick, so it's a real minority sport over there. But in most other places it's fairly popular. The US — they have their own magical game but, again, you have to buy the books to find out about!
Question: Can Americans play Quidditch?
J.K. Rowling responds: Yes, there are a couple of up and coming American teams but they're not a hugely accomplished Quidditch-playing nation because they have their own broom sport called- actually I don't think I'll say what it's called. You've got to buy the books to find out. So it's had to compete with the US's national broom sport so they're not as good as they might be, sorry!
Question: Have they ever won the Quidditch world cup?
J.K. Rowling responds: No, they haven't. They're trying hard though.
Question: Which is the best national team?
J.K. Rowling responds: At the moment, Bulgaria are pretty good. Ireland are very good and Peru, surprisingly, are also very good.
Question: How many beasts are there in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them?
J.K. Rowling responds: There are 75 but that's not including the 10 different species of dragon. So that would be 84 if you counted them.
Question: Are they all dangerous?
J.K. Rowling responds: No. They range from very dull, like Flobberworms, which just sit there and don't do anything particularly interesting right up to Quintapeds, which are very, very vicious creatures.
Question: What is the most dangerous beast?
J.K. Rowling responds: Well dragons, you don't want to mess with a dragon, obviously. Then you have things like Acromantula, which Harry has already met in Book 2, but he didn't know it was an Acromantula when he met it. I'm not going to say anymore, because you have to buy them book! Then there's Alethiafold, which is the thing I would least like to be attacked by, which I think is quite a sinister creature. It slides under doors at night and suffocates its prey. So personally that would be my worst one.
Question: What is the most venomous beast?
J.K. Rowling responds: You don't want to be bitten by a Doxy, which is a kind of biting fairy, and probably wise not to be pinched by a Mackled Malaclaw either as it makes you very unlucky after you've been pincered!
Question: Which is your favourite beast?
J.K. Rowling responds: I would most like to have a phoenix if I could choose.
Question: Why's that?
J.K. Rowling responds: They have all sorts of interesting properties, which I would like. They're also very beautiful — not that I've ever seen one, they're very shy. Yes I'd like a phoenix most.
Question: Which beasts do you find in the United States?
J.K. Rowling responds: You find quite a lot of the magical beasts that you find in Europe in the US but you also find the natives creatures. The Clabbert, for example, which is a cross-between a frog and a monkey and has this glowing sort of pustule on its head. It's a tree-dwelling beast. But you only find Clabberts in the US.
Question: Hagrid is always trying to keep beasts that are dangerous. Are there any that are safe?
J.K. Rowling responds: Yes there are quite a few that are safe but Hagrid would just consider them very dull. For him the whole thing is overcoming something that could kill him. Puffskeins are a popular wizarding pet. They're these big fluffy yellow balls of fur which don't really do much until they get hungry and then this long tentacle comes out and goes snaking through the house looking for food. One of its favourite foods is bogies. It likes to put its tentacle up people's noses and suck out their bogies, which makes it very popular with wizard children.
Question: Could Harry have a pet dragon?
J.K. Rowling responds: You can't domesticate a dragon whatever Hagrid thinks. That's simply impossible. So no. He's got more sense. He might get a different pet at some point but I'm saying no more at this moment.
Question: Has Harry's success shocked you — or did you always suspect he would catch on like this?
J.K. Rowling responds: It's really shocked me. No I didn't suspect this. I thought I would be lucky to get published. I knew that I'd written quite a long book for people of 8+. That's why publishers kept turning me down, they kept telling me the first book was too long. Little did they know what was coming in Book 4, obviously! I just didn't think it would be very commercial. I really liked it, obviously and I had enough faith to keep trying to get published but to say this is a bit of a surprise is a bit of an understatement.
Question: What do you think of how successful your books are in the United States?
J.K. Rowling responds: It's incredible; it's wonderful. Initially I think one of the first reviews the first book got in America said that it wouldn't work over there. There was too much British dialect, and British slang. They made the point that 'The Simpsons', for example, translates very well because the British are very exposed to American culture so we don't need footnotes but they didn't think the reverse was true and they didn't think that Harry would work over there- so ha-hah!
Question: What was your favourite part about promoting your book in the United States?
J.K. Rowling responds: I particularly remember the first reading I gave over there, very first tour, very first time in America. I set off with some people from my publishers to do a reading to about a hundred children and I was really frightened, very, very nervous, and I remember thinking that if I was off to a British reading I would have been quite relaxed and quite excited as I really do like giving readings now. I don't know why I was so nervous because they laughed in exactly the same places and they asked exactly the same kind of questions which I found wonderful — just people being people, there was no difference at all. So I loved it. I would say doing readings — enthusiastic readers I like. It was wonderful.
Question: When you write about Harry, is he based on any boy you know?
J.K. Rowling responds: No he's not, Harry is entirely imaginary. He just came out of a part of me. Ron was never supposed to be based on anyone but the longer I wrote Ron the more I realised that he was a lot like one of my oldest friends, a man named Sean. The longer I wrote Ron the more I realised he was a bit Sean-ish. Hermione is most consciously based on someone and that person is me when I was younger. She's a bit of an exaggeration of me but that's where she came from.
Question: What parts of the success of Harry Potter have you most enjoyed?
J.K. Rowling responds: The first time I ever had to do a reading which was to about 4 people, in fact so few people turned up at this bookshop that the staff felt really sorry for me and came and stood around and listened as well. I was shaking so badly I kept missing my line. I was terrified. But since then, I have found readings to be the most fantastic experience. I think partly because I was writing the books in secret for so long. For five years I was the only person who read a word of it, knew all these things about Harry's world and his friends and so the experience of sitting in front of all these hundreds of people and hearing them laugh, answering their questions and they all know my characters — the novelty still hasn't worn off and I absolutely love it so I would say giving readings. The writing is my favourite part that's the part I love above all else but part of being famous I you go out and you meet your readers and that is incredibly satisfying.
Question: What parts have you least enjoyed?
J.K. Rowling responds: Journalists banging on my front door! Don't like that at all.
Question: What do most children say when they realise you're the one who wrote the Harry Potter books?
J.K. Rowling responds: The funniest ones are the people that don't say anything at all and they stand there staring at me and their mothers are prodding them in the back saying, "Go on! Tell her how much you like the book!" I like those ones.
Question: Can you tell me anything about Harry Potter no 5?
J.K. Rowling responds: Well it will be a papery object with pages inside. Harry will appear in it. The title is "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and I think that's as far as I'm prepared to go at the moment.
Question: Has Harry ever used the Internet?
J.K. Rowling responds: No. He's not allowed near Dudley's computer and Dudley's the only one who's got a computer. He gets beaten up if he goes too near the keyboard. So no, he's never used the Internet. I use it a lot but not Harry. Wizards don't really need to use the Internet but that's something that you'll find out later on in the series. They have a means of finding out what goes on in the outside world that I think is more fun than the Internet. Could anything be more fun than the Internet? Yes!
Question: What would you say is to children that is special about the two books?
J.K. Rowling responds: I would say that you will be doing real magic by buying these books, you will have in your power by parting with £2.50, or whatever it might be in your particular country, to transform other children's lives because the money you hand over, over 80% of it will go to the neediest children in the poorest parts of the world. So there is probably never a better thing to spend your pocket money on.
Question: Where and when will people in the United States be able to get these books?
J.K. Rowling responds: They'll be available in all good bookshops on the 12th March, priced $3.99 I believe. Buy them both. Buy several!