I really enjoyed the ABC interview last night with Jennifer Byrne and JK Rowling after the launch of Rowling’s first adult book, The Casual Vacancy.
I’ve never known much about JK Rowling and I haven’t read the Harry Potter books. I did watch the first three movies.
Harry Potter kind of ‘happened’ when I was in my Tolkein, Lord of the Rings phase. The first Potter movies also coincided with the Lord of the Rings flicks from memory and I found the entire Middle Earth world more my cup of tea (and Viggo Mortensen, but that’s another story).
I have a friend in her 50s, Lu, who just loves Harry and I know she’s read all the books a gazillion times and kept pressing me to give them a try.
Often I’ve wondered how Rowling found the time to write Harry. She was a single mum with a young baby and I thought she must have great in-laws or friends or parents who could babysit. Then I found out last night her mother died young of multiple sclerosis and Wikipedia says she used to do most of her writing in cafes. She’d put the baby in the pram and the baby would fall asleep by the time she got to the cafe and JK could tap out Harry.
I like the sound of that!
Rowling said last night she was as “skint as it’s possible to be without being homeless” and living “benefit cheque to benefit cheque” when she started Harry Potter. I’m not quite sure if she was working at all at the time. I think she was either a teacher, or trying to qualify as a teacher, and she said last night all she ever wanted was that her Harry Potter book(s) might sell enough to enable her to continue writing while she worked part-time.
I wonder then if it was actually easier in Rowling’s situation as a single mum who either wasn’t working, or was working very few hours? The only one (by the sound of it) she had to please was herself and she only had two priorities, her writing and her child. (Three I guess – with eating). I find that idea liberating.
If she wanted to put her baby in the pram and walk to a cafe and write – well she could. I don’t know if she had people telling her she was being selfish, or not investing time in the baby (mother’s guilt, mother’s guilt)… when they’re really little I don’t think they care about anything beyond the next bottle, maybe something to chew, and a rattle to hold.
If there were dishes in the sink, JK could say, bugger ‘em. She didn’t have to interact with a flat-mate, or anyone else except the baby, if she didn’t want to. She could stay up as late as she liked (though I know when I had really young babies, all I ever wanted to do was sleep.)
It sounds like there wasn’t anyone (husband, family – maybe friends?) to say she was being an idiot thinking she could write and she should just go get a real job. She could surround herself with her own positive energy, even though I would imagine – but don’t quote me – the cafe where JK wrote day after day may well have contained patrons mother-guilting her behind her back… unless it was my dream cafe filled with aspiring writers and latte and chocolate brownie.
I admire Rowling for following her dreams. She wrote the Potter books for 17 years and if the first one began in a cafe; the last one was finished in some beautiful hotel room. Talk about drive.
Right now I think I have the energy to stick with writing and enjoy it. I don’t feel like my writing is a ‘fad’ that I’ll grow out of, though ask me in 17 years. I’m enjoying learning craft and I’m loving the blogs and the people I’m finding along the way.
JK Rowling’s interview last night preceded a rejection letter this morning from an agent for my own book but I don’t feel too crushed. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m trying to get philosophical and relaxed about the entire ‘road to publication’ train.
Oh that it could be a train like the one that takes you to Hogwarts!