I first met JK Rowling when she was traveling in a crowded train in 1990 from Manchester to London. I ‘fell into her head’ as an idea and within four hours she created an outline of my form. And thus, I, Harry Potter alias The Boy Who Lived, was born. Little did the lady realise that her imaginary 11-year-old boy would one day be a phenomenon across the world.
In her words, "I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six, but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who did not know he was a wizard became more and more real to me."
When I opened my eyes in her head, I was very timid and scared as I am in my first book – ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. I was unaware of my powers just like my little known author at that time. She was just happy thinking about a wizard boy with strange powers and placing him in an unusual world, which was hitherto unthought-of and unheard. My personality was taking shape in her fertile mind.
"I haven`t got the faintest idea where my ideas come from, or how my imagination works. I`m just grateful that it does, because it gives me more entertainment than it gives anyone else," Rowling said in an interview.
Gradually, as she worked more extensively on me (the idea), I grew to love my creator. I learnt that she was born Joanne ‘Jo’ Rowling to a young London couple, who dramatically met on a subway and fell in love. Incidentally, I share my birthday with Rowling as both of us were born on July 31st, only the years are different (1966 and 1980 respectively)!
By her school age the family had moved to countryside Tutshill, a small village just outside Chepstow, in Wales. She studied French at the University of Exeter, and then worked as a bilingual secretary. In 1992, she fell in love with Jorge Arantes, a journalist of Portugal. They had a baby girl in July 1993, but the marriage came to an end tragically in the same year and they parted ways. Rowling, with her little daughter, Jessica, moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.
My author was going through bad times; she was in depression and living on state benefits. But amidst financial and emotional crisis and a baby to tend to, the ‘Harry Potter’ idea kept her going!
While creating my world, she would write and rewrite several drafts before finalizing a chapter. “I spent so long constructing this world - five years writing about Harry before anyone read a word. It`s embarrassing how many trees have died for me. I write everything down ... and lose it promptly. It`s all stuffed into boxes,” she said once.
My creator had a visual imagination. She saw me and the story first in her mind, and then described it as faithfully as she could, what she was seeing. She needed to imagine something clearly first, and then she wrote diligently. She also wanted my books to be compact, logical and in a sequence. Everything was etched in her mind within five years.
“The Harry books are supposed to be full of surprises, but I tried to make sure that they unfold in a realistic way. The characters are allowed to act out of character and show hidden facets because that`s what people do from time to time,” she confessed in an interview once.
Ideas of weaving the narrative and giving shape to an enormous number of characters in an imaginary world came through strange ways. “A friend recently asked me if I remembered when we first saw Hogwarts. I had no idea what she was talking about until she recalled the day we went to Kew Gardens and saw those lilies that were called Hogwarts. I`d seen them seven years before and they`d bubbled around in my memory. When Hogwarts occurred to me as a name for the school, I had no idea where it came from.”
Those who are rejected time and again should take lesson from Rowling. The story about her getting rejected by eight publishers until Bloomsbury offered her a £2,500 advance for its publication, is well-known now. “I remember one day I`d been writing for hours and when I stopped I was buzzing with caffeine ... I was walking down the Bridges [the road outside Nicolson`s Cafe where Rowling wrote the first draft] thinking, ‘The difficulty will be in getting this published. But if it’s published, there will be a handful of people who really love it’. And then I thought, ‘Oh come on!’ As it turned out, far more than a handful of people liked it.”
Well, as it turned out, the whole world applauded me - her creation. The world of magic, which was full of supernatural happenings, strange creatures and paranormal occurrences were readily accepted by the so called ‘maggots’. I ended up on shelves where only the best books are kept and critics hailed - “Harry Potter is one series not just for the decade, but for the ages".
My series became so popular that just before the release of a Potter book, the publisher asked stores not to sell the book until schools were closed for the day to prevent truancy. Also, there were huge queues seen in front of book shops before the release of each book of the seven-book-series to grab the first copy. The books went on to break records. The series has been the fastest selling book series in history, selling over 400 million copies worldwide. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, released on July 21, 2007, sold 11 million copies worldwide in the first 24 hours and 44 million since its publication.
Judging by numbers and continuous sales of these popular series, the Harry Potter franchise outsold its competitors completely, only bested by The Qur’an, Quotations from the Chairman Mao, and The Bible.
I, Harry Potter, who was initially just a paltry idea, became huge, all thanks to The Blonde Lady Who Created!
Had anyone else been in her place, she wouldn’t have put an end to the Harry Potter phenomenon rather made more money out of it. But the lady’s aesthetic sense did not allow her to betray her creativity. Inspite of pleadings by zillions of fans to change the ending and continue with Harry Potter series, Rowling put an end to my story in the seventh book, as initially planned by her.
It hit her hard when she finished the last draft of the book, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’. “I`ve never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric. Deathly Hallows is my favourite, and that is the most wonderful way to finish the series,” she confessed.
I knew it was breaking her heart to part with me. But the brave lady set me free after immortalizing me in literature and in the collective psyche of a generation and perhaps generations to come.
I, Harry Potter, may be considered a great wizard by the world but believe me, JK Rowling is the greatest as she casts a spell with words which none can break. I may not have been conceived in her womb, but I am glad I was born in the mind of my creator, my mother!