Rowling wept after killing off ''Potter'' character. Of course, she won't say who it was, though readers will find out on Saturday

By Gary Susman
June 18, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

If the characters in the ”Harry Potter” series seem vividly real to you, you’re not alone. They’re just as real to J.K. Rowling, who created them. In fact, she tells the BBC, in an interview to be broadcast Thursday, that she wept when she had to kill one of them off in ”Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” She recalls, ”I walked into the kitchen crying and Neil [her husband] said to me ‘What on earth is wrong?’ and I said ‘Well I’ve just killed the person.”‘ She steeled herself for the task, however, because if ”you are writing children’s books, you need to be a ruthless killer.”

Not even Rowling’s husband knows who the ill-fated character is, she says, and she doesn’t want anyone to know the name or other plot details until the book hits stores on Saturday. ”I don’t want the kids to know what’s coming,” she says. ”That is part of the excitement of the story and having sweated blood to create all my red herrings and lay all my clues.”

Despite Rowling’s insistence on tight security, there have been some leaks. This weekend, a man posing as a delivery driver stole a truck with 8,000 copies from a warehouse near Liverpool; the trailer was found 18 miles away, empty. A Brooklyn health food store owner ordered four copies to sell and broke the embargo, selling his last copy on Tuesday to a reporter from the New York Daily News, which printed plot spoilers in Wednesday’s edition. The paper confirms that an important character does die; the Daily News does not name the character but assures fans that it’s not Harry, Ron, or Hermione.