Meet J.K. Rowling?s accomplices
”It’s all very secretive,” says Mary GrandPré, the illustrator of all seven of the U.S. editions of the Harry Potter series. ”I get a phone call, then a day later a man with a mask appears with a package on my doorstep. Sometimes it’s an old man, sometimes a young man. Once, a pizza deliveryman appeared with a pizza. I almost sent it back, no anchovies, until he lifted up the pie to show me the manuscript underneath. Once it was a goblin. Another time an owl dropped it down my chimney.” She smiles. ”Just kidding. But it is very secretive. It’s never delivered by a mailman or UPS or FedEx. I put it in a safe. But I can’t say where.”
Speaking at her home studio in Sarasota, Fla., GrandPré, 53, was amused by last year’s The Devil Wears Prada, in which Anne Hathaway’s put-upon assistant tracks down an advance Potter manuscript for her editor boss (Meryl Streep)…through the book’s illustrator. ”That could never happen,” she laughs. ”I don’t even let my husband [art teacher Tom Casmer] see it. I have to sign a confidentiality agreement. If I break it, lightning comes down and turns me into a toad with a scar on my forehead.”
For close to 20 years, GrandPré as a well-regarded, but anonymous, illustrator with several children’s books to her credit. Then, in the fall of 1997, she received a pitch from Scholastic art director David Saylor. ”To me it was just another job,” she recalls. ”I was so busy I almost turned it down. But David insisted I read the manuscript. I did, and fell in love with the characters. I got emotionally caught up in them. The rest is history.”
GrandPré conceived Harry’s look through Rowling’s descriptions as well as the faces of people she knew, especially herself. ”I looked in the mirror and saw Harry,” she says. ”I dragged my art supplies into the bathroom, where we have a huge mirror, and began sketching. I gave him my facial structure but more masculine.” Before drawing a line, GrandPré reads and rereads each Potter novel and takes copious notes. ”Mostly about character development,” she says. She studiously avoids seeing the Potter movies while working on a cover so they won’t influence her. (She says of Daniel Radcliffe: ”He’s more preppy and his hair isn’t wild enough.”) Then she refuses all social invitations and submerges herself in the work. ”The clock is always ticking,” she says. ”I have to do a cover in a month and a half. I’ve always been afraid of a blank piece of paper.”
She begins with a series of sketches, the first just shapes and geometrical patterns. With each new drawing, the characters become more delineated until finally Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear. Then she begins again with pastel crayons, her trademark. She doesn’t use paint. ”My responsibility is to honor the author and the story. I don’t try to show everything,” she says. ”I tell a story through my art but I don’t give away the punchline.” In the cover for Order of the Phoenix, for instance, she hints at the death of a major character by drawing him half-hidden behind a curtain, his eyes closed.
GrandPré as born in Aberdeen, S.D., and began drawing at 5, painting the rocking horses her carpenter father made. After studying at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she worked as a waitress, a rental car clerk, and an illustrator on ad campaigns. She didn’t much care for the jobs, blaming her introverted artist’s temperament. ”People drain me,” she says. ”I like to work alone.”
Although GrandPré receives no Potter royalties, the books have boosted her asking price and allowed her to turn down unappealing assignments (”one was about a boy who flies on a broomstick”). Despite her fame, she lives a relatively quiet life with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, Julia, whom they adopted from China eight months ago. For years, GrandPré thought she’d never want a child — until she began drawing Harry Potter covers and interacting with young Potter fans. ”Harry,” she says, ”taught me to appreciate children.” —Pat Jordan
In the world of Harry Potter, beauty often rests in the details: the multitude of spells, creatures, places, and characters that populate Rowling’s books. Fans savor these embellishments, but it’s Cheryl Klein’s job to remember them all.
Hired in 2000 as an assistant to Rowling’s Scholastic editor, Arthur A. Levine, Klein was placed in the newly created position of continuity editor for the Potter series during the editing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. ”I keep track of when certain spells appear, how they are used, all the characters and their descriptions… everything like that,” says Klein, 28, who used a computer spreadsheet and copious sticky notes to catalog what she calls the ”magical logic” of the series. In Muggle terms? ”If Harry appears in one scene holding his invisibility cloak, I make sure that we saw that he had it in the previous scene.”
Although she won’t comment on specific corrections, Klein admits the manuscript ”looks like a rainbow” by the time she and Levine finish their annotations in colored pencils. Rowling, to her credit, was always very open to her editors’ suggestions. ”She’ll make any changes she needs to,” says Klein.
And if you weren’t already stinksap-green with envy, Klein was also the one chosen to retrieve the manuscript of Deathly Hallows from London — a trip that led to a nail-biting run-in with a Heathrow security guard who inspected Klein’s carry-on bag. ”She says, ‘Wow. You’ve got a lot of paper here!”’ recalls Klein, who kept her cool while the guard leafed through the world’s most valuable stack of pages. ”I said, ‘Yeah, a lot of paper.’ And then she zipped up my bag and said we were done. I was just another twentysomething on a plane.”
With Deathly Hallows behind her, Klein is at work editing a fantasy series by Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi tentatively titled The Guardian, due next summer. But she’s not worried about trying to find another Rowling-esque sensation: ”Harry has definitely been the biggest thing I’ve ever worked on — or expect to work on.” —Adam Markovitz
ARTHUR A. LEVINE
Flying back to the U.S. from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April 1997, Arthur A. Levine read the galley of the event’s most intriguing prospect, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. ”That was a very enjoyable plane ride,” recalls Levine. Ten years later, Levine, 45, has edited and published each Potter book in America through his eponymous imprint at Scholastic. After outbidding seven other publishers (he paid $105,000 for book 1), Levine suggested J.K. Rowling change its title to Harry Potter and the School of Magic. According to Levine, Rowling said, ”Yeeee-ah, I don’t quite like that, but how about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?” Since then, Levine says he’s never used his position of extreme power to persuade Rowling to keep a character alive or try a particular plot twist. ”The last thing in the world I’d want,” he says, ”would be to dictate to J.K. Rowling.” —Gregory Kirschling
Confronting mobs of fans is not typically in a book publicist’s job description. So touring with J.K. Rowling was a revelation for Moran, 40, who’s handled PR for all seven Potter books. Rowling’s eight-city 1999 tour ”was like [traveling] with a rock star,” Moran recalls. ”We pulled up to bookstores and there were thousands of people waiting for her, chanting her name and ‘Harry Potter.’ To see that for a children’s book author was amazing.” Clearly, Rowling holds Moran in high regard: Goblet of Fire features an Irish Quidditch player named… Moran. ”I was stunned, completely honored,” says the publicist. ”Then I got the book and [read] that I actually scored!” —Missy Schwartz