J.K. Rowling on sex, unicorns and 'The Casual Vacancy'
J.K. Rowling will publish her first book in five years on Sept. 27. The Harry Potter author first announced the novel back in February, followed by the title — The Casual Vacancy — in April. Not much is known about The Casual Vacancy, which is protected by a strict non-disclosure agreement, but in anticipation of the book’s release, both The New Yorker and Britain’s The Guardian have written lengthy profiles on Rowling. While we recommend checking them both out, we’ve selected some of the most interesting facts and quotes from these profiles for you to enjoy here.
1. Rowling wanted a “more run-of-the-mill publishing experience” this time around: Unfortunately, that’s not possible when you’re J.K. Rowling. The New Yorker‘s Ian Parker says he was forced to read all 512 pages of The Casual Vacancy at the Little, Brown offices and a non-disclosure agreement prevented him from taking notes while reading. Meanwhile, The Guardian‘s Decca Aitkenhead writes that she was “required to sign more legal documents than would typically be involved in buying a house” before she was allowed to read Rowling’s new book.
2. The Casual Vacancy is not Harry Potter: Words featured in Rowling’s post-Potter effort include “cleavage,” “balls” and “vagina.”
3. The original title of The Casual Vacancy was Responsible: Rowling tells The New Yorker that “this is a book about responsibility” — both in a minor and a macro sense. However, she came across the real title when she got her hands on a copy of the standard British handbook for local administrators. “I needed it to check certain abstruse points. And in there I came across the phrase ‘a casual vacancy.’ Meaning, when a seat falls vacant through death or scandal. And immediately I knew that that was the title.”
4. In 2003, Rowling’s father auctioned off a signed copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that he received for Father’s Day: It read “Lots of love from your first born,” and featured a drawing of a hand reaching for a gnome. The edition fetched $48,000. Rowling has not spoken to him since.
5. Rowling mostly edits her own work: Her agent tells The New Yorker: “She takes a lot of time getting it right and then hands in a book that doesn’t need much editing.” However, Rowling has said that she regrets not taking her time with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She previously told Melissa Anelli: “I didn’t do the final edit that I normally do before I hand it to the editors, and it definitely shows.”
6. Dudley has two children: Rowling knows a lot about the Harry Potter world that was never published in the books.
7. She has no interest in her business empire: “[I]t’s a real bore,” she tells The Guardian. “Should I be more diplomatic? Oh, I don’t care. No, there is literally nothing on the business side that I wouldn’t sacrifice in a heartbeat to have an extra couple of hours’ writing.”
8. She didn’t expect that being wealthy would cause her problems: “I am so grateful for what happened that this should not be taken in any way as a whine, but you don’t expect the pressure of it, in the sense of being bombarded by requests,” she confesses. “I felt that I had to solve everyone’s problems. I was hit by this tsunami of demands. I felt overwhelmed. And I was really worried that I would mess up.”
9. Ian Rankin’s new novel was pushed back to avoid The Casual Vacancy: But he’s just as excited about the new Rowling book as anyone else and once thought it might “have a whodunnit air.” Rowling, however, laughs this off. “Ian and I did once have a conversation in which he rightly said the Potter novels are in the main whodunnits, so we were talking about that, and that led to him telling everyone that I was writing a crime novel, which was never the case.”
10. Rowling has used a disguise in public only once: When she went to buy her wedding dress. “I just wanted to be able to get married to Neil without any rubbish happening,” she tells The Guardian. But Rowling refuses to reveal what this disguise was in case she needs to use it again.
11. She is forbidden from reading E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey: Rowling says she promised her editor that she wouldn’t. However, she insists that she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out.
12. She considered using a pseudonym to release her new book: “But in some ways I think it’s braver to do it like this,” she tells The Guardian. “And, to an extent, you know what? The worst that can happen is that everyone says, ‘Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids’ and I can take that. So, yeah, I’ll put it out there, and if everyone says, ‘Well, that’s shockingly bad — back to wizards with you’, then obviously I won’t be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live.”
13. She doesn’t care what the critics think of The Casual Vacancy: “I just needed to write this book. I like it a lot, I’m proud of it, and that counts for me.”
14. Rowling credits her first daughter with helping her finish Harry Potter when she was depressed: “It was Jessica — I have to credit her with so much — that gave me the impetus to go and say to a doctor, ‘I think I’m not quite right, and I need some help here.’ Having done that made a massive difference.”
15. Rowling is adamant that sex and unicorns don’t mix: “The thing about fantasy — there are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.” After years of fantasy, she was ready for a little sex.
The Casual Vacancy (Book)