4 reasons why J.K. Rowling is the only person who could have created Harry Potter

In this interview from Writers & Company in 2000, Eleanor Wachtel talks to J.K. Rowling about the complex world of magic in the Harry Potter series.
J.K. Rowling at a press conference in Toronto during her visit to Canada in October 2000. (Tannis Toohey/Canadian Press)

When J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter more than 20 years ago, she ensured a special connection with the boy wizard: they shared a birthday, July 31. July 31, 2018 marks Rowling's 53rd birthday and Harry's 38th.

Since first meeting Harry in 1997, readers across generations have celebrated the wizarding world created by  Rowling over seven books, spin-offs and an award-winning play.

In 2000, Rowling was riding high on the success of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in her bestselling series. She came to Toronto to promote the book, which included speaking to Eleanor Wachtel for an episode of Writers & Company.

Eleanor Wachtel talks to the Harry Potter author in 2000. 54:29

1. She loves magic

"There are certain themes within the books that are perennial and recurrent, particularly in children's literature. I've always said I think the appeal of magic is particularly profound to children because of their powerlessness. The idea that you would be given extra powers and be able to organize the universe according to your plan — or just your little world according to your wishes — is enormously appealing."

2. She follows her own rules

"I set down certain rules and boundaries for what can and can't be done. Every now and then, you'll stumble across one of your own rules and feel an urge to cheat and bend it. But you can't do that. One of the earliest and most important boundaries I put down was to do with death. Whether they could overcome death, or bring people back from the dead. I decided early on that couldn't be done. There are many laws like that — some substances can't be mutated, some substances can't be transfigured. I think it's that structure underpinning the magic that makes the books appealing. Because you do feel that not everything is possible. Because after all, if anything were possible, there would be no tension in the books, and therefore no drama or story."

3. She believes in doing the right thing

"A thread running through Voldemort's followers, or at least most of them thus far, has been a particular kind of moral weakness. Professor Quirrell [a Hogwarts teacher in the first Harry Potter book] is a huge coward, and he's gravitating towards someone he sees as powerful enough to protect him. And he was wrong.

"But the important piece for me is at the end of book four, when Dumbledore is speaking about the death of a character, and he says, 'Remember him if ever you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy.' That really is the key for me — it is so much easier not to stand up and protest. It's much easier to just go with the flow, and kid yourself that things won't get much worse. Indifference is a terrible thing."

4. She wants to share her love of reading with the world

"The thing I would most like to think I had imparted to anyone is a love of reading. I mean that. If I felt that even one person had grown to a better appreciation or to a love of books, and that had started with Harry, I think I would die happy. That's all I wanted."

J.K. Rowling's comments have been edited and condensed. 

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