J.K. Rowling's Story of Love and Pain....

Published September 21, 2002 at 1:01 AM
from Inside Harry Potter

SHE is expecting her second child next March and the successful birth of her fifth Harry Potter adventure is imminent, along with the release of the second movie about the boy wizard.[NL][NL]But for Joanne Kathleen Murray, usually known as JK Rowling, 2002 has not been the best of years.[NL][NL]In her own words, it has been "hellish" and "massively stressful" and she has even contemplated abandoning Harry altogether.[NL][NL]The reason is largely on account of a legal case which was being played out thousands of miles away in the District Court of New York's Southern Division before Judge Allan G. Swartz.[NL][NL]Although there has been little publicity on this side of the Atlantic, in the States, where JK is possibly even more popular than here, it has been big news for three years.[NL][NL]It began when US writer Nancy Stouffer claimed JK was a plagiarist who had stolen her material and, in particular, the use of the word "muggle" - the non-wizards every Potter fan knows.[NL][NL]Rowling admitted that it has affected her writing. She said: "Every time I wrote the word "muggle" I had to get up from my computer.[NL][NL]"It felt as if some strange woman had come out of nowhere saying she was my children's mother."[NL][NL]Bespectacled, quiet, freckly Harry is as much JK's child as her real- life nine-year-old daughter Jessica. And to find herself accused of "kidnapping" him cannot have been easy.[NL][NL]The legal confrontations left her unable to sleep, even although her lawyers never once thought she could lose.[NL][NL]They were slightly bemused by the way in which Souffer, a nonentity, managed to get to JK - something which equally upset the author. She said: "I have worked on Harry Potter for 11 years and for Stouffer to claim this has been done not through 11 years of effort, but through theft, was like a punch in the stomach.[NL][NL]"People think that if you have been successful, you are insulated from normal feelings of hurt - but you aren't."[NL][NL]It was all right for the lawyers to tell her there was no chance of Stouffer winning but, as everyone including JK knows, courts can be contrary, and it was always possible that a US judge would find in favour of an American author.[NL][NL]IT didn't seem to help that her US readers remained loyal, pointing out that the word muggle has been around for 200 years and has been used as both slang for hash and as the name of a religious sect.[NL][NL]But on Wednesday, a 10am transatlantic call to Edinburgh from her agent Christopher Little, delivered the good news - Judge Swartz had found for her and against Stouffer.[NL][NL]He ruled JK was innocent and branded her accuser a fraudulent, dishonest litigant who had falsified her evidence. Unusually for the US, costs were awarded against Stouffer.[NL][NL]According to Little, Rowling's reaction was unprintable, and not couched in the language habitually used by her schoolboy hero.[NL][NL]More soberly, JK said that: " I sat shaking after the news. The clouds have lifted and I no longer have to worry."[NL][NL]For once, the author who usually keeps her thoughts to herself was willing to talk about her ordeal.[NL][NL]But as well as the Souffer affair, there have been a few other problems clouding the Rowling skies.[NL][NL]Despite the new husband, 31-year-old anaesthetist, Dr Neil Murray and the £220million which makes her the eighth richest women in Britain, JK seemed almost cursed.[NL][NL]The money was still rolling in and, at 37, her private life was finally as successful as her professional one, but there were murmurs that she was suffering from writer's block and unable to deliver her next book. Her fame had also brought with it a stalker, Melissa Cho, who haunted Rowling's £1,500,000 Edinburgh home.[NL][NL]THIS spurred her to build a nine-foot high wall around the house, incurring the wrath of her neighbours.[NL][NL]There was also the minor irritation that the first Potter movie, Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, despite making JK £65million, was largely overshadowed at the box office and the Oscars by The Lord of The Rings.[NL][NL]To be accused on top of all that of stealing Harry from another writer must indeed have made the author feel hellish.[NL][NL]There can be no doubt it was hard graft which brought Potter to life.[NL][NL]Nor was it easy.[NL][NL]When her first marriage to Jorges Arantes, a Portuguese journalist failed and she was left to bring up Jessica on her own, Rowling was often short of money.[NL][NL]She admits to occasionally sidling into Mothercare to help herself to the free nappies they leave in the changing rooms. However, JK herself believes that the tales of her hardship have not only been slightly exaggerated, but romanticised.[NL][NL]SHE eventually managed to train as a French teacher and, when she left, was serenaded by her pupils singing, " Rolling, rolling, rolling - keep those wagons rolling...".[NL][NL]But JK has always also put her fortune where her mouth is and gifted the National Council for One Parent Families £500,000. Recently, she donated the chair in which she wrote the first two books which raised another £15,000 for the NSPCC and wrote a free story for the book, "Magic" (co- edited by Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah), which was produced in aid of the NCOP's Magic Million Appeal.[NL][NL]There is also a certain steeliness in the Rowling character. She suffers neither fools nor publicity gladly, but equally the years of struggle have also perhaps given her a measure of insecurity.[NL][NL]Writers do constantly worry that they will lose their inspiration and, while all her millions are safely banked, there can be no lack of nappies for the new baby, maybe it isn't too difficult to appreciate why Joanne Kathleen reacted as she did to Souffer's action.[NL][NL]Meanwhile as well as defeating Souffer, the stalker has been deported, the neighbours are speaking to her again, she can concentrate on the fifth Potter without worrying, the second film is predicted to be a smash and there is a nursery to prepare behind Rowling's high walls.[NL][NL]As in all the best stories, it looks as if finally Joanne Kathleen just might, after all, be able to live happily ever after.
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