Rowling, King, Irving are 'forces of nature'

  August 2, 2006 at 4:00 AM ET
  Geri     HPANA
  harry potter, jk rowling, harry carrie garp


The first of two charity readings by authors JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving concluded Tuesday evening at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

HPANA was in attendance and has full coverage of the event:

The best-selling authors read from some of their popular works, including Different Seasons, A Prayer for Owen Meany and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as answered probing questions from audience members.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg took to the stage first and warmed up the crowd, standing at a podium shaped like a bookcase with each author's name on faux spines. She called the group of authors a "force of nature" and the evening "historic" (even while pronouncing Rowling's name "Roulings").

"Reading is alive and well," said Goldberg. The event served as a testament to what happens when you "put great books in the hands of great readers."

Kathy Bates, who starred as one of Stephen King's most memorable and frightening characters in Misery, introduced him while gushing about the influence her affiliation with him has had on her life. (King later said: "I never met a gross story I didn't like.")

John Irving discussed the desire of audiences to want to know what happens to characters, whether one likes them or dislikes them (which may be most striking to Potter fans eager to determine the loyalties of Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy).

Host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, finally introduced JK Rowling to a standing ovation, after jokingly commenting on how his five-month-old baby had already been in line for three months in anticipation of book 7. Rowling then read from chapter 13 of Half-Blood Prince, "The Secret Riddle," in which Harry explores Dumbledore's memory of first meeting Tom Riddle in an orphanage.

Rowling then answered questions from the audience. Here are a few highlights (paraphrased):

  • What would Hermione see in the Mirror of Erised? At the moment, having just completed their penultimate year at Hogwarts, Hermione would likely see herself, Ron and Harry out of school, alive and unscathed, with Voldemort dead. She would also see herself closely entwined with... another person (you can guess who).
  • Could Muggles make potions if they had all the ingredients and proper directions? No, there is a magical component (usually a wand) required. If a Muggle picked up a wand, it would probably result in something accidental and violent. (We'll find out more about this in book 7.)
  • Are characters such as Draco Malfoy capable of redemption? I believe almost anyone can redeem themselves. Harry's (and Rowling's) view in book 6 was that Draco, given all the time in the world, would not have murdered Dumbledore. (We'll have to wait and see what that means, precisely.)
  • How do you know when to stop writing and editing? I'm not sure I always do (as some of the reviews for Order of the Phoenix suggested). I decided 16 years ago where I was going. I'm well into writing book 7, but there's going to be much more to explain. I'm really going to miss writing Harry Potter. But I think I'd run out of plot if I kept going much further.

NBC News correspondent Soledad O'Brien then mediated the rest of the question/answer exchange, noting that over 1,000 questions had been submitted for the authors.

Rowling was asked how online communication and fan interaction influenced her writing. She responded, in part, that the "shipping wars" were like "cyber gang wars", referencing Harry/Hermione shippers, Hermione/Ron and ones she did not even want to talk about (as several audience members shouted out various suggestions).

Speaking about rejection, Rowling said her works were declined representation early on, like most budding authors. While she landed an agent rather quickly, it was years before she got a book deal. "I was determined," said Rowling. "I would not have stopped writing," she said, even if she had never been published. What would she be doing with her life? "I'd be teaching," she concluded.

We'll have more after tomorrow night's reading. Stay tuned!

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