The New Yorker magazine has just published this lengthy profile and interview with author J. K. Rowling which goes into much depth and detail about her time following the release of the final Harry Potter novel as she began to write her forthcoming novel geared towards adults, The Casual Vacancy. The piece offers new details regarding specific characters, plot details, and themes for her new book (spoiler alert!), while also going through much of Rowling’s back story from when she was a child through her raise in popularity for the Harry Potter novels. Of particular interest, however, are Rowling’s comments regarding her decision to publish– and how to publish– this novel. In part:
I asked her if publishing the new book made her feel exposed. “I thought I’d feel frightened at this point,” she said. “Not just because it’s been five years, and anything I wrote after Potter—anything—was going to receive a certain degree of attention that is not entirely welcome, if I’m honest. It’s not the place I’m happiest or most comfortable, shall we say. So, for the first few years of writing ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re very lucky. You can pay your bills, you don’t have to publish it.’ And that was a very freeing thought, even though I knew bloody well, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to publish it…”
The author continues, offering more details on the theme of the novel, and how the story developed over time. Quote:
“It’s been billed, slightly, as a black comedy, but to me it’s more of a comic tragedy,” she said. If the novel had precedents, “it would be sort of nineteenth-century: the anatomy and the analysis of a very small and closed society.” A local election was “a perfect way in,” she said. “It’s the smallest possible building block of democracy—this tiny atom on which everything rests.”
“The Casual Vacancy” describes young people coming of age in a place divided by warring factions, and the deceased council member, Barry Fairbrother—who dies in the first chapter but remains the story’s moral center—had the same virtues, in his world, that Harry had in his: tolerance, constancy, a willingness to act.
“I think there is a through-line,” Rowling said. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.” “The Casual Vacancy” is not a whodunnit but, rather, a rural comedy of manners that, having taken on state-of-the-nation social themes, builds into black melodrama. Its attention rotates among several Pagford households, in the Southwest of England: a gourmet-grocery owner and his wife; two doctors; a nurse married to a printer; a social worker. Most of the families include troubled teens.
The full 9,000 word New Yorker article is available to read via this link, but, be warned, this article does contain many spoilers.
The Casual Vacancy will be released September 27.