Now in Papervision: Harry Potter and the Sinister Spoilers

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This blog is not turning into a Harry Potter blog. I have a rich fulfilling life outside of Harry Potter. I do and say and think lots and lots of exciting things that have almost no connection to Harry Potter whatsoever.

That said, here’s a link to my piece in Time this week, which is all about Harry Potter.

Because J.K. Rowling doesn’t really need extra publicity at this point, she gives very few interviews. For Deathly Hallows, Rowling and Scholastic together decided that she would give an interview to exactly one print publication in the U.S. market. That print publication…is not Time magazine.

But Scholastic did let us talk to a lot of executives and editors who handle the Potter franchise, enabling us to take a pretty interesting inside look at the gears and catchments of the mighty Potter machine, tracing the book from manuscript to finished book. It’s a weird world in there. Here’s a sample:

Another early reader was a studious 28-year-old named Cheryl Klein, whose job title is continuity editor. Rowling’s books have become so complex—and their fans so obsessively nitpicky—that it takes a full-time Potterologist to make sure Rowling’s fictional universe stays factually consistent. “I keep track of all of the various proper nouns that appear in the series,” says Klein. “For instance, with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, I make sure it’s always B-o-t-t-apostrophe-s. Every Flavor is not hyphenated, and Flavor does not have a u.” It’s a tough beat: Klein acknowledges, for example, that in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Moaning Myrtle sits in a U-bend toilet, whereas in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she occupies an S-bend toilet (this crept in, it should be noted, before Klein’s tenure, which began after Goblet). Klein has either the worst job in the world or the best, depending on how you look at it.

Like everyone else at Scholastic, Klein maintains the Harry Potter omertà. “Most people know better than to ask,” she says. “That includes my friends and my family and everyone else.” After Rowling revised the manuscript, per Levine’s and Klein’s suggestions, Klein flew to England to pick up the new draft. On her way home she was stopped for a random security check at Heathrow. “The woman opens up my bag, and she starts pawing through it. And she says, ‘Wow! You have a lot of paper here.’ And I thought, Oh, God, she’s going to look at it, and she’s going to see the names Harry and Ron and Hermione. But I just smiled, and I said, ‘Yes, a lot of paper!’ And she said, ‘Uh-huh,’ and she zipped it up. That was the end of the scariest two minutes of my life.”

Regular readers of this blog can skip the last three paragraphs (or ‘grafs’ as we seasoned journalists call them) of the piece. You’ve already seen them.