To Meredith Vieira. Rowling is on the Today show tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday, and on Dateline on Sunday. NBC has released a partial transcript (transcribed with touching fidelity, I might add), which I’m slapping in below. No bombshells, but it’s always great to hear the source speak. (Thanks to Jim Poniewozik for the hook-up.)
RE: THE RELEASE OF THE SEVENTH INSTALLMENT
VIEIRA: It’s finally done.
ROWLING: I know.
VIEIRA: How does that feel?
VIEIRA: Incredible good? Incredible bad? A little bit of both?
ROWLING: At the moment– it feels great, to be honest with you. It feels– it’s a really nice place to be. Yeah. Feel a big sense of achievement. I mean, I am sad. But I’ve been sadder. I need to be off…writing, I felt– devastated.
ROWLING: Uh-huh. Yeah. For about a week. I was hard to live with for about a week after I finished this book.
VIEIRA: Because– because you realized it was over or because, I mean, you killed off some of the characters, too. I’m sure that was–
ROWLING: I think– I think the whole thing. It was this amazing cathartic moment. The end of 17 years’ work. And– that was– that was just hard to– hard to deal with for about a week. And it was– and it’s very much tied into things I’ve done in my life for 17 years that brought back a lot of memories of what had been going on in my life when I started writing. So, yeah.
VIEIRA: Because when you started you were not in the same place you are now by any means.
ROWLING: No. And, in fact, when I started actually I was in a bad place. And then they– then, you know, life has its ups and downs. So, I mean, Harry’s been with me as a result. I think it was that feeling more than any other that I wouldn’t have that world to retreat into again that was painful.
RE: HOW FAR BOOK SEVEN WAS FROM HER ORIGINAL VISION:
ROWLING: It’s really close, particularly the last third of the book is as I always wanted it. It really is. The only exception would be the one character appears in that last third. And I thought that character was gonna die in Book Five when I started writing.
VIEIRA: Who was that?
ROWLING: Mr. Weasley. He was the person who got a reprieve. I– when I sketched out the books, Mr. Weasley was due to die in Book Five.
VIEIRA: So what happened there? Why did he get the reprieve?
ROWLING: Well, I swapped him for someone else, and I don’t want to say who for the people who haven’t– read. But I– I made a decision as I went into writing Phoenix that I was gonna reprieve Mr. Weasley and I was gonna kill someone else. And if you finish the book, I expect you probably know and someone else who is a father.
RE: THE TOUGHEST PART TO WRITE
VIEIRA: Overall, the loss of which character brought you to tears?
ROWLING: Definitely the passage that I found hardest to write of all of them in all seven books and the one that made me cry the most is Chapter 34 in this one. But that was– and that was partly because of the content—and partly because it had been planned for so long and been roughed out for so long. And to write the definitive version felt like a– a huge climax.
VIEIRA: And can you tell us what was in 34?
ROWLING: It’s when Harry sets off into the forest. Again. So that’s my favorite passage of this book. And it’s the part that when I finished writing, I didn’t cry as I was writing, but when I finished writing, I had enormous explosion of emotion and I cried and cried and cried.
RE: WHAT SHE’S LEFT OUT OF PAST BOOKS AND THE FUTURE OF HARRY POTTER
VIEIRA: Were there other things that you left out that– you wish you could have put in?
ROWLING: There have been all through the books, not just in this book. I’ve said before that– Dean Thomas had a much more interesting history than ever appeared in the books for me. And you– you just see glimpses of it. But to write it really would take us into prequel territory. And that does take us into Star Wars territory. And that’s not really a place I’m — I’m planning to go. [Oh, come on in! You’ll get used to it. — ed.] But– yeah, so there’s always been bits that I knew about characters that didn’t make final cuts because they weren’t that relevant. And I’ve said– on my website I think I said that in a way I had to sacrifice Dean’s back story for Neville’s back story because, ultimately, Neville’s back story was more central to the– to the climax of the books as I knew it would be.
VIEIRA: We’ve also had a lot of e-mails– from people that– who have read the book now and have questions so I wanna go through some of them, set the record straight. Okay. Number one, 19 years later, who’s the headmaster of Hogwarts?
ROWLING: Well, it would be someone new. McGonagle was really getting on a bit. So someone completely new. But if I ever do the encyclopedia, I’m promising I will give details.
VIEIRA: You’re gonna do that, aren’t you?
ROWLING: I think I probably will. But I’m not going to do it tomorrow. (LAUGHTER) ‘Cause I’d really like a break. So you may be waiting–
VIEIRA: You mean you haven’t started that yet? (LAUGHTER)
ROWLING: Well, in a way I suppose I have because the– the raw material is all in– in– in my notes. But– I wanna take a break from publishing for a little while. It would be a– you know, I’ve still got a young family.
VIEIRA: Do you– do Ron and Hermione or Harry ever return to Hogwarts in any capacity?
ROWLING: Well, I can well imagine Harry returning to give the odd talk on– on defense against the dark arts. And– I– and, of course, the jinx is broken now because Voldemort’s gone. Now they can keep a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from here on in. So that aspect of the—of the wizarding education is now provided for.
RE: ROWLING’S THOUGHTS ABOUT THE RELEASE OF HER FINAL BOOK
VIEIRA: Is it– ending this series for you, is it a relief, or is there a sense of mourning? Or maybe a combination of the two?
ROWLING: Definitely both.
ROWLING: Whole bundle of emotions wrapped up into one. Immediately after finishing writing, I was very…The first two days were terrible. Terrible. And–
VIEIRA: In what way? Tell me what you did.
ROWLING: Just– I was incredibly low. I think what– what– what is probably hard for people to imagine is how wrapped up the 17 years’ work is with what was going on in my life at the time. So it all– it all merges into one. But I was– I was mourning the loss of this world that I had written for so long and loved so much. I was also mourning the retreat it had been from– from ordinary life, which it has been. And it forced me to look back at 17 years of my life and remember things. And it was very linked to my mother dying, which happened– because, you know, a huge—this big long passage from my life is now rounded off. So inevitably you think about what was happening at the beginning of that passage. Inevitably, you’re thrown back in– you know, I went through the birth of three children. I went through different country. I went through two serious bereavements. Breakup of a marriage. And– and then lots of happy memories, you know? My– the birth of all three of my children and so on. But, you know, it threw me back into all that. I kept thinking about all of that. The first two days were tough. But the whole of the– week after finishing writing, I was quite low. And then after a week, suddenly I felt something different. I woke up on kind of Day Eight and– felt actually quite light– light hearted and thought I can write whatever I like. And the pressure’s off. And it’s not as though Harry’s gone-gone from my life because he’ll always be in my life. And– yeah, I did. I woke up after about a week and thought, “Oh, what an upside.” You know? It’s– there is relief. Of course there’s relief. All through, even through the depressed phase, this is my favorite book and I think it’s my best book of the series–