JK Rowling steps into unknown with adult debut

The Casual Vacancy is virtually guaranteed to top the bestseller lists in Britain, the United States and beyond, with Rowling's name enough to attract millions of buyers and give publishers and book stores a much-needed boost.

Yet even that may feel something of an anti-climax for an author who has re-written the rules of publishing and generated the kind of media hype and public hysteria normally reserved for Hollywood royalty.

As each Harry Potter instalment hit the shelves, hundreds of thousands of fans dressed up as wizards and witches and queued outside book stores from Toronto to Tokyo, and the sales figures were staggering – 450-million copies and counting.

The 47-year-old Briton said she was looking forward to a more subdued book launch this time around.

"As much as is possible I wanted this to be a normal book publication," she told USA Today in one of a handful of newspaper interviews she gave to promote the novel.


"Some of the furore that surrounded a Harry Potter publication was fun. I always loved meeting readers. I always loved doing events where I got to speak to readers, but some of it, candidly, wasn't fun at all.

"The thing took on a life of its own. Some of it was just sheer insanity, and I couldn't control it. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't rein it in. Incredible as it is to look back on it, I'm never going to be chasing that again."

'Insanity'
That "insanity" may explain why the run-up to the publication of her story about a small town in southwest England where class prejudices are laid bare has been so low-key.

The Casual Vacancy, published by Hachette Livre division Little, Brown, has attracted press coverage that most authors could only dream of, but Rowling plans only a few appearances, including one in London on publication day.

The Casual Vacancy has been described by the New Yorker magazine as a "rural comedy of manners that, having taken on state-of-the-nation social themes, builds into black melodrama."

Its starting point is the unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother, but it segues into a story about tensions between the well-off inhabitants and their poorer neighbours living on a nearby housing estate.

For Rowling, who was a single mother living on state benefits when she first started writing the Potter stories, the theme of poverty and class prejudice was particularly important.

"The poor are discussed as this homogeneous mash, like porridge," she told the Guardian newspaper. "The idea that they might be individuals, and be where they are for very different, diverse reasons, again seems to escape some people."

Record-breaking
Since those hard times she has become what Forbes magazine called the world's "first billionaire author", both from book sales and her cut of the record-breaking, eight-part Harry Potter movie franchise.

As befits a literary A-lister, The Casual Vacancy has been kept under close wraps, and the Guardian stated, "Even the publishers have been forbidden to read it."

That was swiftly denied by Hachette, although a spokesperson added that only those "closely involved" with the book had read it and it had not been "widely circulated in-house".

Rowling said she was proud of her first foray into adult fiction and had enjoyed the "sheer freedom" of the last five years since she closed the Potter saga.

If readers and critics turn out not to like it, she said, "I can live with that."

Rowling has confirmed that her next book is most likely to be a novel for children which is almost complete. She is also contemplating a "director's cut" of two Potter novels because she had been in such a rush to finish them. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Mike Collett White
Guest Author

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

Q&A Sessions: George Euvrard, the brains behind our cryptic crossword

George Euvrard spoke to Athandiwe Saba about his passion for education, clues on how to solve his crosswords and the importance of celebrating South Africa.

More top stories

Uganda: ‘I have never seen this much tear-gas in an...

Counting was slow across Uganda as a result of the internet shutdown, which affected some of the biometric machines used to validate voter registrations.

No way out for Thales in arms deal case, court...

The arms manufacturer has argued that there was no evidence to show that it was aware of hundreds of indirect payments to Jacob Zuma, but the court was not convinced.

Inside George Mukhari hospital’s second wave

The Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism and James Oatway visited George Mukhari academic hospital to document the second-wave realities experienced by doctors and nurses

Power shift at Luthuli House

Ace Magashule’s move to distance himself from Carl Niehaus signals a rebalancing of influence and authority at the top of the ANC
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…