I have never read a single Harry Potter book in my life, and I have never seen more than 5 minutes of any Harry Potter film. What I have witnessed, however, is how the Harry Potter phenomenon has transformed the lives of countless children, young adults, and grownups around the world. The late Christopher Hitchens, who was the world’s greatest living public intellectual until he passed away in December 2011, wrote the following in his August 2007 New York Times review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: “‘19 years later,’ as the last chapter-heading has it, and quite probably for many decades after that, there will still be millions of adults who recall their initiation to literature as a little touch of Harry in the night.”
Harry Potter‘s creator, author J.K. Rowling, has singlehandedly affected the imaginations and conscious minds of millions of people with her work, so it begs the question: where does someone in Rowling’s position as a writer go next? The answer is entitled Casual Vacancy (Amazon), Rowling’s latest novel, and last Friday night she sat down with Charlie Rose for a remarkable hour-long conversation which touched on every dimension of not only her new book, but Rowling’s own life story as well. As any FEELguide reader can attest, I am the world’s #1 Charlie Rose fan, and this is one of my favorite interviews he’s done in recent memory.
For nearly sixty minutes we gain an incredible insight into Rowling’s personal story, such as how the death of her mother (whom she adored) resulted in a grief which somehow managed to transform itself into a profoundly creative epiphany. Also, how her fascination with teenagers informed not only Harry Potter’s characters, but The Casual Vacancy’s as well (at one point Rowling quotes Stephen King who once said, “If you enjoyed being a teenager there’s something really wrong with you.”) She also talks about the interesting story behind the title The Casual Vacancy, what the three most important things are to a teenager, and her amazing answer to Charlie’s question: “What’s the happiest place you can be?”
The conversation reminded me of another writer who was once in a very similar place as Rowling — Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. As Gilbert elaborates in the following TED Talk from February 2009, following the massive success of her novel, many of her friends and family members were concerned for the future of her career because they so often asked her: “How on earth are you going to top that?!” Gilbert’s answer is fascinating to hear, and is an absolute MUST SEE for any creative soul. As is J.K. Rowling’s unforgettable conversation with Charlie which you can watch in the link below.