In the category of “blockbuster,” the Harry Potter series has survived for nearly a decade. Since the start of the film series in 2000, it has repeatedly broken records. Yet where most novels lose their quality in the on-screen translation, the magic of the “boy who lived” has lived up to the hype by captivating audiences with an epic journey of magic, love, and adventure. It has been little more than a day since “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” hit theaters, and fans are already in a frenzy, making it the major leading topic on most social networks and search engines.
The origins of the franchise come from the brilliant mind of its creator, J.K. Rowling, whose novels hit shelves a decade and a half ago.
So perhaps it is fitting that as the world draws near the final installments of the series “" “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” “" that Rowling has recently allowed the world a window into her life.
“A Year in the Life of J.K. Rowling” is a documentary set to air tonight at 8 on ABC. It’s hosted by news anchor Elizabeth Vargas.
Blast recently had the opportunity to speak with Vargas about the documentary.
BLAST: ABC will be showing the documentary “A Year in the Life of J.K. Rowling.” Most people with such high profile lives tend to be protective of their privacy. Why do you think she chose now to let people into her “world?”
ELIZABETH VARGAS: You know, it’s a good question because she is notoriously private. She rarely gives interviews at all, and when she does it’s almost always about her books as opposed to herself. And in this hour she talks very candidly about her writing process: where she was when she first came up with Harry and all the characters in Hogwarts; how difficult her life was, and how debilitating the depression she was suffering … she was very candid about it.
BLAST: What were your expectations in the interview?
EV: I was struck by something she had said … that when she was divorced, very poor, and had a daughter two or three years old, she said, “Every morning I would wake up terrified that something had happened to her. She was the only good thing in my life and everything had gone so horribly.” So I was struck by that. She really used her depression to even formulate one of the characters in the books. The Dementors are a physical manifestation of it. And Harry, Harry is Joanne (Rowling). Harry has the same birthday as (her). She felt orphaned, too, when her mother died of multiple sclerosis, and she was distanced from her dad too.
BLAST: With the current film in theaters, we know fans will be wondering if she will continue with the series, or what will be next for her. Harry Potter will be hard to top.
EV: She doesn’t really need to ever really write again with her commercial success. I think her biggest impact is getting a whole generation to read “" read these big heavy books and not just one of them but seven of them. She even states she was impressed by Harry Potter adult (fans) in groups who raise money for victims in Darfur, for example. She has said she’s working on smaller books and that there will be no more Harry Potter books. She even admitted recently that if she were to write another Harry Potter book it wouldn’t be about Harry per se “" it’ll be about another character.
BLAST: It always seems that writing is her passion, and that she has this rag to riches story. It makes you wonder how fame has been for her. One would imagine it’s a double edged sword.
EV: She actually wrote her first stories as a child. She actually grew up near a forest. She would wander and dream up all these stories. She’s gone from a single mother who has gone from having to pay her own rent to being a billionaire, so obviously she’s changed. I think people will find her highly relate-able. She’s not wearing flashy jewelry or clothing. She seems really down to earth. She seems like one of the moms I’d see at one of my sons’ schools.
BLAST: What was it like for you to look into her life? She’s always been this cathartic sort of writer.
EV: One of my favorite interviews I have ever done in my career “" I know I’ve gotten to interview a lot of powerful people from all over the world “" is an interview with John Berendt, who wrote “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil;” Sebastian Junger, who wrote “A Perfect Storm;” and Frank McCourt, who wrote “Angela’s Ashes.” I interviewed the three of them together for a half an hour because they all had bestsellers on the New York Times Best Seller list. And I find authors fascinating! They are such interesting people. And so to sit in front of a blank screen or a blank sheet of people and create something from nothing is amazing. And (Rowling) created one heck of a something, and to realize it did come from a large part of her life is something. I found it deeply powerful that she says, to this day, that she never forgets how hard her life was (before the success).
BLAST: It’ll definitely be interesting for audiences to get a glimpse into her life. As you’ve said this is a lot darker compared to how she portrays some of her storylines in her books.
EV: It’s definitely not just a rerun of clips from Harry Potter. I hope kids will find this interesting, including older kids who just know the books. I think parents will find it interesting because it’s really a story about a person who couldn’t get any lower (in their life), and then finds the story to write these books. I mean she’s incredibly philanthropic and very charitable. So she gives a lot of this back, largely because she remembers how it was (to be impoverished) and that many are in that same place.
“A Year in the Life of J.K. Rowling” airs July 16 at 8 p.m. on ABC.