Ideas can come at any moment in any form. Sometimes it is something a friend says, other times it’s a painting on the wall that can send a spiral of thoughts through our minds. For Joanne Rowling, known to most as J.K. Rowling, it was on a very delayed train journey from Manchester to London that the idea of Harry Potter came to her mind. She briefly worked at Amnesty International in London, and also spent time teaching English in Porto, Portugal. Now she is known as an author, screenwriter, playwright, producer, and philanthropist.
Rowling’s life was far from easy. Whilst she was working on the manuscripts, she lost her mother, experienced a miscarriage, a divorce, lived on benefits, and was diagnosed with clinical depression. She fueled her feelings into her book, which manifested themselves as the loss that Harry felt for his parents, as well as the life-sucking nature of dementors. I had never thought of the dementors as being related to mental health, but thinking about it, it makes sense–she wrote them as creatures that had the ability to take all the happiness out of you, which is how depression may feel like at times. It’s fascinating how Rowling manages to interweave these adult concepts and feelings into the books. She allows young children to understand the hardships that occur in life, whilst maintaining a balanced tone and not making the books overbearingly dark for children when they first start reading them. I grew up with these books, and I could feel how each year the books took on a more serious tone. For many children, and perhaps inadvertently, these books will have been both an educational experience and an escape. It will have taught them a lot about friendships, loss, and more. It is exciting to think about how many more of the future generations these books will continue to impact.
The Harry Potter World
Everyone who was lucky enough to grow up with books knows the magical name of J.K. Rowling. This is the name that accompanied the long-awaited books of the Harry Potter series. I remember too well how I dragged my parents to the local Tesco store in the U.K. during the summer of 2003 to buy The Order of the Phoenix. She conceived of the Harry Potter series in 1990 and spent five years developing her ideas. Between 1997 and 2007, the years during which the book series was published, J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry made their cultural mark on the world.
Alongside the Harry Potter series, the author also wrote another eight stories set in the same world. Rowling took two of these and adapted them into original screenplays, which she wrote herself. She likened the process to learning a new language, to which I must say I couldn’t agree more! In a book, everything we see is based on what we read. The universe readers build in their minds is entirely reliant on what is written; all the creative power lies in the writer’s hands. Yet in a screenplay, the writer has a different type of responsibility–one where they ought to consider what tools they are giving other creatives for the creation of the film. In a movie, the audience creates the universe based on dialogue and the feelings we get through what we see.
I recently rewatched the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. When I told the rest of the family I was planning to do this, they all instantly chimed in that they wanted to watch it, too. Minutes later, all the lights were off, curtains were drawn, and the television volume was tweaked slightly louder than usual–everything to imitate the environment of a cinema. There is something truly enjoyable about watching the title come on screen and see the characters of a magical world come to life. During one of the scenes where the Hogwarts castle is first shown, the famous musical motif of the school is played and it immediately took all of us back to a childlike wonder.
J.K. Rowling’s world-building abilities are unquestionably strong. Her books and screenplays of the Fantastic Beasts series gave the platform for many other areas of creativity to blossom. This both costume design and production design have been recognized for their achievements in the two movies that have been released so far. Colleen Atwood was awarded an Oscar for her work on costume design in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock were nominated for production design. In the most recent Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The production design duo were nominated for BAFTAs, as were the special visual effects team.
Helping Children During the Quarantine
Knowing the struggles of parents with young children during the quarantine, J.K. Rowling launched a response to COVID-19. Various activities have been created on “Harry Potter at Home” to help tackle the boredom that children often feel when they are stuck at home. The award-winning author has also placed her books under an open license so teachers can read the seven books to their students, and the first book is even available for free as an audiobook!
The Casual Vacancy, which sold over one million books internationally within the first few weeks, was published in 2012; it was adapted into a BBC miniseries in 2015. Under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the author penned four crime fiction novels so far in her Cormoran Strike series. These follow the lives of a private detective and his assistant as they work on criminal cases. When the first novel was published, people did not know that the writer was in fact Rowling. Many critics described the novel as a great debut and it was even named “debut of the month” in Library Journal’s mystery category. The media did some thorough investigating, after which they found out it was indeed Rowling. In 2015, she co-wrote Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the continuation of the story of Harry Potter’s son, Albus.
J.K. Rowling’s beginning as an author came from a difficult point in her life, and she built an entire universe that started with an idea on a train. She continues to write, but holds dearly the importance of philanthropy. As a writer, she has influenced countless children to read and write, but has also opened up realms of possibilities for creatives. The third installment of Fantastic Beasts is in pre-production, aiming for release in 2021, and the fourth and fifth have already been announced for the years of 2022 and 2024. The magical world lives on for the audience and creatives alike!
(C) Katusha Jin (4/26/20) FF2 Media
Featured photo: Author J.K. Rowling attends the premiere of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on November 10, 2016 in New York City. [Getty Images]
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment