I've had a very interesting week, to say the list. I've cried, I've been star-struck, and I've been enjoying the gorgeous weather we've been having a couple days this week, such as the sunshine on Tuesday afternoon. Here's a quote from good old Charles Dickens to illustrate my point:
"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."
Yep. Today is kind of cold and dreary, but Spring is coming! I suggested to a Brony friend of mine that we go down the pub and either sing/hum 'Winter Wrap-Up' on March 19th, which is the day before Spring Equinox! Or March 20th, since you can easily change 'tomorrow' to 'today'.
Speaking of Tuesday afternoon, though... I met John Barrowman and his sister Carole at a book signing at Waterstone's! I got chatting to some lovely Whovians and other fans of his in line, and... man this is embarrassing, but I had this enormous crush on John Barrowman when I was a teenager. So much so that my mum bought me his album of love songs as a gag Valentine's Day gift when I was 15.
Basically, my teenage inner self was squealing so hard as I waited in line, and when I finally got up to him, he signed my copy of Hollow Earth (which will be in the next Monthly Reading List), and shook my hand. He's such a lovely guy, bless him. His sister's really nice too! I've actually been really interested in reading Hollow Earth, since it sounds like such an awesome story.
I think I'd had too much excitement on Tuesday and it had addled my brain somewhat, because on Wednesday I woke up with a bit of a migraine. Thankfully my lecture and seminar was cancelled, but I still have to go talk to a tutor about my most recent essay. orz;; I just hope I've done well on it, because I couldn't really wring much out of the topic we were given.
Thursday's seminar was also cancelled, so I went into the city again and collected a certain ticket from the Box Office.
This certain ticket being...
Yes, dear reader, I attended a talk with J.K. Rowling last night, and I am still incredibly star-struck and so happy I got to meet her, even if it was just a book signing and our conversation lasted about 5 seconds.
My brother begged me to get his copy of The Casual Vacancy signed (a book I've only gotten part of the way through since I got busy with other uni things, whoops), and so I arrived outside the forum at 6pm last night.
I also got talking to some absolutely wonderful Potterheads while in the queue, who had come from so many different backgrounds, it was amazing! Shout out to Yenyen (London), Claudia (US), Rosaja (Brazil), Danni (US), and Rachel (Ireland)! :D
(Especially since I only got Yenyen's Tumblr URL and I want to stay in touch with the rest of you guys! Also, I'm so sorry if I forgot anyone, since I'm absolutely hopeless with names at the best of times.)
Finally, we were allowed into the building and took our seats. I didn't have the most amazing seat in the house, but I could still see the stage, so eh. (Also, Bath Forum - could you please elevate the lighting rig a bit next time? When you're in the higher area of the circle/stalls like I was, it's really in the way of your view. Ahem.)
While I was sat waiting for everyone else to take their seats and for this show to get on the road, a father and his daughter sat next to me. They'd driven all the way from Macclesfield (a 3-4 hour drive south) to be there, and the father was a correspondent for BBC Radio 4, although he said he also worked for the BBC World Service. We got talking, and he asked if he could interview me for my thoughts on being a Harry Potter fan.
Normally I hate being put on the spot with interview questions and I get a bit of a stammer when I'm nervous, but I decided why the hell not, and proceeded to tell him how Harry Potter had shaped my life throughout my formative years, going into fandom, fan-fiction, meeting people from all over the world both online and in real life, all the fan projects people have done in the name of HP... yeah. I also remember saying I wrote fan-fiction for Harry Potter back in the day, and to some extent I did, but I actually was terrified of putting it online, so it's just in an old computer file somewhere.
The radio programme has only recently been commissioned, so I'm waiting on an e-mail to see if my voice will be broadcast on the radio, but it'll be available internationally, of course. I also got a square of this amazing dark chocolate for participating, so yay!
Last of the photos for now, unfortunately, since no photography nor video/sound recording was allowed during the show itself.
Then the show started. J.K. Rowling got an ENORMOUS round of applause when she came out, as did James Runcie, the Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival and he also did a really good documentary in 2007 about J.K. Rowling's life, which I remember seeing on TV, but is also included in the DVD extras for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
James started the talk by asking J.K. Rowling about her inspirations and how she came to write The Casual Vacancy.
JKR replied that The Casual Vacancy wasn't so much her conscious decision to suddenly 'write an adult book', nor a 'book with adults and teenagers swearing and having sex', but because she'd been struck with the idea and the characters and setting just wouldn't leave her head whilst on a plane journey. Apparently when she pitched the idea to her close friends shortly after finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, they all responded with some degree of scepticism, but remained positive.
Rowling also spoke of the classics influencing her writing. She said she didn't really read many modern adult fiction books, but she did definitely turn to authors such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and Anthony Trollope in crafting The Casual Vacancy.
One of the questions James Runcie asked that really struck me was about J.K. Rowling's approach to actually being a writer. She said she felt she had the so-called 'right' temperament for being a writer, in that she was perfectly happy to just go off and be alone with herself and her imagination for hours at a time. You do get pushed around and forced to be social sometimes, and we're supposed to accept that, but JKR said she 'craved' writerly solitude, and has the patience to sit down for hours and just work away at her manuscripts.
Also, a fun anecdote - J.K. Rowling's children once asked her: "Mummy, could you choose between us or books if you had to?"
"Of course I'd pick you over books, but I'd be very grumpy from then on."
I laughed. Hard. Aww.
The floor was then opened up to questions from the fans, and we got a mixture of both Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy questions, ranging from how J.K. Rowling researched Sikhism when writing the Jawanda family in The Casual Vacancy, to who her favourite character was in The Casual Vacancy itself. (I believe she said it was a tie between Sukhvinder and Krystal.)
As for the Harry Potter questions, she was asked about the relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore (sharing a really sweet anecdote that somebody in the Carnegie Hall audience that night actually came out to his family and friends beside him when she mentioned Dumbledore was gay and told her this at the following book signing), as well as questions about the characters in general. I really liked her comment about how she never, ever wanted to write in stereotypes for her characters. In fact, she came up with Hermione by reaching back towards her childhood self and imagining the kind of girl she'd like to be friends with.
JKR was also asked about writing any prequels or sequels to Harry Potter. She revealed that she's working on a new children's story, but refused to give any details, merely stating she'd only really just started writing it. However, in regards to Harry Potter, she feels she's quite definitively closed the door on that series. Rowling had been offered contracts to write a prequel series about the Marauders, but she felt it would be too much, and that prequels never really satisfy audiences, so she decided against it. The epilogue in The Deathly Hallows was the knell for the Harry Potter series as a whole, and Rowing said she's not going to expand upon the adventures of Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley. Aw, well. I would love to read both, but I'm glad she knew how and when to finish the story when it needed to be done. Take heed, certain other authors.
Rowling also gave the audience some great writing tips, and I'm hoping to use some of them in the future. I also really liked when she said this: 'If you are a writer, you're probably already doing it. If it feels like a job, it just won't work.' She also has this recurring dream where she is working in an office, which would be her idea of hell on Earth. She then went on to say that it's probably because she spends so much time gallivanting around her imagination that her subconscious places her in this office, in order to do something monotonous and relaxing.
Basically, that reminded me of a part in Stephen King's On Writing, where he bought his son a saxophone and paid for music lessons. His son enjoyed playing saxophone to begin with, but as time wore on, Stephen King noticed that his son would go to his music lesson, put his saxophone away in its case, and not touch it until next week's lesson. That's pretty analogous to being a writer, in that it has to be a constant thing in your mind, otherwise it's a complete waste of time. You have to love taking out that saxophone and playing around with it, learning the best way for you to play it and making up compositions of your own, not just dully going to classes and never expanding upon your craft.
Shortly after this, the talk was over, and we were called down row by row to the stage to get our copies of The Casual Vacancy signed. I was sat in Row Q, quite high up, so I had to wait about 45 minutes. The Radio 4 correspondent asked his daughter and me a few extra questions about being Harry Potter fans in the meantime, and then we were called down and my legs went to jelly.
No, no, I didn't trip over or anything, but I was feeling quite weak at the knees. I think you guys should know that I entered a Newsround competition when I was about 10 or 11 to meet and interview J.K. Rowling, and put my heart and soul into this little essay about how much I loved Harry Potter. I never got a reply back, though. :(
Also, apologies for the low resolution photos that are about to follow. My phone is a raggedy old HTC Desire S with an awful camera, and it reacts to the slightest bit of movement. Hell, it's one of those annoying cameras where you have an amazing shot, and then when you click the shutter, it turns out somebody's walked in front of you. ARGH. Never mind. I hope you enjoy these distant shots!
I squeaked out: "Thank you so much for Harry Potter. It's shaped my life so much."
Rowling's reply?: "My absolute pleasure."
Then she handed back my book with its autograph and holographic sticker of authenticity.
I walked off the stage and out of the theatre, completely star-struck, and... kind of had tears running down my cheeks. I know, I know, obsessive fan behaviour, but seriously, this was an amazing experience for me. £12 well spent. My parents don't even mind that I called them up in the middle of the night to see if they wanted to go too. Hehe.
So yeah, I walked home through Bath, which looks gorgeous at night time. I caught my bus and got something to eat from the residential vending machine, and then flopped into bed, my legs shaking from exhaustion.
And that was it for the talk with J.K. Rowling. ;_;
Here's the results of my Weekly Book Report, by the way. (Got a little bit carried away, didn't I? Ehehe.)
Alright, I don't have any good picture editing software, so I've basically just crossed the books I've read this week out with arrows. Sorry! Anyway, for each Weekly Book Report, the arrows will be in different colours. That light-green/yellow colour = the first week, and I'll decide on the colours in the WBRs to come.
I've already reviewed Girl of Nightmares and Mars volume 1. Girl of Nightmares was a bit of a disappointment and it was a bit of a slog to get through the third act, whereas Mars was pretty incredible, even if it tipped the scale for melodrama at one point.
Funnily enough, don't really have much to say on The Bloody Chamber. It's just not something I can comment on. I'm sure I'll revisit it one day and balk at my twenty one year old self's ignorance, but for now... eh.
Next week I'm going to get through Warm Bodies and The Fear, because... hooray for zombies! I'm sure there'll be enough time to finish Days of Blood and Starlight this month too.