Tag Archives: J K Rowling

Is last best?

I’d been all set to muse a bit about third books in trilogies, when Helen Grant mentioned another [potentially bad] aspect of writing trilogies, at her Thursday launch.

When asked about the likelihood of a sequel for Ghost, and the question then sliding quickly on to trilogies, Helen pointed out that one awkward thing about them is that for the author who carefully plots books one, two and three, there is much that needs to be written after the first book. But if that doesn’t sell well, the publisher might decide against the next two books.

And then where will you be, a third into a story and no end in sight?

It is, of course, what initially happened to Nick Green’s The Cat Kin. He self published the second and third books, before the whole trilogy was picked up by Strident.

But as Helen said, while she was lucky with her Forbidden Spaces trilogy and it did get published, there was perhaps rather too scant attention from the publisher towards the end.

So, there is every reason to stick to standalone novels. There is always the possibility of sequels by public demand.

Anyway, what I was really getting to here, is the seeming lack of interest from publishers when book three is about to be born. Increasingly, I hear nothing about the ends of trilogies, and there are no review copies available.

I always feel a bit guilty at this point. Am I merely seen as looking for a free book for my own reading pleasure?


While I can see there might be less of a need for a big fanfare or a highly publicised launch for the end of a trilogy, a few review copies won’t cost much, compared with other kinds of advertising. Maybe not send out unsolicited book threes, but send to anyone who inquires?

Because I feel third books have often been the best. It’s as if the whole trilogy has been moving towards this point. Not that it’s only a book much the same as the first two and what’s the fuss?

Helen’s Urban Legends was riveting. Especially page 38! And the third books in Michael Grant’s Front Lines and Lee Weatherly’s alternate WWII series were masterpieces of great YA writing. Maybe publishers assume that the fans liked the first ones, so they will discover a way to the end, without reviews or mentions of the books.

These days I find myself looking at sequels to books I’ve never heard of, or the last in a series of books where the publisher has dutifully sent out both proofs and finished copies, when I’ve not shown interest in any of them.

(And, I don’t actually know this, but did J K Rowling get a contract for all seven Harry Potter books? From the start, I mean. Also, there didn’t seem to be any lulls in the publicity when we got to books five, six or even seven. We should have been tired of them by then, surely?)


Spend with Harry

Back in autumn 2001 we were quite pleased with our Hermione doll for Daughter for Christmas. We were in London, and had a little look in Harrods, and found Hermione and bought her. I’d say she was a successful gift, but that maybe Daughter was just that little bit too old to really play with the doll. And maybe Hermione wasn’t intended to be played with. What do I know?

Anyway, I seem to recall the doll cost a little over £20, which as a parental purchase was OK.

On the other hand, I do agree with journalist Alice O’Keeffe, who wrote in the Guardian about her seven-year-old son who thought long and hard about spending nine weeks’ pocket money on a small chocolate frog (£4.50). But I agree less with Alice’s thoughts on the general commercialisation of Harry Potter merchandise.

If you go to a gift shop after a Harry Potter tour of some kind, you have to expect it to be too expensive, especially at the level of a child’s pocket money. And if you do go into the shop, especially with a fairly young child, you need to have done the adult thing first, which is to either bite the bullet and let the child have something overpriced that you pay for, or to talk to them about this and how you really can’t afford, or tolerate, this price level, and you’re not going to stop, or buy.

You are the adult. It’s your job as a parent to teach your small human what is all right, and what isn’t. In the end it’s up to you to decide whether to go somewhere like this at all.

I don’t feel it’s fair to blame J K Rowling for the £4.50 frog.

And to some extent I reckon the merchandise has been produced for somewhat older fans. In my own friends and family circle the immediate customers for these kinds of items that I can think of are on the ‘wrong’ side of 30. And they can afford wands and broomsticks, school uniforms and yes, the chocolate frog.

With this in mind, I was intrigued to learn that my old neighbourhood has a Harry Potter shop. Stockport now boasts a shop called Hoot, and what’s more, it’s a charity shop. No, I can’t quite get my head round that, either.

But it seems that anyone can open a shop and source the same products you would go to Harrods for. So if you require a wand, downtown Stockport might well be the place for you. It’s just a bit annoying that this happened after I moved away, and it wasn’t there when The New Librarian and Pizzabella were regular visitors at Bookwitch Towers.

And if shopping at Hoot is too expensive, you can always make your own wand, or buy a [used] striped school tie in a normal charity shop. It’s what we did, and I am a witch, after all.

Muggle magic for Christmas

‘Bring a touch of magic to the world of muggles with these movie must-haves.’

What’s wrong with the world? In fact, what’s wrong with Lakeland? This excellent mail order company that can make almost anyone want anything, and especially that which we don’t need, believes Harry Potter is a film.

Well, it is, of course. But it’s mostly a series of books. Still. Even though someone made films about the books.

And I understand that the film company bought all the rights to everything Harry Potter and in many instances they came up with the designs, so us muggles will know what Harry’s stuff looks like.

But still. They are surely not movie must-haves?

When I think of Harry Potter, I continue to – mostly – see my own pictures of the books in my head.

If these magical mugs and cauldrons were to make me weak at the knees, it’s not because of any Hollywood films. It’s because J K Rowling wrote seven fantastic books containing some weird and wonderful things.

Besides, surely Lakeland’s customers are serious enough to approve of mugs inspired by books? Movies aren’t everything in this world. Even if the movie company owns the rights to all that we see.



We both had the same idea, the bookshop owner and I. At a not terribly well attended event at his bookshop many years ago, the visiting author waved a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone about. It was a hardback, and the visitor was – how shall I describe him? – a bit old-fashioned and naïve. I suspect he didn’t truly grasp how big J K Rowling was. To him, she and her book were merely part of his somewhat unusual topic, which was the many British authors who had been teachers at some point in their lives.

That will be why two of us suddenly thought ‘what if that’s a first edition Harry Potter he’s got?’ We maneuvered ourselves into position to check, as discreetly as possible.

But no, it wasn’t. Phew. Probably.

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

One night recently when I wasn’t sleeping as soundly as I would have liked, I spent some time thinking about Harry Potter first editions. As you do. I have already mentioned that I know an author who appeared at the Edinburgh Book Festival alongside J K Rowling, and how the two new authors exchanged copies of their books with each other.

It struck me that there must be other categories of people who’d have [had] a first in their possession. Other than the lucky book buyers who actually did what one is supposed to do with books, which is find them and buy them and read them.

I’m guessing J K’s editor has one. Whether a publicist would hang on to a copy of a book they work on is less certain. And did she even have an agent? I think maybe not.

Thomas Taylor, the illustrator of the cover design, probably?

Then there are the reviewers. I wonder how many copies were sent out to them, back in 1997?

Libraries. Did they buy copies, and when Harry Potter went crazy, did they do anything with those books? They could have been worn out by then, of course.

Friends and family of the author?

How many of the above first editions ended up at Oxfam?

Then I must have fallen asleep again.

Our first two Harry Potter books were paperbacks, and I let them become Son’s (Daughter was too young at the time), but by book three I realised I’d need copies of my own, so quickly set about getting the first three books for me. I have just looked up Harry Potter first editions, and discovered that my catch-up edition is somewhat more respectable than I knew.

Takes a witch, I suppose.


Series – to abandon or not to abandon

That is the question.

As has become clear over the Bloody Scotland weekend, there are series everywhere. Not only do the long – and medium – established writers have series. The debut authors are also planning several books. Even the unpublished ones pitching their first novel, spoke of series.

If you are free to read whatever you like, whenever you can, with no blog commitments, you can probably keep up with lots of series.

I no longer know what to do. I tend to wait and see what happens. Because I can’t actually make the decision. It has to be made for me. I will – temporarily – abandon a series of books I love, if there is something else, equally loveable out there. Maybe something that is noisier when looking for attention.

And that first abandoning was never intentional. It just happened. It’s not you; it’s me.

In the last maybe fifteen years I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the crime novels by Kate Ellis and Stephen Booth. I read every one up to a certain point. I read about Mma Ramotswe. I read these usually in the right order, moving backwards to catch the odd earlier book, and then waited in real time for the next one to be published. It seemed like a long wait, until it wasn’t so bad, and then until the next two books were here and I didn’t know how to fit them in.

I discovered Sara Paretsky, whose books I still read when a new one comes along, and slowly reading the older ones.

Among my new people, as you know, are James Oswald and Vaseem Khan. I don’t know how long I can keep going. I want to. But I wanted to with the others as well.

With Sophie Hannah I grew too scared to continue, so that was an easier decison to make. And thankfully we have the new Poirots.

Or there is Harry Potter, but we knew how many books to expect. Knew there would be an end. As we did with Skulduggery Pleasant, at least until Derek Landy decided to keep going a bit longer. With Lockwood you might not have known for certain, but unless something changed, the characters would eventually be unable to do what they did because of their [lack of] years.

Which books do you keep? Will I ever reread the abandoned series? Will I restart one day? Which ones will I regret once I have ditched my copies? When we moved, we parted with about half our Dorothy Sayers. That seemed OK. Many of Agatha Christie’s books I’ve never owned as I borrowed them from the library.

And then I looked at my shelves for inspiration, and considered Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Those books I read slowly over a long time, and I don’t claim to have read all. But the thought that I might get rid of the books made me want to cry. They are staying. Campion is like a crazy older brother, and Alleyn some benevolent uncle. Yes, I know I have now bypassed them in age, as far as most of the stories are concerned.

So what to do about those just starting out? Not read at all, just in case? Read one and be hooked? Have nervous breakdown?


Strike on TV

Why, oh why, is it more all right to attack J K Rowling than many other authors?

I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling as a book, and having watched the television series I will admit to having liked that too. Other people have either enjoyed it, or not. This is normal, and an exchange of views is healthy, and happens with many crime series on television. For instance, I didn’t like The Bridge, but am happy that many others did. They are not wrong, but neither am I.

But if you liked – or more importantly, didn’t like – Cormoran Strike, then for some reason it seems to be down to J K Rowling and her successes and her money. The BBC don’t seem to get a mention. And I have seen little discussion as to whether Tom Burke acted well, or if Holliday Grainger was a good Robin. (I think she was. I like Robin in the book, and could easily have been let down by the wrong actress.)

Cormoran Strike

It wasn’t an outstanding crime effort. But it was enjoyable enough. Better than Midsomer, or Branagh as Wallander. It was not realistic, but it doesn’t have to be. The characters moved between attractive London spots, walking down the kinds of streets I and many others associate with London.

In fact, what it is, is an excellent export for viewers in other countries. Those who go crazy over all things English. I know, because I am one of them, or was, and what I watched just now is exactly the kind of thing fans of England like.

It looks like J K was involved in the production of the series. I could see that this would make people gripe again, along the lines that money will buy you anything. Maybe. But what I felt quite strongly was that the screenplay followed the soul of the book, unlike many similar ventures where you are disappointed if the film version bears far too little resemblance to a beloved book.

Also thought it was good to have actors who are not so well known that you see their past roles as you watch.

But you know that pseudonym, Robert Galbraith? Noticed on social media that some people had no idea who he really is. So it would seem that the irritating fame hasn’t reached every corner of the country.


A must-have cover

When I saw Jim Kay sign copies of his first illustrated Harry Potter in Edinburgh, I was a bit tempted. The book looked fabulous, but it was also very large (and obviously, as we go along, the books will grow and grow) and I was telling myself to be sensible.

Sensible is a good thing to be.

But then I happened to come across the cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I sort of sank. How could anyone not want it?

I like buses. I like night time scenes because the colours are so gorgeous. This cover image has it all. And it’s a bus. The Knight Bus, no less. Did I mention that?

J K Rowling and Jim Kay, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

This is something I will need to think about. I have some time, as the book isn’t out yet. The thinking will have to be that I can’t fit a new shelf in anywhere. And a big book, and its friends, need space.