A Harry Potter special
Lucky Seven

The “Lucky Seven” process is simple… I e-mail a set of seven questions to a person and ask that they answer them. From the responses, and subsequent e-mail exchanges, I build the article you’ll find here. Ultimately it might include a biography, links to the person’s web site or a method to contact them, and even more than seven questions if some thought seems to develop into a separate topic for us to address.

This time around, as I try to revise, recreate, and… I suppose… revive the idea of what I always wanted “Lucky Seven” to be as it started, I have decided to try something a bit different. This time, I have interviewed three people. Why? Well… while reading (and just after completing) the latest Harry Potter book… Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince… I became aware of some thoughts out there about the book. I was working on a review of the book for this web site, and wanted it be a bit different. When I discussed some of this with my wife, I finally came up with the idea of finding a few people that had read the book and just asking what they thought about a few things. So I did.

Keris is a writer. I’d like to think she would be quite happy and satisfied with that description. Professional writer would be better… best-selling writer would be fantastic… rich… retired… and other assorted adjectives would be testing the waters. Author just doesn’t sound right to me. Seems a bit stuffy. Because what she writes is so friendly and accessible that when you finish you feel like you’ve shared a cup of coffee with a good friend and spent the better part of an afternoon chatting with her. The really amazing thing is, even though I just called her writing friendly and accessible, there is a genuine intelligence and wisdom behind it that lives up to her site’s motto… “Write something worth reading or live something worth writing.” (Keris pointed out to me, that’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin. I think I knew that, but she’s right, I definitely should mention it.)

I have to admit, I was first drawn to Denise’s site… Creative Exile… because of a recipe. (It was for Crockpot Corn Chowder.) As is also the case with Keris, I found her site last year through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Over time I have become a fan of her tales… from knitting and fairies to recipes and family life. This past summer she included several Harry Potter entries, including… if you can believe it… an actual Harry Potter knitalong. Denise presents a great perspective for a number of reasons. One of those is that she exemplifies some of the great qualities of the internet… how it connects people that have never met, helps them exchange information, and develops an amazing sense of community.

Terry… well, Terry you may know better as Tigg if you’ve visited my site before. She’s my lovely wife. Her Harry Potter credentials are about as good as I’ll ever find… from having read each book and seen every movie to simply being the person that insisted I read the books and getting me addicted to them. She doesn’t have a web site of her own to link you to. Sorry about that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book of a planned seven-book series. Which book is your favorite so far? What are some of the reasons it is? And, if different, which book do you think is the best?

Terry: My favorite book so far is book 1. This is the book that got me hooked and left me wanting more. There was some really great fantasy and imagination entwined in this book from the characters to the buildings. I loved the school and all its occupants from the ghosts to the caretaker to the sorting hat. The Weasleys were a fun family and you just loved to hate Draco Malfoy. Her best… I’d have to say her last book, book 6, because it explained the history and why certain characters were the way they were and the family history of Voldemort.

Keris: I think I’d have to say the first book was my favourite simply because I was so excited to be introduced to this charming fictional universe. I loved everything about it immediately. Although I can remember standing in the street before meeting some friends desperately finishing the second!

Denise: I like the first one the best, still – especially after reading all of them (up to now, Book VI).  It’s brilliant to see how Rowling planned them all out from the start… Hagrid borrowing Sirius’s motorcycle, for example, to deliver baby Harry to the Dursleys.  Little things all throughout the first book pull you into the world and set readers up for a grand adventure!

One of the things that impresses me about the story is how J.K. Rowling has incorporated the old and the new. For example, ideas like witches riding brooms, magic wands, and even unicorns and trolls are fairly common magical items or creatures. Incorporating them is brilliant on Rowling’s part, because each of us as an audience already has an established acceptance of these things. She didn’t need to work as hard with them because, for lack of a better phrase, they already had the credibility with her readers that she wanted them to have. Before I ever picked up a Harry Potter book I knew that wizards used wands and witches rode brooms and dragons were dangerous. Combine those elements with the new… from the setting of Hogwarts to the story of Harry to wherever else you care to look… and it creates an incredible depth. The question here becomes… what particular things about the story (or the craft in telling it) impresses you? And is there a scene/character/item or two that either frustrates or disappoints you?

Keris: God, everything impresses me. And I’m more impressed when I read interviews with Rowling and find that she knows her fictional world inside and out. For example, she has written the biography of every child at Hogwarts even though she doesn’t plan to use them. She knows Harry’s history much further back than she ever intends to delve. As for the ideas, I always come back to the Marauders Map, which made me gasp when I first read it – utter genius! Then when you start to think about it more and more things come to mind – whatsername who lives in the toilet and is always crying, the Dursleys, that chimney powder stuff (sorry, my memory’s terrible). In fact, she’s such a great writer that I take it all for granted as I’m reading it and it’s only when I stop to think I realise what an incredible job she’s done. The characters all seem like friends (or sworn enemies – hate that Malfoy!) and the settings real. Can you believe there was ever a time before Harry Potter?

Denise: The “absolutely evil” character of Snape gets on my nerves.  While I imagine it’s good for the young ‘uns to see Harry defeat him and get out of tricky traps set by him in every book, I was actually glad to see Snape do something *truly* evil (even if it meant killing Dumbledore) that makes him a worthy opponent.  Draco has always been a snobbish coward, so he’s just fun to bamboozle, but Snape seems more pitiable, especially after things that were revealed about James Potter’s behavior toward him in Book V.

Terry: She makes the story believable, like it’s actually happening somewhere. Her last book, The Order of The Phoenix, I found a little bit boring up until the end. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them all and will probably read them several times in my lifetime, but with that one you could tell she took a break and waited too long to come back to the story. It was almost like she lost her groove. But, she did find it with the sixth book, The Half-Blood Prince. A great read from beginning to end.

(Bob’s note… Keris is referring to Moaning Myrtle and floo powder. I had to look them up to be certain. Two things jump to mind from her answer that I would like to mention. Number one... there is a web site called The Harry Potter Lexicon. Simply amazing. Easy to navigate and if there is anything you want to know, this is the place to look. Rowling has a web site too, which is great but generated toward the mass market and some insider stuff, while the lexicon site is just overwhelming in its depth. Number two… the names Rowling has come up with. Almost all of them have a history. Floo powder as an easy example… think of a fireplace and suddenly that name is perfectly sensible. But she has also incorporated historical and personal references into her character names and other items. Here’s a good one… she never truly says where the two other schools are from in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But you tell me what you think… they are Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Not too hard to make a guess.)

There used to be a comic strip called Bloom County. In one strip, two characters were discussing the impact of MTV and music videos on songs. (This was back when MTV was just getting started, about twenty years ago, when they actually played music videos.) They were talking about how instead of letting the beautiful imagery of the music and lyrics weave with their own imagination to create a scene that was powerful, personal and unique, the video had destroyed many songs for them by forever imprinting the pictures it used into how the song should be interpreted.  That said… the Harry Potter movies. Did they do a good job or a bad job with the casting? Does anything in particular stand out as being either a good or a bad transition of book to screen? And… with all of this being based on the idea that you have seen at least one of the films… do you find yourself influenced by the movie version of things? For instance, when you read the books now, do you see Rubeus Hagrid or Severus Snape as you always did? Or, do you see Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman?

Denise: I think the kids are getting a bit long in the tooth (Daniel Radcliffe looks 18 in Goblet of Fire), but you can only make special effects-heavy movies like these so quickly.  I remember seeing a drawing of Snape at the beginning of a chapter (can’t remember which book), and the drawing seemed decidedly less romantic than Alan Rickman (only because I’ve seen Sense & Sensibility, and Truly, Madly, Deeply, so I know Rickman has more depth than the typecast bad guy from Die Hard). But overall, yes, I do see the actors in my mind as I read the books.  It doesn’t distract me.  Especially considering Rowling always describes Harry as so “scrawny” when Radcliffe is a bit stocky.  Little details that make a character up in your own mind can often overcome casting, good or bad.

Terry: I think they did a great job with the casting. I haven’t been disappointed yet with the characters. I did, as I’m sure others had, mispronounce Hermione’s name when I was reading the first book. It wasn’t until, I believe, the second book when they sounded out her name for you that I realized how badly I butchered it. Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid, did a terrific job as the giant. He just needed a bath so we could see what was underneath all the fur. I couldn’t wait to see how they did the scene with the car crashing into the whomping tree. The spider scene in the “Black Forest” was cool as well. I am definitely influenced by the movies when I read the books now. I love the actors they have cast for all the parts, big or small. I can’t wait to see the female giant and who they cast for the part. The next movie, The Goblet of Fire, looks like it might be one of their best as far as special effects go.

Keris: Funnily enough, I don’t think you even have to see the films to be influenced by them. There’s always so much promotion and merchandise, you can’t not be influenced. I haven’t seen any of the films all the way through (cos I end up watching them with my nephews who always want to ‘wind’ to their favourite bits; I’ve seen that troll thing in the loo with pencils up his nose way more times than I needed to) but I still think of the actors for many of the characters. The Ron and Hermione of my imagination have gone completely, while Harry is a combination of ‘my’ Harry and Daniel. Snape is absolutely Alan Rickman (but he’s a great Snape). I’ve retained my original Dumbledore, but only because the filmic Dumbledore looked EXACTLY as I imagined. I remember seeing a ‘Making Of’ type programme in which they interviewed Rowling – I don’t know if you know this, but she draws beautifully too – and she showed the drawings she’d made for the wall that opens up to Diagon Alley. Then they showed the clip from the film. It was so perfectly what she’d imagined – and I’d imagined – that it took my breath away.

When I first read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I thought for sure Viktor Krum would wind up transferring to Hogwarts. Looks like I messed that one up. My thinking was essentially that Harry’s Quidditch games were becoming increasingly difficult and intense, so having Krum join a rival house like Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff would create an interesting challenge for him. Also, Krum would command a more impressive presence for Hermione’s developing relationships by physically being at the school with them… which Krum instead accomplished from a distance, at least in Ron’s way of viewing the world. What are some of your predictions that have gone right, gone wrong, or have yet to be resolved?

Terry: I still believe Snape is one of the good guys and that he purposely goads Harry just to make Harry stronger and to prepare Harry for what’s to come with Voldemort and his cronies.

Keris: I can’t really think of any predictions I’ve made except for an enormous stinky one – I always thought Harry would end up with Hermione.

Denise: Believe it or not, I have had no predictions, except that it seems someone must die ever since Book IV (everyone said “Hagrid, Hagrid” before the book came out, and I didn’t believe Rowling would kill off someone that endearing.  I was right.).  I don’t even try to predict who that may be each time.  My only prediction for Book VII is that Harry will not die.  That would be ridiculous, and stupid.  Good must overcome evil… period.

At this juncture, we all know what happened to Dumbledore. I heard an interesting theory about his death, and rather than explain the idea and influence your answer, I’m just going to ask… Do you think he was begging Snape for mercy? Or… do you think Dumbledore was begging Snape to kill him?

Keris: Ha. You know my answer to that one (although I didn’t think of it, the theory was put to me and I went ‘of course!’). Funnily enough, I’ve read it elsewhere since. We’ll see.  And, of course, Snape HAS to turn out to be good, so it’s really the only explanation!

Denise: I’ve heard that, but I don’t believe it.  I don’t think there’s anything all that complicated about Snape.  Dumbledore was wrong to trust him.  It would be an important lesson for Harry (and his readers) to learn that adults make mistakes, sometimes serious ones.  Even magical adults like Dumbledore.

Terry: I personally think Dumbledore is still alive and Snape sent part of him somewhere (perhaps like the Horcruxes that we read about in Book VI) and that he will rise like the Phoenix did (life after death so to speak). Magical people can do magical things. I’m not to sure about my theory. This only works if Snape is indeed a good guy. This way everyone else will think that Dumbledore is dead, including Harry, while he is still alive working to get rid of Voldemort and catch him by surprise. After all Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard of his time.

(Bob’s note… As you may have guessed from her answer, Keris is actually the true source of this question (and ultimately from raising this question to inspiring this column). I visit her site a few times a week just to catch up on some things. One day during the summer, she had a posting saying she had read something about Dumbledore’s death from someone in France that was utterly original to her at the time, but made complete sense to her once she heard it. Dumbledore was begging Snape to kill him. Now, as you can see in Terry’s answer to question four and the answer from Keris here, there are quite a few people that think Snape is going to turn out to be ‘good’ in the end. For that to happen, I think Terry’s answer here makes a great amount of sense. The thing is… I agree with Denise. I think Snape is evil and Dumbledore made a mistake trusting him. Oh… right… this isn’t about what I think…)

If you want to tell me what you think will happen between Harry and Voldemort, great. I’d love to hear about it. But, I think there are some interesting story lines to be found in the small details that I would like to ask you about. Snape. Draco Malfoy. Relationships such as Ron and Hermione… and of course Ginny. What do you think of how Rowling has set up the last book? And, where do you think some of these issues will eventually go?

Denise: Ginny will be in some kind of danger in this last book, but I don’t think we’ll lose her. (Love conquers all, as good conquers evil.)  Ron and Hermione have been set up from the beginning – the classic quarreling couple, so no surprise there.  Draco may be killed in Book VII, as may Snape (wait, were those predictions?!).  Draco may go over to the “good” side, but I doubt it.  He’s too cowardly and he’s been after Harry for too long.  He may only do it to get out from his father’s control, but that’s a slim chance.

Terry: Hermione – She will either teach at Hogwarts or work for the Ministry of Magic. Neville – Defense against the dark arts teacher. Harry – She will either kill him off or he will get married to Ginny and live happily ever after. Snape – (If he’s a good guy) He will be the Headmaster of Hogwarts so Dumbledore can retire or stay dead. (If he’s a bad guy) Dead. Draco – I think he will redeem himself and turn to the right side. I think he’s just been raised to hate muggles and half-bloods but doesn’t really want to be that way. Ron – I think he may go into business with his brothers and their joke shops and/or marry Hermione. Dumbledore – (If he’s dead) He will be in a portrait and communicating with Harry and/or Snape for future decisions. (If he’s alive) He will retire as Headmaster and live happily ever after.

Keris: I can’t begin to second guess Rowling. I have no clue what is going to happen and that’s the way I like it (my university lecturer said that made me a ‘naive reader’ – fine by me!). Malfoy has to get his comeuppance, the little snot. Apart from that, anything’s okay with me (though I would like Harry and Ginny back together). As for the sixth book, I read somewhere it should be called Things You Need To Know Before Book Seven, which I think is fair, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it and I’m really looking forward to Seven.

I’m not really sure where to take this last thought, so bear with me. Quite often, significant works have exploded well beyond their original intent. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings. Today, video games such as the WarCraft series are quite obviously taken from his vision of Middle Earth. George Lucas created the galaxy “far, far away,” yet countless people have written stories, video games have been developed, and even comic books have been authorized that tell other elements of the story. With Lucas, he has more or less completely embraced this type of development.  In some cases, characters created by other people but based on his universe were actually rewarded with parts in the latest Star Wars movies. Ultimately though, I think everyone offers a respect to the author for deciding how the story will play out. So basically, whether it’s Harry, Lord Voldemort… or even Neville Longbottom… that comes through in book seven alive, we probably all can agree it’s Rowling’s journey to guide us on. Having said that… What happens next? Rowling has said there will only be the seven books. She has done some things for charity, and I have seen comments where she may not be completely finished with these characters when book seven ends. For the most part though, the Harry Potter story and its characters will be finished, unlikely to return. Do you think someone else will pick up this world and write about things like Voldemort’s rise to power or the creation of Hogwarts centuries ago or Harry, Ron and Hermione twenty years from now? And how about Rowling? I’ve heard she thinks she may continue to write under a pen name. Does it matter to you whether her next book stays in this arena or is something completely different?

Terry: If anyone is to continue writing this story whether it be a sequel or a prequel, it would have to be her. It’s her world and characters that live inside her head. I’d like to see what else is inside her head. A book about another world or a totally different topic would be o.k. I’d buy it just for the fact that she wrote it and to support her craft (not that she needs it). I’m a loyal reader. If I like the author then I usually try to read everything they write.

Keris: I absolutely think others will take on the story. Firstly because I don’t think any of us will really want to let it go and secondly because there is a ready-made enormous audience there. In fact, why don’t you get working on Voldemort’s story? I’d love to read it. As for Rowling, I hadn’t even thought beyond the Harry Potter books until I read an interview with her in which she said she’ll always write. I think she’ll go for something completely different. From what I’ve read, she’s extremely ambitious and creative and she will want to prove that HP is not the only thing she can do. I’m looking forward to whatever she does.

Denise: From what I’ve seen at Rowling’s site, she loves the fan base.  However, Lucas made films and people went on to write novels about his world(s) and characters.  I think as an author, Rowling would take a more proprietary stance on her works and words.  I don’t think she’d allow published works based on her Harry Potter world.  There is, however, the internet, and fan fiction, that can’t be stopped (and isn’t really considered “publishing” by the “true” publishing world).  I don’t know how Rowling feels about fan fiction, but it’s out there.  People will continue to enjoy that.  Time will tell if future movies or published novels will come out of fan fiction.  I can’t see it. I don’t know that I would read anything else Rowling writes.  So many popular writers go on to create mystery series, which I do not enjoy.  So if she went in that direction, I wouldn’t likely read it.  Same with hardcore fantasy (something without – like the Potter series, and another favorite of mine, Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series – one foot solidly in “our” world) or hardcore science fiction (just not a fan of either).  Now, if she went on to write historical fiction, I’d be all over it.  It would really depend on her subject matter.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com