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JK Rowling Receives The Freedom Of The City Of London
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“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher,” Rowling told the New Yorker in a recent interview. “I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”
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TODAY contributor
updated 9/25/2012 11:05:50 AM ET 2012-09-25T15:05:50

We're certainly not in Hogwarts anymore.

J.K. Rowling's new novel "The Casual Vacancy," which hits stores Thursday, delivers enough doses of teen sexuality, prostitution and drug use to make Harry Potter blush, according to recent reports.

In the book, Rowling has said goodbye to Hogwarts and hello to the fictional English village of Pagford. A 512-page tale of class warfare in a small village, the book is a radical departure for Rowling in the post-Harry Potter era. After selling 450 million books and amassing a personal fortune approaching $900 million in the seven-book Harry Potter series, Rowling, 47, is making her first foray into adult novels.

The "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon had no effect on her decision to write an adult-themed novel, as she told The Guardian that she “promised’’ her editor she wouldn't read the E.L. James books. She considered writing her new book under a pseudonym but chose to boldly go in another direction rather than stay in her comfort zone of children’s books.

“But in some ways I think it's braver to do it like this,’’ she told The Guardian. “And, to an extent, you know what? The worst that can happen is that everyone says, 'Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids' and I can take that. So, yeah, I'll put it out there, and if everyone says, 'Well, that's shockingly bad — back to wizards with you', then obviously I won't be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live.’’

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Writing a different type of novel freed her from some of the constraints of the fantasy genre.

“The thing about fantasy — there are certain things you just don’t do,’’ she told The New Yorker in a recent profile. “You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.’’

"The Casual Vacancy" deals with the class warfare that begins when a council member in Pagford dies, creating a rift between Padford and the nearby town of Fields. Rowling told The New Yorker that the book is a “comic tragedy,’’ and that she drew on experiences from her own upbringing in Gloucestershire, England, for the setting of the novel. Poverty and heroin addiction are part of the storyline along with frank sexual descriptions of teenage sexuality such as a “lustful boy” who sits on a school bus “with an ache in his heart and in his b----.”

Story: Hogwarts heaven: J.K. Rowling to build 40-foot tree houses for her kids

A description of a female character talks about how the “leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.’’ There is also a mention of another girl’s “miraculously unguarded vagina.”

“I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me,’’ she told The New Yorker.

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Despite the different material, Rowling maintained that there are some similarities between the new novel and her Harry Potter books. The deceased council member who is the story’s moral center has similar virtues to Harry, and there are other themes that run through both works.

“I think there is a through-line,” she told The New Yorker. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.”

Story: J.K. Rowling to make rare appearance in NYC in October

With five years having passed since the release of the final Harry Potter book in 2007, Rowling admitted to some trepidation in releasing this new book and that she initially contemplated not publishing it.

“I thought I’d feel frightened at this point,” she told The New Yorker. “Not just because it’s been five years, and anything I wrote after Potter — anything — was going to receive a certain degree of attention that is not entirely welcome, if I’m honest. It’s not the place I’m happiest or most comfortable, shall we say. So, for the first few years of writing ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re very lucky. You can pay your bills, you don’t have to publish it.’ And that was a very freeing thought, even though I knew bloody well, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to publish it. I knew that a writer generally writes to be read, unless you’re Salinger.”

Rowling also is not concerned about potentially alienating the millions of young readers she gained with the Harry Potter books.

“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher,” Rowling told the New Yorker. “I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”

Story: J.K. Rowling promotes new Harry Potter book club

Regardless of what she writes, Rowling is still considered a publishing force. Best-selling British author Ian Rankin usually releases a new novel every October, but his publisher has pushed the release date this year to November in order for it not to get buried by "The Casual Vacancy," according to The New Yorker piece.

She also announced that she is working on a pair of books for children younger than her Harry Potter readers and has also started writing another adult novel.

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Video: Radcliffe: ‘Lots of tears’ on last ‘Potter’ set

  1. Closed captioning of: Radcliffe: ‘Lots of tears’ on last ‘Potter’ set

    >>> for the past ten years movie goers have been captivated by harry potter . determined to stop the forces of darkness.

    >> we have lost two days without her.

    >> there's a bit of a chase on here.

    >> i don't care about a wedding. i'm sorry, no matter whose it is, i have to start finding them. this is our only chance to beat him and the longer we stay here, the stronger he gets.

    >> daniel radcliffe as harry potter . this movie is the beginning of the end of the franchise, what's that been like for you, dealing with that?

    >> it's kind of odd because we finished filming, the last two we shot in one go and we actually finished filming it five months ago, so we have been through our period of mourning.

    >> what was that last day like?

    >> lots of tears as you might expect. as you said, it was ten years of our lives. but we shot the last film for 18 months. it has been -- it was very weird doing all the press for it at the moment because suddenly everyone's saying, gosh, you must be so sad, i wasn't until you said something.

    >> it's a little bit of a celebration too?

    >> if we had been going out on a sour note, it would have been heart breaking, but i'm pleased with this film and it's nice to go out with a bang.

    >> and i heard you swiped some stuff from the set? swiped is not fair.

    >> but i would have swiped it if they haven't given it to us. my glasses which are a bit tiny.

    >> you were only 11 when you started.

    >> look, there i am. oh, good. it's good that everyone keeps seeing that.

    >> did you have a good childhood?

    >> i had a different childhood. but, you know, in terms of happiness and, you know, it's an amazing, fun, exciting place to be and you're there with a lot of great people. i have to tell you, there's a lot less bullying on the film set than there is in school. so i missed that part.

    >> this is the darkest of all, you're searching to stop him. how does this film lead us into part two?

    >> basically the thing, i think it was interesting, i was talking to a journalist about this the other day, because this film is easiest to break down because you don't know the books very well. so essentially, there's seven pieces of his soul. and also searching for the deathly hallows . and it's a person that basically rates between us so you get there go first. and the end of the movie and, yeah, it's a big cliffhanger. i'm not going to ruin it.

    >> don't ruin it. right after filming stopped on that movie, you started "woman in black" which is a thriller, a very scary movie . and you were very clear on why you wanted to do that, you wanted to play an adult, obviously you are one. and a dad?

    >> yeah. it wasn't so much i was seeking to play those things, but when i read the script and it was a chance to play a father and a widower, it's inherently a much more adult role. so that is part of the process of gradually sort of separating myself from harry, not separating myself, because i'm very proud to have played harry. but separating myself from the character. it's a great director, james watkins , he's a fantastic director and it's a great script and it's a fantastic costume.

    >> scary?

    >> it's going to be very scary film, yes.

    >> and you're going back to broadway, "how to succeed in business without even trying" which is a song and dance musical. i didn't think you did that stuff.

    >> i don't think anyone did. i have always loved singing and i have been singing for a long time and i really, really enjoy it. and dancing is not something i have ever done, but i've been taking lessons for two years. i'm hoping to surprise some people in the course of the next year.

    >> you'll be brilliant, you always are. thank you so much, harry potter and the deathly hallows opened this friday. and daniel's co-stars drop by later this morning.

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