Thursday, July 19, 2007

being j.k rowling

I found Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone sitting solemnly in a "In Hardback" section one day, years ago on a trip through Barnes & Noble. Or was it Borders? Anyway - it was years ago. The book hadn't seemed to find a place for itself at the time. It wasn't in the children's section - not even in the young adult section. It just was sitting there. A hardback book. That was it.

It was being described at the time as a book that was just as much for adults as it was for children - which had me opening the front cover and the writing was so eloquent - I picked it up and took it home.

At that time, there wasn't much being said about the book, or its main character or its author. I devoured it and the next book and the next. By then, Harry Potter was everywhere.

A little too everywhere.

When the 4th book came out - at a whopping 734 pages - it seemed like a little too much work just to be part of this curious "in" crowd. The crowd that had begun throwing parties for the book's release and dressing up and eating disgusting jelly beans for fun.

So I quit reading it.

Then came the 6th book - and the news that a central character would die. I suddenly felt like I should join the crowd again. But I didn't. When Kim bought me a copy of the book as a gift, I couldn't finish it.

And so now, the world is at its end with the whole Harry Potter thing. And all I really have to say about it all is: If Oprah doesn't adopt me - I'm hoping J.K. Rowling will.

The one thing that stands out about Rowling's work of a lifetime is her voice. She created a single world that is so much different and so much the same as our own - in massive detail. Her writing welcomes anyone who takes the time to flip the book open - in for a warm and wondrous afternoon read. Like a cup of tea. Or a scone.

I see a photo of her and it makes me wish I were British - much like photos of Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren or Emma Thompson. Intelligent, witty, beautiful. It's Rowling's story that really hooked me. The single mother, sitting in the cafe writing out this massive chunk of incredible imagination. In an interview, when discussing what might be next, Rowling says she just wants, "to fall in love with an idea again."

I've spent the last week jotting down notes as I begin the research for a novel about my mother's family. One thought begets another, and another and another. I make one list which begs for more lists. A diagram of the family that won't fit on the page. And for the past two days - I've been hesitant to keep going. Right on schedule.

The thought crept into my brain today. "You won't get it right," it said. "It's too much for you to do. You don't even know what you're doing to begin with."

Rowling's words resonated. Writers...fall in love. Over and over again. They fall in love with their characters, their plots and subplots, their sentences and everything in between. Authors cry when their characters die. (Remember Emma Thompson in 'Stranger Than Fiction'?)

And so...right on schedule...I'm tempted to back away from the family novel. As cliche as it sounds, I can't really fall in love. It's too much. It's too close, it's too personal and it's just too, too much. I'm afraid of it all - and it's why it's taken so long to start the novel in the first place...why most of my stories sit unfinished in a case in the spare bedroom - and why I take so long to finish a news story that's not under breaking news deadline. You fall in love and then what? Then how to do you maintain? I certainly have no idea.

Still...I tap my pen against the pages of my journal. Because this time, I'd like to give it a good go. Like a school girl with a mad crush on the quarterback - I daydream about sitting in a cafe and just writing until the sun has set and it's time to go home. And something tells me that if I jump all in - I might just learn to fall in love elsewhere.

Or at least, finish the Harry Potter series.

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