Joanne Harris is locked in a war with the Harry Potter creator (2022)

Were it not for recent events, the literary luminaries J.K. Rowling and Joanne Harris might exchange pleasantries and remark upon the surprising amount of common ground they share.

Quite apart from the shared name — the J in J.K. standing for Joanne — the most striking similarity is that both women hold the rare accolade of numbering among the book trade’s Millionaires’ Club, a group made up of authors who have sold more than a million of one of their books.

Only a handful of women are in it. Harris earned her place back in 2012 when Chocolat, her deliciously magic-infused novel for adults (if you haven’t read it, you may have caught the film with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche), soared past the million mark, joining Rowling, who has somewhat outstripped that milestone by chalking up more than 500million global sales of her Harry Potter series.

As for the hugely successful Potter films, Harris once recalled taking her child, a Potter fan, on the set of the second movie as a ninth birthday treat.

J.K. Rowling told her 13.9 million followers on Twitter after the Salman Rushdie attack: ‘Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.’ Pictured: Rowling at the BAFTA awards 2017

How unfortunate it is, then, to find these two stellar examples of publishing prowess at the centre of a volley of hostilities that have erupted in the wake of last week’s sickening knife attack on fellow author Sir Salman Rushdie.

At a time when the reading public might expect a united front among its favourite scribes, instead battlelines have formed.

The literary spat of the summer has pitted Harris, the esteemed chairman of the management committee of The Society of Authors and her supporters against Rowling and hers.

It all flared in the wake of the New York attack on Sir Salman a week yesterday.

Rowling told her 13.9 million followers on Twitter: ‘Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.’

Entirely reasonable sentiments to share, although one Twitter user did not agree, responding: ‘Don’t worry, you are next.’

On Saturday, Rowling, 57, highlighted the death threat on her Twitter feed, sharing a screenshot of a message from the platform’s support team showing that, supposedly, no rules had been violated.

The same day Harris, whose Twitter fanbase is a little smaller at 106,000 followers, published a poll on her feed asking if fellow authors had ‘ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise)’.

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The same day J.K. Rowling revealed the death threats made against her Harris, whose Twitter fanbase is a little smaller at 106,000 followers, published a poll on her feed asking if fellow authors had ‘ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise)’

The answers she provided were — ‘Yes’, ‘Hell, yes’, ‘No, never’ and ‘Show me, dammit’.

This was variously branded ‘tasteless’ and ‘disgustingly inappropriate’ by other Twitter users. It was also seen as a sideswipe at Rowling.

Harris, who insists her poll ‘had nothing to do with J.K. Rowling’, swiftly deleted and re-posted a slightly less lighthearted version.

She asked the same question but removed the words ‘(credible or otherwise)’ and gave the options ‘Yes’, ‘Yes, more than once’, ‘Never’ and ‘Just show me the result’.

She admitted: ‘I felt I’d got the tone wrong.’

Were it two different authors, the matter may have been left to rest. But it wasn’t.

Instead, a week of accusations and ripostes ensued, the crux of which appears to be focused less on an attack on Rushdie’s life and more upon another thorny issue: gender.

On the one side there is Rowling, who has faced a continued onslaught of accusations of transphobia since she mocked an online article in June 2020 that used the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of women.

She was labelled a TERF — trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

On the other is Harris, a passionate critic of gender-critical feminists.

She has a deeply personal link to the issue because her own child Fred, the same one who once visited the set of the second Harry Potter movie, is trans.

Fred is a 29-year-old freelance editor whose own public Twitter handle quips: ‘Undeclared trans in the bagging area.’

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He and his mother enjoy a close relationship and, as any parent would be, Harris was fiercely protective this week, declaring ‘anyone using him to attack me is utterly and forever beneath contempt’.

Harris insists her ‘personal feelings about the gender-critical movement’ did not affect either her belief in free speech or her work for the society.

She and Rowling have been on opposing sides of the fiery issue for two years. Rowling says she has received ‘endless death and rape threats’; at one point #RIPJKRowling was trending on Twitter.

Such was the vitriol in 2020 that the first of several open letters was aired in support of the author, deploring the onslaught of abuse ‘that highlights an insidious, authoritarian and misogynistic trend in social media’.

Four days later came a letter from a different group. It did not mention Rowling, but its timing was striking.

‘Non-binary lives are valid, trans women are women, trans men are men, trans rights are human rights,’ it said.

Among the signatories were authors Malorie Blackman, Jeanette Winterson — and Joanne Harris.

This week letters have been flying again from supporters of each camp. Strip away the angry words and opposing viewpoints, however, and the two women share more in common than one might expect.

J.K. Rowling has received a wave of online abuse sinceshe mocked an online article in June 2020 that used the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of women

Born just a year apart, the duo were similarly successful academically. Harris read modern and medieval languages at Cambridge, while Rowling studied French and classics at Exeter University and both trained as teachers.

They are both Francophiles (Harris’s mother was French), both taught the language and both overcame a catalogue of rejection to break into the publishing world.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, the first in the series, was a slow-burn, developed over the years of her turbulent first marriage to Jorge Arantes and finished while a single mother, living with her daughter on benefits, in Edinburgh.

The manuscript was sent out to 12 different publishers before ending up with Bloomsbury, which published the novel in 1997.

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Harris wrote Chocolat while working as a teacher and living with her husband Kevin in West Yorkshire.

She has spoken of how, for a long time, their source of heating was an old gas fire and they would feed 50p pieces into a meter, while their staple diet was ‘tinned ravioli and chips’.

Joanne also had a similar start to her literary career as J.K. Rowling, with both women's books rejected by publishers

Her first book, a literary vampire novel, sank without trace in 1989. But Chocolat, which tells the tale of a single mum, Vianne, who arrives in a French village to set up a chocolaterie, published a decade later, propelled her into the bestseller list.

It was turned down by several publishers before being picked up by Transworld.

As recently as 2016, the authors swapped tales of rejection letters on Twitter. Rowling shared two letters of rejection she had received for her first crime novel, writing as Robert Galbraith.

The author was trying to find a publisher for The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was eventually released in 2013. Who should chip in on the post?

Joanne Harris, who shared: ‘I got so many rejections for Chocolat that I made a sculpture.’

Later that same year Harris shared on Twitter criticism she had received about her knowledge of myths and her novel The Gospel Of Loki, the Norse god, to which supportive Rowling quipped: ‘I wish you’d stop making things up. There should be no place for that nonsense in fiction. #KeepMythsReal.’

The exchange ended with a series of kisses.

Both women were warned not to pin their hopes on commercial success, which, as it turned out, came swiftly.

Millions of books sold around the world, blockbuster films, with Chocolat hitting the screen in 2000 and the first Harry Potter film in 2001, the same year that Rowling remarried, to doctor Neil Murray.

Both authors have been honoured by the Queen for services to literature — an OBE and a Companion of Honour for Rowling, while Harris was made an MBE in 2013 and an OBE earlier this year.

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They have appeared in numerous awards lists and have both featured on Desert Island Discs.

Until a couple of years ago, there was no obvious sign that there was anything other than collegiate warmth between the two authors. Indeed, Harris appears to have admired Rowling.

In a blog back in 2016 she wrote about Harry Potter: ‘I remember reading my early copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone to my daughter [now her son Fred] when she was six. She loved it — even writing a fan letter to J.K. Rowling, to which she received a charming, handwritten reply, which she still treasures.

‘I remember her reaction, aged seven, to the casting of the first Harry Potter movie. Having followed the story with immense interest, when Daniel Radcliffe’s casting was finally announced, she ran into her bedroom and burst into tears. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I wanted to be Harry.” When I pointed out that Harry really had to be a boy, she sniffed and said, “That’s just sexist.” ’

Next came the film visit and a trip to the premiere, with Harris going on to extol the impact the Potter phenomenon had on children. ‘I’ve watched the rise and rise of J.K. Rowling’s boy hero with great admiration. Never before has a children’s book attracted such a following. The benefits to literacy were immense. Boys have always lagged behind girls where reading fiction was concerned: but with Harry Potter, boys too were reading and enjoying books.’

She even spoke sympathetically of her peer, who had, she said, become a ‘victim of her own success’. ‘The woman who had once sent handwritten notes to her young admirers soon found that she was being mobbed everywhere she went,’ she wrote.

‘It was alarming; especially when it became clear that in such crowds, the children were often being pushed aside by adults who wanted to get close to her. She almost stopped appearing in public altogether, except on occasions when she could ensure an audience of children.’

This week Rowling said she had received no messages of support from Harris in relation to the death threat against her.

She told The Times: ‘Harris has consistently failed to criticise tactics designed to silence and intimidate women who disagree with her personal position on gender identity ideology.’

She also criticised The Society of Authors, saying: ‘I find it impossible to square the society’s stated position on freedom of speech with Harris’s public statements over the past two years and stand in solidarity with all female writers in the UK who currently feel betrayed by their professional body and its leader.’

Whereas Rowling has tweeted 15,000 times to her 13.9 million followers, Harris, with her smaller fanbase, is a far more prolific user, posting more than 168,000 tweets.

She has previously declared how much she loves the forum, professing that she followed fellow author Ian Rankin’s advice to think of the forum as ‘your water cooler’.

She has posted dozens of tweets this week alone.

They include this one: ‘I get death threats quite regularly. So do many other authors. Wanting to know how many other people it happens to is hardly mockery.’

She has been vociferous in insisting her poll on death threats had ‘nothing to do with J.K. Rowling’, that she condemns threats of any kind and believes in free speech for everyone, even those she disagrees with. Although she rather added fuel to the fire when she ‘liked’ tweets from a Twitter user named The Midnight Society mocking Rowling and the spat.

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As for trans rights, she said: ‘Yes, I support trans rights. I also have a son who came out as trans a few months ago. But my personal feelings about the gender-critical movement don’t affect my belief in free speech, or what I do for The Society of Authors.’

A glance at the ongoing furore on social media serves to underline that both women need steel hats to fend off the barrage of abuse.

On Wednesday Harris, who says she has received multiple death threats, tweeted: ‘Times I’ve written or said anything abusive about JKR: zero. Times this morning I’ve received threats and abuse for saying negative stuff about JKR: 23. It isn’t even lunchtime.’

FAQs

Why did J.K. Rowling not use Joanne? ›

The author previously said she decided against including Joanne – her real name – because the publisher feared an audience of young boys would not want to read books by a woman.

How did J.K. Rowling come up with the idea for Harry Potter? ›

Jo conceived the idea of Harry Potter in 1990 while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King's Cross. Over the next five years, she began to map out all seven books of the series. She wrote mostly in longhand and gradually built up a mass of notes, many of which were scribbled on odd scraps of paper.

Why did J.K. Rowling write Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? ›

"The idea that we could have a child who escapes from the confines of the adult world and goes somewhere where he has power, both literally and metaphorically, really appealed to me" stated Rowling in an interview. This was the basis of Rowling's belief when she started writing a story of a young hero.

Does Joanne Harris have children? ›

What is J.K. Rowling's Favourite Harry Potter book? ›

J.K. Rowling's favorite 'Harry Potter' book is 'Prisoner of Azkaban'

Who is J.K. Rowling's favorite author? ›

Jane Austen is J.K. Rowling's favorite author of all time, and "Emma" is her favorite of her books.

How many times did Harry Potter get rejected? ›

The synopsis was typed by Rowling in 1995 "to accompany the opening chapters and circulated among prospective publishers," according to a plaque that accompanies the synopsis. The novel was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it.

Who is Voldemort daughter? ›

Delphini (born c. 1998), known by the nickname Delphi, was a British half-blood Dark witch, the daughter of Tom Riddle and Bellatrix Lestrange. Being the only child of Lord Voldemort, she was able to speak Parseltongue, and she became the only known living heir of Salazar Slytherin after the demise of her father.

Which school is Hogwarts based on? ›

But it's George Heriot's School, in the city center, that's generally accepted as the chief inspiration for Hogwarts. The school is just around the corner from the The Elephant House and looks straight out of a fairy-tale.

What is a summary of the Chamber of Secrets? ›

How did Ginny open the Chamber of Secrets? ›

Years later, during the time of the second book, HP and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny Weasley actually opened the chamber while possessed by the image of Tom Riddle in the diary she found.

What is the main idea of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? ›

One of the most important themes explored in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is discrimination and inequality between different magical beings and between the bloodlines of wizards and witches.

How old is Joanne Harris? ›

How many children does Joanne Harris have? ›

"We are both the mother of a child. When I wrote Chocolat, I was the mother of a four-year-old and now I'm the mother of a 25-year-old, and you can write from those perspectives only when you've actually been there." In the book, Vianne misses her eldest child (Harris's own daughter is called Anouchka).

Where did Joanne Harris go to school? ›

Joanne Harris

Who is Harry Potter's Favourite child? ›

Going by the Cursed Child it seems James Sirius is Harry's favorite son and the one he likes the most. Going by the original Canon it seems Harry doesn't have a favorite and likes them equally but identifies with Albus more.

Who is the most loved Harry Potter character? ›

Hermione Granger has been voted the favourite character from the Harry Potter novels. As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, National Book Tokens and Bloomsbury Publishing launched a massive search to find the nation's favourite character from the Harry Potter books.

Does Hermione love Harry? ›

Harry and Hermione have a deep friendship within the group that transcends that of Harry and Ron's – the boys' friendship is built on loyalty and trust, but Harry and Hermione have built a relationship based on respect and a deep caring for each other.

What is Jungkook's favorite book? ›

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-exupery

Another book reco by the youngest member of the band, Jungkook said The Little Prince is the only book that he can read until the end in the BTS FanCafe.

Who is the most read author in the world? ›

Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976)

Dame Agatha Christie currently holds the title of the world's best-selling novelist, according to Guiness World Records, as well as the most-translated author in history.

What is J.K. Rowling worth? ›

The 2021 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £820 million, ranking her as the 196th-richest person in the UK. As of 2020, she also owns a £4.5 million Georgian house in Kensington and a £2 million home in Edinburgh.

Who turned down Harry Potter? ›

Swinton turned down the role immediately due to scheduling conflicts, and because she stated she was morally against boarding school. Though the ghosts at Hogwarts began playing less prominent roles as the films continued, Helena Ravenclaw is an essential component to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Why did people reject Harry Potter? ›

Among the (ostensible) reasons for rejection were too conventional, too long, too weird or too old-fashioned. As if any of these things matter to the audience for which Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone!

How many rejections did J.K. Rowling get for Harry Potter? ›

J.K. Rowling's original 'Harry Potter' pitch was rejected 12 times — see it in new exhibit. A new exhibit in the British Library features a number of magical delights!

How did Nagini meet Voldemort? ›

It is worth noting that she knew Voldemort when he killed Bertha Jorkins in Albania. As she had the name of Nagini before she permanently became a snake, it is possible that Voldemort met or acquired her before her permanent transformation, or found out her name through Parseltongue.

How did Nagini become evil? ›

Nonetheless, despite her initially benevolent nature, Nagini's blood curse eventually turned her into a snake permanetly. Though it is unknown if she became evil as a result of that, or was turned evil as a result of Voldemort turning her into a Horcrux. As a snake, Nagini was completely loyal to Lord Voldemort.

How does Voldemort get Nagini? ›

This could have something to do with his propensity to speak Parseltongue. During this time, Voldemort killed a witch called Bertha Jorkins, and J. K. Rowling confirmed it was through her murder that he turned Nagini into a Horcrux.

Is there an 8th year at Hogwarts? ›

Creators often have the Eighth Years sharing accommodations together, irrespective of their previous Sorting, in order to explore themes of unity between the Houses. Although many Hogwarts Eighth Year works tend to be mainly fluffy, creators sometimes explore mental health issues and PTSD, especially in recent years.

Can you visit Hogwarts in real life? ›

Since 2012, visitors have been able to explore the real sets. A special attraction is the giant model of Hogwarts - the Harry Potter castle - actually used in the film. It's a model - so you can't stroll through it of course, but you can wander around these extraordinary sets: The Great Hall.

Is Harvard like Hogwarts? ›

Just like at Hogwarts, Harvard students are sorted into different upperclassmen Houses after freshman year (though we have expedited the process by using a Housing Lottery rather than making everyone try on an old hat).

Who is the enemy in Chamber of Secrets? ›

Gilderoy Lockhart is a major antagonist in J.K. Rowling's 1998 novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and its 2002 film adaptation of the same name. He is a famous author and formerly a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Who destroyed Harry's room in Chamber of Secrets? ›

Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley destroy the Hufflepuff's cup Horcrux inside the Chamber of Secrets—Hermione giving it the fatal blow with a basilisk fang.

Who was trapped in the Chamber of Secrets? ›

Harry is trapped on one side of the tunnel facing the Chamber, while Ron and Professor Lockhart are on the other. Harry continues onward alone. (Click the infographic to download.) Harry finds Ginny unconscious in the Chamber of Secrets.

Who is the true heir of Slytherin? ›

We also meet Tom Riddle, who is, as it turns out, the heir of Slytherin. Present only in spirit, he has all the same been controlling Ginny, and having her act as Slytherin's heir.

Is Ginny Weasley a Parseltongue? ›

Known Parselmouths

Ginny Weasley was able to speak Parseltongue while she was possessed by Tom Riddle's Diary, which enabled her to open the Chamber of Secrets.

Is Ginny a Slytherin? ›

Ginevra Molly Weasley (also known as Ginny) is the youngest child and only daughter of the Weasley family. She is Sorted into Slytherin during Harry and Jim Potter's second year.

What is the main message in Harry Potter? ›

This theme at the core of Rowling's wizarding world speaks directly to a universal human reality: The struggle to come to terms with our mortality. Death is obviously big in Harry Potter.

What happens at the end of the Chamber of Secrets? ›

At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore retracts his promise to punish Harry, Ron, and Hermione if they break any more school rules – after Professor McGonagall estimates they have broken over 100 – and lavishly rewards them for ending the threat from the Chamber of Secrets.

How does Harry Potter change in the Chamber of Secrets? ›

While Chamber of Secrets shakes some of Harry's faith in himself – in his own character and in how the world sees him – he manages to rebuild this faith by triumphing over Tom Riddle and winning over the whole school with his success.

Why was Mrs Weasley not in the reunion? ›

In late 2020, however, Walters told The Times that she had retired from acting after receiving a diagnosis of stage three bowel cancer. She has since undergone successful treatment and gone into remission but does not have plans to return to full-time acting.

Why did J.K. Rowling not use her real name? ›

Rowling, before her remarriage her name was Joanne Rowling, or Jo. At birth, she had no middle name. Staff at Bloomsbury Publishing asked that she use two initials rather than her full name, anticipating that young boys – their target audience – would not want to read a book written by a woman.

Why was J.K. Rowling not in Harry Potter reunion? ›

Rowling Says She Didn't Want To Be A Part of the Reunion

The reason she says is because they weren't really about the books. “I was asked to be on that, and I decided I didn't want to do it,” said Rowling. “I thought it was about the films more than the books, quite rightly. That was what the anniversary was about.”

Why did J.K. Rowling use a pseudonym? ›

In another answer, Rowling addresses why she chose to write with a male persona: "I certainly wanted to take my writing persona as far away as possible from me, so a male pseudonym seemed a good idea.

Is Mrs Weasley still alive? ›

Whilst there is no announcement of a third Mamma Mia film, Dame Julie Walters is thankfully still alive and well.

Why was Dumbledore not in the reunion? ›

Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore)

One of the most notable absences from the reunion is Michael Gambon, who played Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore for the majority of the Potter films. Gambon took over the role following the death of Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

Who wasn't at the Harry Potter reunion? ›

J.K. Rowling is finally breaking her silence on why she didn't appear on the HBO Max special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. The author of the books that spawned the successful movies revealed that her absence from the reunion was simply because it was not something she wanted to do.

Is J.K. Rowling richer than the Queen? ›

So, yeah, J. K. Rowling is rich. In fact, she's richer than the Queen of England. The once beloved and now controversial writer has made an absolute fortune off The Boy Who Lived—she's currently one of the wealthiest authors in the world.

What religion is J.K. Rowling? ›

However, the author of the series, J. K. Rowling, describes herself as a Christian, and many have noted the Christian references which she includes in the final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

How do you pronounce J.K. Rowling's last name? ›

Nobody Knows How to Pronounce JK Rowling's Name (Potter ... - YouTube

Does J.K. Rowling like the Harry Potter movies? ›

J.K. Rowling's Biggest Regrets about the Harry Potter Series Revealed!

Did J.K. Rowling write the secrets of Dumbledore? ›

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a 2022 fantasy film directed by David Yates from a screenplay by J. K. Rowling and Steve Kloves.

Is J.K. Rowling involved in Hogwarts legacy? ›

The team behind Hogwarts Legacy has repeatedly stated that J.K. Rowling is not directly involved with the production, direction of the title, or its narrative. They have specified that the game is merely based on the wizarding world and its lore, while the developers have attempted to chart new territories for players.

What pen does J.K. Rowling use? ›

She's a billionaire author now, but when Harry Potter scribe J. K. Rowling drafted her famous series about the boy wizard, she used good old-fashioned loose-leaf paper and pen. The Sherlock Holmes author wrote several of his works with a Parker Duofold pen.

Will there be a 7th Cormoran Strike book? ›

On Tuesday, 12th April, J.K. Rowling, on replying to someone on Twitter, revealed that she is currently working on the seventh book in the Strike series! Currently on #7.
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How do you legally write under a pen name? ›

You can register a manuscript under a pen name at the copyright office (www.copyright.gov). You'll have to provide some information, including your real address. But if you really want to keep your true identity under wraps, set up a post office box and have information from the office sent there.

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