Harry Potter


"Has Harry Potter finally lost his magic for JK Rowling?"

by Paul Gallagher ("The Scotsman," August 8, 2001)

In the world of Harry Potter and his friends it would be put down to the work of the dreaded Dementors.


The poet John Keats overcame it by putting on his best shirt and shoes, while Kingsley Amis would go and have a shower. Writer’s block, the literary paralysis which afflicts some of the greatest creative minds, can drive authors insane with frustration.

Wordsworth described it as the "long continued frost" as he tried to overcome bouts of writer’s block by writing poems about it.

Joseph Conrad was particularly tormented, with the novelist once writing: "I want to howl and foam at the mouth". And E.M. Forster was another sufferer saying: "I’m dried up, I cannot write at all."

Psychologist Zachary Leader, who has studied writer’s block, said the condition is found in all authors but is still not understood.

He added: "For the early Romantic poets, not being able to write was the subject of much of their verse. Writers such as Mark Twain regarded it as ‘priming the pump’ part of the creative process, allowing a field to lie fallow so it will be fertile."

Anthony Burgess dismissed it out of hand while Samuel Johnson said: "A man may write at any time if he will set himself doggedly to it."

Publication of the schoolboy wizard’s long-awaited fifth adventure has been postponed again amid speculation author JK Rowling is struggling with writer’s block.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was originally due out this summer but was put back six months, to the dismay of millions of readers around the world.

Edinburgh-based Rowling then went abroad for an extended holiday last month without having delivered a single word of the manuscript to her publishers.

The latest estimate for the publication date has now been made for July 2002 at the earliest and is likely to be later.

A spokeswoman for her publishers, Bloomsbury, said yesterday: "I’m afraid people will have to wait a little bit longer.

"We have not received a manuscript and the book is still not scheduled. All we can say is that it definitely won’t be released this year."

The company refused to comment on the reasons for the delay other than to say the author had been busy with other commitments.

Rowling, 35, suffered from writer’s block while composing the second book in the series and also confessed the fourth book nearly caused her a nervous breakdown when she lost track of the plot.

It led to her creating the book’s darkest characters - cold, faceless creatures called the Dementors which suck the life force from humans and send them insane.

Potter enthusiasts fear Rowling may now be struggling again under the weight of expectation generated by the international success of Harry Potter .

The phenomenal interest will be whipped up again in November this year with the release of the Hollywood film version of his first adventure.

Danuta Kean, news editor of The Bookseller magazine, said: "There is enormous pressure on her. Bloomsbury are very smart publishers and have done a fantastic job in keeping the momentum going. The level of interest in the books is without precedent within the book world."

It was Rowling herself who promised the Harry Potter series would be seven-volumes with a volume published every year.

They started with Harry joining Hogwarts School of Witchcraft at the age of 11 and in each successive book he has aged by a year.

The first four in the series have been released in July of the last four years, building up into an international publishing phenomenon with total sales of 100 million.

Fans celebrated Harry’s 15th birthday last week on 31 July and are still desperate for news of when they will read about his latest adventures.

The manuscript was due to be delivered to Bloomsbury in January.

A spokeswoman for the publishers added: "A decision on the publication date will not be made until we have got a manuscript. We are in a situation where we expect it when we see it, there is not a deadline."

When Bloomsbury announced in March that the fifth book would not be out in time for this summer’s holiday season, shares in the company dipped by five points.

The author famously started writing the Potter books while struggling to make ends meet as a single mother. She is currently taking a month’s holiday on Mauritius with her partner, 30-year-old doctor Neil Murray, and daughter Jessica, eight. There has been speculation she will marry Mr Murray during the break.

The delay in publication of the fifth book has caused frustration among Harry Potter fans around the world with its release date the source of massive speculation on the 100-plus internet websites.

Amazon.com announced last month the book would not be released until July 2002 and has set up a facility on its website for fans who wish to be the first to order a copy.

But the gap year has led to some young enthusiasts turning on the author and hinting they may have lost interest in Harry’s adventures by the time the book is finally published.

A poll on one unofficial site had fans voting for the option "I will not read the book because it is taking too long". A quarter of them said: "It stinks. JK Rowling needs to write faster."

However, the majority of fans were more understanding, with 58 per cent opting to vote: "It’s OK. JK Rowling needs time".

A spokeswoman for Rowling’s literary agent would only said: "I can’t tell you anything other than the book is being worked on. There is no release date but it won’t be until next year. There is no indication of when it will be."