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The Casual Vacancy: Rowling's first interviews
24.09.12 | Charlotte Williams
J K Rowling chose Little, Brown publisher David Shelley to publish The Casual Vacancy "without him knowing" she had written another book and because she wanted to avoid a publishing auction, Rowling has said in her first interview (the Guardian, Saturday 22nd September).
She told the newspaper: "The moment I said I'd finished a book, I knew what would happen. There would be a bidding war, and I would end up with someone who'd got the fattest wallet, who had bought it because I'd written Harry Potter. That would have been why." She stressed her meeting with Shelley meant "there was no auction".
Rowling's The Casual Vacancy will be published by Little, Brown on Thursday (27th), and the interview revealed details of the plot, and the fact that it is written from multiple perspectives. Meanwhile, articles in papers including the Independent on Sunday and the Telegraph reported that the number of online pre-orders for the book has topped one million, with booksellers affirming that it is likely to be one of the bestselling books in the run-up to Christmas.
Little, Brown had revealed in April that the book will be set in the English town of Pagford, following what happens after parish council member Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly and the town goes to war over the empty seat.
Other central characters in the book, Rowling's first for adults, will include Terri Weedon, described as "a prostitute, junkie and lifelong casualty of chilling abuse", trying to stay clean so social services don't take her three-year-old son Robbie into care. Her daughter Krystal takes on the bulk of Terri's responsibilities, but is "cast dangerously adrift" after Barry's death as he had been her "one adult ally". The Weedons live on the Fields, a council estate close to the West Country town, and the book will centre of issues of class, and is described as "a parable about national politics", satirising "the ignorance of elites who assume to know what's best for everyone".
In an interview for the New Yorker, Rowling says the connecting line between the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy are the themes of "mortality and morality", with the interviewer describing Fairbrother as having the same qualities as Potter: "tolerance, constancy, a willingness to act". The article says the story is "driven by the long-standing frustration that some of Barry's disagreeable and right-wing neighbours have about the town's administrative connection to the Fields", with the anti-Fields faction of the council seeing an opportunity to cut off the estate from the town and stop its children going to Pagford's primary school.
The interview also includes two quotes from the book as examples of how far Rowling has moved from writing from children: "The leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed," and a description of a lustful boy sitting on a school bus "with an ache in his heart and in his balls".
In the Guardian interview, Rowling also discussed her insecurity over publishing her first book since the Harry Potter series, saying: "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."
Both interviews include the fact that Rowling had the idea for the book while on a plane, touring America to promote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.