J.K. Rowling Isn't Hurting New Writers By Continuing to Write Laura Donovan

Earlier this year, I experienced Harry Potter Fatigue, and not for the first time, either.

J.K. Rowling said she wished she’d trusted her instincts and paired off Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, starting a firestorm and resurrecting tired, pointless discussions on the books. I wasn’t interested in reading extensively about Harry Potter anymore, but I appreciated just how dedicated Rowling was to the characters she’d given so much life, and the rest of the country did the same by purchasing her disappointing 2012 novel The Casual Vacancy. Though poorly reviewed, the book fared well on the market because people were so excited to get something new from Rowling, but fellow scribe Lynn Shepherd found this to be a major obstacle for writers trying to break into a tough industry and said it should not happen again.

In a recent op-ed for Huffington Post, Shepherd begged the Harry Potter mastermind to have fun with her earnings and give the book world a rest for a while, as it’s not Rowling’s “turn” on the playground swing set anymore, “By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn. Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.”

In addition to her call to action (or inaction), Shepherd admitted to never once picking up a Harry Potter installment, which she said shouldn’t be enjoyed by grown-ups anyway, “I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.”

Yes, Harry Potter is about a teenage wizard at a magical boarding school, but it contains a lot of dark and tragic themes adults can relate to. Orphaned as a baby, Harry grows up with his cruel aunt and uncle who shun him for his witchcraft background. He’s not just a boy who goes to Hogwarts to learn, but because it’s his only shot at having a meaningful life. Children can connect with Harry Potter because it’s about growing up in addition to spells, powers and magic, and adults can appreciate the story because of its melancholy undercurrent, which drove Rowling to finish the series in the first place. Before getting published, she was a struggling single mother in England, and though she suffered from depression as a result of failure, she used the negativity to create something amazing:

“[W]hy do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential…I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me,” she said at Harvard University’s 2008 graduation. “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

She has quite possibly one of the greatest Cinderella stories of all time, yet she’s also being told to back off the publishing world for a while and allow other writers to grow and thrive. As a writer myself, I understand the overwhelming intimidation of going up against big names in sales and page views, but isn’t that what competition is all about, and would anyone have said this to Stephen King when he dominated the book market for so long?

After facing serious backlash for her piece, Shepherd recanted her argument on Rowling, stating, “Many writers face the same challenges and frustrations when they’re just starting out, and J.K. Rowling did herself. She’s been a phenomenal success since then and has millions of fans who are passionate about her books. That’s an amazing achievement. With hindsight I’d have written my piece an entirely different way, as I never intended it to upset anyone, and I’m very sorry that it did.”

Shepherd certainly wasn’t arguing that Rowling should go away forever and never pick up a pen again, but it’s still unreasonable to ask someone to stop doing something they love simply so others may be recognized for their own productions. You don’t foster creativity by shutting down the creativity of a creative genius like J.K. Rowling.

Featured image via ShutterStock.

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  1. Shepherd is a twit.

  2. The only thing I would add is that people are allowed to buy and read whatever they want, whether that is a J.K. Rowling book or something by another author. Due to this, even if Rowling never wrote another book that is no guarantee that that the reader would pick up something by a different book, especially when you remember that a lot of people that read Rowling aren’t avid readers and are probably only reading her because they know who she is and loves what she does. So let Rowling publish without criticism so everyone can enjoy her creative talent, and they can pick up something from Shepherd if they want, too.

  3. Spot on, Laura. The fact that I want to be an actress will not make me write a letter to Meryl Streep asking her to “quit acting” cause, you know, she’s just too good. If things worked this way we would be deprived of so much talent in this world. There is room for everyone to shine.

  4. “…it’s still unreasonable to ask someone to stop doing something they love simply so others may be recognized for their own productions. You don’t foster creativity by shutting down the creativity of a creative genius like J.K. Rowling.” In addition, writers should work to create art that they feel is better than what’s already been written. They should aspire to write work that hasn’t been created yet. Competition should not only accepted but should excite writers, challenging them to create greater works. Oh, Lynn. Grow up. And her comment on adults and HP was quite immature, wow.

  5. I sense some jealousy from Lynn. She seems to have a strange set of rules about what a successful writer should or should not be doing. Additionally in her strange little world adults are not allowed to enjoy a book originally marketed toward children. If she even bothered to read the series she would find that the characters and situations grow into a more adult world. The final couple of books are so dark that I would hardly put them into children’s category.

  6. I do not see her point at all.. Nor do I like her insinuation on what people should and should not read, at whatever point in their lives. Reading and writing are very personal activities and as such are solely a personal choice. Not a fan of that kind of snobbery. If there’s a market for JKR’s books still, why should she not publish (even if there weren’t who’s Shepard to say what she should and should not do)? Sounds like someone is afraid of competition.

    Totally agree with your last line, completely on point!

  7. It could be worse, you could be trying to write books for older children/ preeteens and be up against Jacqueline Wilson! Or should Jackie Collins also stop writing romance novels in case there are authors trying tongetbtheir foot in the door there to? Every genre has a stand out name that dominates the bestselling list that any new authjour will have to compete with. It’s up to publishers to take a chance on new authors, not for authours to step down!

  8. There’s a certain level of writing, representation, and belief in the author’s selling power required by all publishers before putting money into a book; I doubt Rowling’s recent showings are taking that away from any currently aspiring novelists.

  9. This was clearly a publicity stunt. I doubt anyone would know Shepard’s name today if she hadn’t taken such a polarizing stance and touted enmity with a wildly successful author. No way will I be reading her stuff–she clearly doesn’t have talent, anyway, if she is resorting to such cheap tricks in order to be recognized.

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