On Harry Potter

I wish everyone would shut up about Harry Potter.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m as compulsive a reader of every new installment as any twelve year-old, and I delight in JK Rowling’s cheerful breaking of every rule listed in those manuals on How To Write Successful Children’s Books.
Like those twelve year-olds, there are many times I wish I was Harry Potter. Or maybe Hermoine. Or maybe JK Rowling.
But anyway why oh why does every person on the planet now assume that every writer for children is about to become a millionaire? Damn it – a billionaire.
This is how it goes –
Polite person at party: And what do you do?
Me (blushing): I’m a writer [thinking … Can I leave now? Nobody would notice]
PPP: How lovely. And what do you write?
Me (blushing even more): Adventure books for children
PPP: Ah! I see. Like Harry Potter!
Me: Well, not really. There’s no magic in my books
PPP: Why on earth not? There’s lots of money in that, isn’t there?
Me: Um…
PPP: You’ll make a fortune
Me: I don’t think anybody does it for the money
PPP: Well, I haven’t heard of you. What did you say your name was? Where can I buy these famous books?
Me: They don’t come out for a few months yet.
PPP: Mark my words – you’ve made a smart move there [winks like Eric Idle]
… And so on. There’s little point discussing the recent British survey which found that most children’s writers (including quite famous ones) live on meagre incomes. Any self-respecting PPP simply wouldn’t believe me.
Eventually I disentangle myself, which is only possible because the PPP thinks they need to keep in my good books, so I’ll remember them when I’m rich. Sometimes they are being sweet and encouraging – at other times, they are sarcastic and deeply envious about my supposedly imminent and fabulous wealth, as if I’d somehow beaten them to a brilliant get-rich-quick scheme.
Still, I guess it’s an improvement on the usual conversation which begins with the PPP (or taxi driver or shop assistant or anyone really) saying, “I’ve always fancied myself as a writer. I have this fantastic idea – perhaps I could dictate to you and you could scribble it down. It’s the story of my life. Fascinating stuff.”
And people wonder why writers become reclusive.

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