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JK Rowling

If you can’t annoy people, why write?

I’m not precious about writing, JK Rowling tells Simon Armitage in his Radio 4 podcast, The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed. “People always say, do you only write when you’re inspired? In my head I say, well, if I only write when I’m inspired, I’ve written half a book.” Writing is a job, not a passion: “We all love those moments of brilliant inspiration, but it’s the work you do after that counts.” So no dilly-dallying with writing rituals and background music? No, says Rowling. “I once wrote a paragraph of Harry Potter sitting on a public loo.”

She couldn’t afford to be precious. Today she’s the richest author in the world, but when she started writing the Harry Potter series she was broke, living in a tiny Edinburgh bedsit and writing in cafés. “My flat was bitterly cold – cafés were warm.”

Fame brought central heating, but also plenty of scrutiny. Recently Rowling was “cancelled” after she clashed with trans activists on Twitter. “I don’t go out to provoke. I’m honest about what I believe, and that comes with criticism.” Besides, “I don’t want success to make me cowardly”. She has a Kingsley Amis quotation written on her study wall: “If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.”

Listen to the podcast here.