DWJ's answers: Harry Potter

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Aug 30 11:04:57 EDT 2001

On Mon, 27 Aug 2001 22:06:51 +0100 (BST), shelly at the-seasiders.co.uk wrote:

>(Sorry if this has already been covered - I have looked through the archives but didn't see anything.)
>DWJ's comments about Harry Potter plus a programme yesterday on the television about J K Rowling have made me think again about the HP books (of wch I am not a fan). I'm a bit baffled about why DWJ explicitly says JKR was influenced by her:
>DWJ: "I enjoyed the Harry Potter books, but I did find some parts of them strangely familiar."

When we talked about this (briefly) before it was in reference to some
letters DWJ had answered on the official DWJ web site where she does the
same thing.  My reaction is that she always says this in response to some
fan asking "why do you think the Harry Potter books are like yours?"  I
think it's intended to be reassuring that No, J.K. Rowling has not committed
copyright abuse, and No, I don't think she's stealing from me.  

>Apart from the magical milieu, I can't see many similarities. Yes, in Witch Week DWJ uses a boarding school setting, but it's not a school to teach magic, and there are other much more striking examples - the Worst Witch books, for instance. The book DWJ refers to is Charmed Life, but the basic proposition of the hero developing magic talents has been used in many other books (Susan Cooper's, for example).

I don't see any real similarities either, other than the ones that have
already been pointed out.  I think it really is a case (as Philip says) of
people having no experience with the wealth of children's fantasy in which
magical people co-exist in our world with "normal" ones, and magic is taught
systematically rather than occurring spontaneously and rarely.  The first
book I read in this vein was neither HP nor DWJ but _The Dragon Circle_ by
Stephen Krensky.  The Wynd family are a bunch of wizards who have to learn
to control their abilities, and the youngest is (of course) really bad at
it.  I don't know when it was written because my copy is falling apart and
missing the title page, but I know I was reading it when I was nine or ten.
(The library database says 1977.)

>So two questions. Firstly, can anyone point to more striking similarities between DWJ and JKR? Secondly, has anyone seen any interviews with JKR where she has discussed her literary influences? The stories told about how the idea of Harry Potter can to her on a train seem to imply an out-of-nowhere conception.

There was one interview printed in Reader's Digest in which she said
something about Jane Austen being the best ever and _Emma_ the pinnacle of
literary perfection to which we all aspire.  (This is more or less a
faithful paraphrase.)  I wouldn't have guessed it, but it shows remarkable
good taste on her part.  :)  I wonder if I still have it lying around the
house somewhere.  It might be available on the Internet as well.  I want to
say it was November 2000, but that seems like a really long time ago....

Melissa Proffitt
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