Kidding aside, we are now two and a half months away from the final film's opening (*sniff*), and this has got me thinking on my own experiences with Harry. I was in high school when the books started getting attention. My mom gave me the first book on tape for Christmas and I remember thinking, "Psh. A kid's book? Lame!"
Famous last words.
Harry had me at hello. I was hooked. I became an unrepentant Potter junkie. This was back in the days before I started driving, so I would listen to the tapes on a clanky old walkman while I fed horses and cleaned stalls in the evenings. Even now, more than ten years later, the smells of horses, hay, and dust that hit me every time I step into my barn trigger a sense memory that instantly transports me back to Hogwarts.
Jim Dale's incomparable vocal performance as the books' narrator only added to the fun. I didn't actually read a Harry Potter book until I got halfway through HALF-BLOOD PRINCE and left the tapes in my car behind a theatre with the windows cracked (insert forehead smack here). Needless to say, those tapes disappeared. While I pinched my brother's copy of the book to find out what happened next, I still forked over the dough to buy another HBP on tape because I couldn't bear to have an incomplete set.
PRISONER OF AZKABAN and DEATHLY HALLOWS are my favorite books story-wise, but ORDER OF THE PHOENIX holds an especially fuzzy place in my heart. PHOENIX came out in the summer of 2003, just before I traveled to South Africa for a study-abroad program. It's the longest book of the series, but of course I started listening the moment it came in the mail. I was only halfway through when my departure date arrived. No way was I waiting six whole weeks to finish the book, so I hauled all seventeen tapes to Africa with me in my backpack.
You know the part where Harry is trapped in Umbridge's office and the only person who can help him is Snape but he doesn't want to give anything away, so he finally yells, "He's got Padfoot! He's got Padfoot in the place where it's hidden!"? Yeah, I was traveling in a van from the Nelspruit airport to the Southern African Wildlife College with a bunch of uber jet-lagged students when that all went down.
Or, how about when Dumbledore finally tells Harry about the prophecy? I was in a van again, but this time we were on our way to Kruger National Park for our first game drive.
I was sitting out on my dorm room's back porch at night, marveling at the southern hemisphere's strange constellations when a certain important character received the killing curse and fell through the veil in the Department of Mysteries (*sniff* again). Even over the headphones, I could still hear the hyenas calling to each other in the distance on the other side of the campus's ten-foot-tall electrified fence.
Yep. We've shared some pretty neat adventures, Harry and I.
As a reader, I've wanted to experience Harry's world again and again, returning to every book more times than I care to admit. As a writer, I marvel at Rowling's skill at creating characters with depth and humanity, a complex mythology, multiple side plots and an epic, over-arching hero's quest that she had to sustain over seven books. This is the kind of writing that makes me go, "Dang. I wanna learn how to do that."
Which makes me wonder: Are there any stories that stick out in your mind the way Harry Potter has affected me?
BTW: The cafe where that interview takes place is called The Elephant House. It's where Rowling did much of her early writing on Harry Potter. I visited the cafe when I was in Edinburgh last summer, but alas, I had already eaten lunch that day and it was rather crowded, so I didn't go inside. Now I kinda wish I had. (Insert another forehead smack here.)