Saturday, July 21, 2007

Big Day for Imagination

by Nancy Northcott

I’m the newest bandita, and I’m excited to join the group! An ardent Anglophile, I love history, adventure, action, mystery and fantasy, so it’s pretty easy to find books I like. I live in the Piedmont (a fancy name for foothills) area of North Carolina, where the biggest city is Charlotte. When it comes to writing, I’m part pantser, with ideas coming as either the first scene or one of the last, and part plotter, spinning a synopsis out of that initial concept so I have a roadmap for the journey.

Today, of course, is Harry Potter day. We read the books aloud as a family, which is why I’m posting this in the wee hours. My husband will be going out to pick up a copy early in the morning, and we’ll embark on a family reading marathon. We just saw and enjoyed the fifth movie, so we’re well primed.

There are a lot of theories to explain the popularity of this series, which draws on many currents of literary tradition. At the bottom line, though, the explanations all seem to boil down to J. K. Rowling’s imagination. She took elements from literature, fantasy, and classicism and synthesized them with endearing and/or intriguing characters to hook the world. There’s power for you!

The weather here makes reading even more appealing than usual. This week hasn’t been so bad, but we’ve been promised a return to temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. Of course, we can escape the heat by visiting some fine area museums or walking in the shady woods at a raptor center, where injured birds of prey receive medical care and, if they can’t survive in the wild, a home. They’re all great places to visit, but I suspect a lot of people here will be curled up with a big, fat book for the next few days.

Thanks for reading along on my first bandita blog. I hope you all have a great weekend. By the time you read this, I’ll probably be off in the company of wizards.


Anna Campbell said...

Welcome, Nancy! So glad you decided to take up a life of crime and become a fellow Bandita. The place you live sounds gorgeous. I'd love to see more of the States. I guess if I keep coming to conferences over there, that wish will be fulfilled!

I think you're right about the Harry Potter books - they're a synthesis of all kinds of things but the characterisation is the heart of it. You really care about the people in those stories and you want them to win.

In contrast to you guys, we're actually having the coldest July on record. I've been shivering in my shoes ever since I got back. Brrr!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, we're so glad to have you with us! As you know, I love Charlotte and have family there. I would love to live there again!

My own Harry Potter book has been held hostage by UPS since the 19th and should be delivered today. Hopefully early today. I have read all the previous books aloud to my daughters (and sometimes my husband *g*). I'm not sure if they'll want me to read this one, since they are teenagers now. But I hope so!

And while Anna C. is shivering in her woolies, it has been hot as blazes in Raleigh, so I plan to stay indoors quite a bit this weekend and read!

Though perhaps I should write. Rowling's books didn't magically write themselves, you know. Or did they? Hmm...

Christine Wells said...

Hi Nancy! Welcome to the lair and what a great initial post! I love Harry Potter and I agree about the way Rowling has drawn on so many different influences. The characterisation is wonderful too but I wouldn't underestimate the value of those dark undercurrents of danger and death either. HP is one series where you really believe this one boy has more power than any adult and he lives on the knife's edge in every book.

I think that in the same way people find crime fiction (if the crime is solved) reassuring, children find Harry's ability to triumph over the greatest evil the world has ever known extremely empowering. Harry often disobeys rules where he sees the need--and wins the day as a result. He displays the ability to think for himself and he's rewarded for it. This is like real life in the adult world, but kids aren't encouraged to question authority.

Sorry, this is becoming a tome! It's a fascinating subject. Can't wait to read HP7. I'm going to have to wrestle my husband for it, though!

Joan said...

Confession #415:

I've never read a Harry Potter book.

Yes, I know. How can I, a writer not have delved into this phenomena?

Not really sure. I am a big fan of fantasy/paranormal/sci fi fiction and have several plots for such steeping in the back of my brain but just have never been caught up in this enthusiasm.

I did watch part of the first movie on a flight home from Ireland. One thing I remember from that was thinking that one wizard guy had been in "Gladiator".

You may now stare at me in astonishment (or horror) as you will. :-)

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Nancy - glad to have you with us!

I'm still awaiting the audio book from the UK. I find JK Rowling a little hard to read, but love having it read to me by such a talented actor.

Characterisation is key, but I also think she does a fabulous job of plotting. Not just within a book, but across the series. I once attended a wonderful workshop by Eloisa James where she analyzed the plot of Prisoner of Azkaban and illustrated the various plot threads on a spreadsheet. It was an eye-opener! Esoecially when she then analysed one of her own ms and showed how she amended it to have a better flow of plot threads.

It's a lovely sunny day here in NJ - though we watch the flood waters in our home town of Beverley in England with trepidation. Our house escaped the last one ... let's hope it does again!

Kirsten said...

Great to have you with us, Nancy! I'm a Harry Potter fan, but not a rabid one, so I'm going to wait a bit for the frenzy to die down before I get my book. I have an unending respect for Rowling's imagination and world building.

I'm enjoying a week of 70s and rain (on and off) in the Pacific Northwest. This is my favorite weather! I hate it too hot or too cold. Basically, I'm a complete weather whimp, even though I grew up in Buffalo NY, and went to school in NC. I guess that's why I fell in love with Oregon and have been so happy here ever since we moved. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Welcome, Nancy! It's so nice to have you here, and your area sounds beautiful.

I'm near the beach in Venice, California, and today is typical for this time of year - a mild marine layer that will burn off by noon and make way for blue skies and sunshine in the 70's. Ho-hum. *g*

While you're enjoying Harry Potter, I'll be reading all about Harry Pye in THE LEOPARD PRINCE. I confess I'm a big fan of yours and I'm loving this series! Can't wait for book three!

Christie Kelley said...

Great post, Nancy. And Welcome to the bandits!

Like Joan, I'll duck now while saying I've only read 1/2 of the first HP book. I did like what I read but never went back to it.

Maybe someday I'll get back into them since my oldest son has all the books. He's anxiously waiting for the mail to come with the box from Amazon.

Keira Soleore said...

Nancy, welcome to the Banditas group and blog (from a non-Bandita). I really like this tradition you have of reading the book aloud together as a family. Makes the book far more exciting that way, I'm sure. So are you ordering food in, and what kind of breaks do you take in such a marathon?

V.Anna: WOW, Eloisa is amazing as always. I was rather bummed to miss her workshop in Dallas. Did you go?

Joan: I think of Harry Potter as a cross between Enid Blyton and Tolkein.

Big question Banditas: Do you think Rowling will write again?

Helen said...

Hello Nancy and welcome from a Bandita fan. I love Harry Potter books and movies I stood in a line yesterday morning waiting for my ordered copy to be released here in Australia at 9-01 am and I am halfway thru it ( I had my 18 month old Grandson for a few hours yesterday) I am loving it I have 3 daughters who are all reading it at the moment as well. Yes it is very cold here at the moment so we are rugged up reading together witch is fun.
Have Fun

Joan said...


Excellent question!

I think JK's phenomenal success supercedes even the old expression "a hard act to follow."

She doesn't need the money and the recognition and accolades are pretty wrapped up.

The expectations would be high...very high and you almost have to wonder if anyone even JK could live up to it.

But she's a writer. And writers HAVE to write.

Caren Crane said...

Wow, Keira, isn't that the $64k question? What in the world would Rowling write next? I will admit I had the same concern for Julia Quinn, though. After the phenom of the Bridgerton series, and the enormous success it experienced, I wondered how she could follow it up.

But, as Joan said, writers have to write. Julia Quinn seems to be having no trouble carrying on after the Bridgertons. And certainly, after the outlandish, unprecendented success of the Harry Potter books, Rowling will be able to get the editors to buy anything she writes. Even if it is very different for her, her name will sell at least the first book. And probably a second, third and fourth. As long as the books are good (if not great), she will keep selling.

Think of Stephen King. Even his bad books (and there have been some) have sold like gangbusters because of his early successes. And he has had wonderful books sprinkled throughout his career. We wait for the next one, just in case it's as great as whatever was our favorite. I'm sure Rowling will have success all of her writing life. One thing is for sure, though: she will write again.

Anna Sugden said...

Keira - shhh - I made only a few workshops, there was so much else going on. But I am going to ask Eloisa to do that one again sometime.

Yes, I think Jo Rowling will write again - but under a pseudonym. It's the only way she can do it - because she'll want to write, but won't want to be pressured into doing what people want.

Cassondra said...

Welcome Nancy! I carried mail to my 500 customers Saturday--Harry Potter Day--and was excited when I went to work because we were expecting the fans to be standing by their mailboxes waiting for their books. Severe consequences were intoned for those who might accidentally deliver a book a day early (horrors!).

I had not one. Not ONE! I was so disappointed. All my HP fans went to the midnight party or reserved copies at the store I suppose.

But it called my attention once again to the amazing cultural phenomenon that Rowling has brought about, all by listening to that muse. All by sending it in anyway, and believing in her work despite circumstances and discouragements along the way.

With the energy of so many "believers" behind her characters, I can't imagine what it must be like to say goodbye to them. Or how she will move on to her next writing.

Excellent and timely subject, though I'm late with my comments.

Beth said...

Welcome, Nancy! So glad you've joined us *g*

I've only read part of the first HP as well but keep telling myself I'll go back and read the entire series ;-)