Amanuensis (amanuensis1) wrote,

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META: The Interview JKR Never Gave: Epic Romance and Teenage Romance

*Just to avoid any potential confusion: This is meta, I wrote it, wrote it in this format because it felt the right way to present it, and it should not be attributed to JK Rowling in any way.

You know, after Half-Blood Prince, the discussions about Snape's loyalties are heated, but so is the aftermath regarding the romances. Do you want to comment on that?

Well, first let me say that I think it's lovely that readers care so much. You're right; I've set things up for there to be so much reader debate about Snape that it surprises me there's so much controversy about Harry and his romance! But I think I understand, at least a little, why reader expectations are so broadly divided on this.

I want everyone to remember: Harry is sixteen. He's a schoolboy, has been through the whole series. Now, many of my readers are younger and a good number of them are older, but that doesn't stop the youngest and most hopeful or the oldest and wisest from having similar longings and dreams for Harry. I think--I hope I can say this without sounding too immodest!--I think a lot of people have really fallen in love with Harry, the character of Harry. I don't just mean a sweet little "I want to grow up and marry Harry" that my youngest readers might feel. I mean they really care, youngest and oldest both. And I think they're at the stage where they're so invested in what happens to Harry that even his schoolboy romances have significance as if they were Epic Romance.

But I didn't intend to have epic romance for Harry. What we have is a boy who's got his first flutterings and his first crush, and then his first time when he gets his hopes crushed, and then we have the point where his hormones ramp up and he gets fixated on a girl he'd like to have a real bit of teenage romance with--hugs and kisses and hand-holding and all that.

And that's Ginny.

Yes. That's the thing. Ginny's always been there, but she hasn't been someone he's been in love with, not until recently. In fact he's not even been really friends with her. And I think that's what a lot of people are on about, the whole issue of being friends with someone before you become romantic with them. Yes, sometimes your bosom friend becomes your sweetheart. And that's lovely, but it doesn't always work that way. It especially doesn't always work that way with young people. Sometimes it's a sudden physical attraction rather than something that builds from friendship. And if you think about it, many--dare I say, most--long-term friendships don't become romances, otherwise you'd have romantic relationships with nearly all of your friends, wouldn't you. And we know that's not so. We have more friends than we have romances.

Is that the whole "men and women can't be friends" thing?

Well, you're leaving out part of that; the saying goes on to say it's because one of them will always be thinking about being romantic partners with the other. And I think they may think it, yes, but that doesn't prevent the friendship. There may be that moment on the part of one or both of them, wondering, but if they decide it's not in the cards then the friendship will weather.

Harry's attraction to Ginny is more of the sort of thing that happens to teenagers, though. Ginny's not his close friend, but she's friendly--we saw in Order of the Phoenix that she's become more of a pleasing, regular person for him to be around. And she's supportive of him: in Quidditch, in Dumbledore's Army, in the Ministry of Magic. Also, remember that she's younger. When they're first discovering romantic feelings, boys tend to look towards older girls at first; that's why Harry's first stirrings were for Cho. And Cho was a lot of things for Harry: first crush, first kiss, first date...first disillusionment. Which, again, is a huge feature of teenage romance. People who wanted epic romance are likely very sad Harry and Cho didn't stay together but it was more important for me to make Harry a normal boy with those normal teenage ups and downs than it was for me to find him a life-long love.

And the age difference between an 11- and 12-year-old is huge; between a 15- and 16-year-old, though, not so much.

Exactly. Ginny, being younger than Harry, doesn't really come into Harry's notice until they're both older. I suppose that's where some readers feel disappointed that we didn't see their relationship growing throughout the series, but, really, it doesn't grow, exactly, until they are both of an age to have it happen. I mean, yes, Ginny has that early crush on him, but girls are a bit precocious about that sort of thing, aren't they? And by the time she's 15 she's over that; she still likes Harry but she's no longer a prisoner of that girlish crush.

And by the time she's 15 she's quite fit, isn't she?

There's that! Some of the debate says that Ginny came out of nowhere, but she didn't, did she? She's there as an established character from the first book. But it's Harry's feelings for her that do suddenly spring up in Half-Blood Prince. Even he's surprised by this; that's the whole point.

The monster in his chest.

Yes, sudden teenage longing--hormonal and demanding! And I think that startles, maybe even disappoints some readers who love Harry so well they want that epic romance for him, but that wasn't the idea I had for him. I mean, I wanted to establish Ginny as a likeable character: confident, competent, full of cutting humor, supportive of Harry. When Harry discovers his feelings for her I wanted readers to say, "Of course, who wouldn't like someone like her?" But that doesn't mean he's been in love with her for ages and ages. Epic romance--the sort that connects with your reader--needs more than just "who wouldn't like someone like her"; that's so. But this is above all teenage romance and not meant to be epic romance, and I think Ginny is a fine candidate to show that.

So some people may have wanted to see them be deeper friends first, and I think there may also be some crossover there with those readers who wanted to feel Harry would find the love of his life, and I'm sorry to disappoint them. I don't think it's unreasonable or silly of them to want that, no, but I ask them to keep in mind that Harry's a schoolboy. The majority of his romantic life lies in his future--if he can survive!

And is that with Ginny? Assuming he does survive, of course!

Well, I can't give that away completely, can I. Harry and Ginny have parted, I did show that. I won't say whether there could or couldn't be a future for them. If they do come together again it will be as different people, you see, after the events on which Harry's focused, and that's going to change him and the same amount of time can't help but change her. When you're young like that a year's a very long time. And the change could make them into people with deeper reasons for attraction or it could pull them even further apart from where they are now. They would need those deeper reasons before they can have anything like epic romance. You'll notice that the two of them don't even say "I love you" when they part. Ginny has to fall back on "that's why I like you so well," not because she's being coy but because even she feels that they aren't old enough for Epic Romance. It's why they can part, why Harry can see that he cares for her very much and worries about how her very life could be threatened by being attached to him, but his romance with her is very sweet and teenage; she's not the rock who gives him his strength or anything so dramatic. If she were she'd have been part of that declaration that Ron and Hermione gave Harry, that they are the two who will be with him through thick and thin, no matter the cost. And why Harry can't tell them no, because they're the ones he can't help but depend on.

So the trio's not going to become a quartet.

It can't. Not this late in the series. I think I showed that at the end of Book Six, didn't I. Ginny, you understand, hasn't been sufficiently established as one of Harry's pillars of strength during the series. If Ginny had been established early on in the series as a companion to the three, if she'd been more intimately a friend to Harry, then it could have been done. Had I intended that, she'd have been playing progressively greater roles in each book, but she is very much relegated to the background in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, only becoming a greater presence in Order of the Phoenix. But if I'd done that, then I would also have been establishing that I wanted epic romance for Harry. And I didn't. I wanted his romance with Ginny to be a moment of "Look at me, I'm just like other normal teenagers for a moment, aren't I?" That's how I love Harry. I love him so much I wanted to give him a chance to be a normal boy for a bit.

Before you do more awful things to him.

Sadly, yes.
Tags: meta
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