Last Saturday (6th October), Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) was interviewed by Graham Norton on BBC Radio 2, promoting the fourth Strike book, Lethal White. This is quite significant, since there’s only a small handful of Strike-focused interviews with Rowling out there (Galbraith doesn’t like doing interviews). You can listen to the full interview on BBC iPlayer here.
For those of you outside the UK who might not have access to the full interview, we have put together much of the interview transcript below.
Norton: The name Robert Galbraith: Where did it come from?
Rowling: I wanted not to be me. […] I’d always wanted to write crime and wanted to do it without any fanfare, so I submitted the manuscript anonymously and it was all great. I enjoyed getting rejection letters again. I obviously needed a pseudonym, and it was a little bit random really. Robert Kennedy was a hero of mine so I chose Robert, and Galbraith for some reason I always liked. And then when I was unmasked – when I was outed – people analysed the name as “Robert means a bright shining fame and Galbraith means stranger” and I was thinking “really? I had no idea!” But, you know, things get over analysed sometimes.
[…] The BBC actually approached Robert without knowing it was me, which put me in a real quandary. I had this bizarre meeting with my agent and editor and I said to them “Well, what do we do? It’s amazing they’ve contacted me wanting to adapt it for TV, but I can’t take this meeting!” And my agent, God bless him, Neil, he said, “Oh, we’ll just say Robert wants to get more books out before he commits” and I said “No! We can’t say that! J.K. may say that, Robert can’t say that, he’s a first-time author, he’d be biting their arm off!”
Norton: Is the [TV adaptation] in your head when you’re writing about Cormoran Strike? Do you see Tom?
Rowling: It’s a sort of hybrid. So I had a really clear mental image of my Cormoran Strike, as it were, and Tom is far more attractive than that Cormoran Strike I was seeing. And now I see a weird hybrid in my head because he is so brilliant in that role that I would definitely say he is visually in my head, though he’s playing the character exactly as the character in the book, so he doesn’t really influence the personality of the character.
Norton: Why is [Lethal White] set summer of the Olympics?
Rowling: The first book is set in 2010, and I chose to set it there because – and I do think in retrospect I was right – I had this weird sense that in 2010 we were coming to the end of something. I had this powerful sense that Britain was changing in some fundamental way. I think the financial crash had just happened and we were heading towards this new coalition government. So that’s why we’ve moved on 3-4 books and we’re now in 2012. I’m lagging behind time-wise. […] The Olympics was such an extraordinary time in London that I think it appealed to me a lot as a sort of a different kind of Britain.
Norton: When you started the books and you set the office on Denmark Street, did you know Denmark Street was a goner?
Rowling: Well, I didn’t know it was a goner. I knew it was sort of going, and that in itself is interesting because of what’s happening in London. […] Strike realises his beloved office might be sold out from under him.
Norton: Is there any political point you’re making [in Lethal White]?
Rowling: No, not really. At all. I think within the book there’s a Tory minister, there’s a Liberal Democrat minister, and there is a couple of hard-left activists, so I’m covering quite a big spectrum of political behaviour. I don’t think anyone is black to anyone else’s white.
Norton: How long did it take you to write Lethal White, and how far down the line do the BBC see it?
Rowling: Well, this one took quite a long time to write because I was simultaneously writing a play and two screenplays. Yeah, it was busier, and it’s the longest of the series so far, and probably has the most complex plot. But I loved writing it; I really enjoyed writing this book. It’s probably my favourite of the series in terms of how it turned out, but also just sheer enjoyment. I loved it; I really did. […] I think I could easily write ten of these.
Norton: That wedding is brilliantly awkward.
Rowling: My husband when he read that – because he read the manuscript as I was working on it – he read the first chapter and he came through to the kitchen wincing, and I said, “What’s the matter?” and he said, “I do not want to live that wedding through again” so I thought “so job well done, then!”
Norton (question from fan): “Which of the Strike novels was easiest, quickest to write?”
Rowling: […] It was the second one, The Silkworm, which was easiest and quickest to write, because I had that plot first but I chose to write it second.
Norton (question from fan): “How far ahead have you planned the world of Strike? You said you could do 10, but have you got another 6 stories in your head?”
Rowling: No, I don’t, but I do have a few. I know the plot of the next one and I think I know the plot for the one after that.
Norton (question from fan): “What was the last book you read and couldn’t put down?”
Rowling: The last thing I read and absolutely loved is quite an old book; it’s called the – it’s Caroline Blackwood – The Last [of the] Duchess, which is a very sinister book about the Duchess of Windsor.
Norton (question from fan): “Who are you most like: Strike or Robin?”
Rowling: I’m probably more like Strike. […] it’s a very satisfying way of talking about [fame] actually, through that character.
The interview also includes the song of Rowling’s choice: Wherever You Will Go by The Calling, which features in the first chapter of Lethal White. You can listen to the song below.