Just back from Simon Mayo's FiveLive radio show where I talked a bit about Harry Potter and what he means to me. Also there was Julia Eccleshare from the Guardian and Boyd Hilton from Heat.
The converstaion was interesting but, with time being short, didn't really get into any nitty-gritty stuff. So I'll do that here.
1. How great a hero is Harry Potter in the pantheon of children's characters? Okay, he has to be near the top, but I do prefer Bilbo Baggins. Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird is also one of the best, though there's some debate if it's a kid's book or not (I think it is).
Harry's the perfect fairy tale character. All children (and many adults too) have the fantasy they're secretly princes and princesses, destinied for greatness. Their imaginations free them from their daily existence and the special destiny is a powerful fairy tale archetype, Cinderella. Rags to riches. That sort of thing. Harry starts off frail, weak, forced to do all the cooking and cleaning for his step-family, dresses in rags. Cinderella through and through. But it's the power of the Invite (Hogwarts or the Ball) that start his journey out of the Ordinary and into the Special World. Rowlings has been accused of being derivative, but I think every writer or creator is derivative. True orginals are extraordinarily rare and I can't think of one particularly, maybe Piccasso? Biblo's small, frail, pout upon and (unlike Harry) gets dragged into an adventure way bigger than him. His archetype is the Quest story, rather than rages to riches. Also, he has a clearer character growth and the setting is seamless, while Rowlings' style, especailly in Philosopher's Stone, is VERY Roald Dahl (though in a good way, but acts as a slight distraction since the Dahlesque flurishes are pretty strong). Scout's the truest children's character out of them all, because she is utterly ordinary and perfectly written. Lee totally gets back into what being eight was and felt like, probably better than any other writer.
Russia- I'm off tomorrow and will report back. Have a long list of places to visit. Very excited with this.
Short Stories in the Templar World- This is a project I've been working on. Now Devil's Kiss is out it feels a long wait until The Dark Goddess. So I'm preparing a series of short stories dealing with the Tempalrs, past and present, than will fill in events I refer to in DK, and include hints to what's coming up in book 2. The first one's almost done and is called THE BODMIN ACCORD. It's about the deal the Templars ahve with the local werewolves. Since Book 2 is wall to wall carpets of the hairy blighters It'll clue you in to the sort of people Billi will be dealing with in The Dark Goddess. Pretty dangerous people.
It'll go up in a week or two.