JK Rowling last night revealed her dark side – admitting she was "obsessed" by death as she discussed her highly anticipated new novel.
The Casual Vacancy, her first book aimed at adults, was released at 8am yesterday morning, and the celebrated writer took to the stage of London's Queen Elizabeth Hall 12 hours later. Rowling rarely appears in public but held her poise when met by a standing ovation from large sections of the sell-out crowd of 900. The tickets had sold out in just 48 hours.
When asked about the adult subject matter of a book that starts with a death, the author said: "Death obsesses me. I can't understand why it doesn't obsess everybody." She later added that writing about death "has made me much less afraid of it".
Rowling said her view was coloured by her mother dying when she was 25, and being part of an aged family. "People did die a lot in my teens," she said.
The Casual Vacancy is set in the fictional town of Pagford and follows the chaos that ensues after the demise of a local parish counsellor.
The themes are adult, covering subjects including heroin addiction, prostitution, drug dealing and rape. "This isn't Harry, Ron and Hermione. These are very different teenagers; contemporary teenagers," Rowling told the audience. She added: "I genuinely think that this is a humorous book. Some of that humour may be dark."
While the release of The Casual Vacancy has met with mixed reviews from the critics, there was nothing but adoration last night.
She was interviewed on stage by BBC journalist Mark Lawson, who kicked off proceedings by talking about the author's involvement with the Olympic opening ceremony, where she read a passage from Peter Pan. "It's one of the best things I've ever, ever done. I was proud to be part of it."
After 15 years, much of the Harry Potter references are "white noise" but the sight of Voldemort rising up at the ceremony gave her "a full body chill. It was a big moment for me."