JK Rowling says its 'painful' her mother never knew of her best-selling success
JK Rowling has spoken of how her mother's death from multiple sclerosis (MS) had a major impact on her as a teenager as she became the first person ever to guest edit Women's Hour.
The Harry Potter author, who will use Monday morning’s BBC Radio 4 show to highlight issues close to her heart, says that her mother Anne’s death in 1990, at the age of 45, was an “enormous shock”.
Rowling, who set up the Anne Rowling Clinic to research neurological diseases in her memory, said the aggressive form of MS that ravaged her mother for a decade has changed her life forever.
“She always seemed very young,” she said. “She was very fit, she was a non-smoker, non-drinker, and I say all of this because of course then for her to be diagnosed at 35 with an illness that would kill her was just the most enormous shock to us and everyone who knew her.”
It had an “enormous impact” on her family, bringing “guilt and worry and anxiety” into her life, she said.
“It was dealing with the daily reality of somebody who’s starting not to be able to walk as well as they had, and for such an active person that was a real privation.”
But one of her greatest sadness’s, the 48-year-old said, is that her mother, a “passionate reader”, never knew about her career as she only started writing Harry Potter six months before her death. At the time she was “secretive” about her work, something she now regrets.
“Yes, she didn’t know, she never knew about Harry Potter – I started writing it six months before she died, so that is painful. I wish she’d known,” she said.
Her mother, who had the most “contagious laugh”, would have proud of her success and considered writing to be “a very valuable thing”.
Since she discovered fame and fortune, Rowling has became heavily involved in charity work. She agreed her wealth puts her in an incredibly privileged position, and said she wants “to use my power for good not evil” and said that even without her influence people can make a difference, as "we can change lives just by writing a letter".
She agreed it is "hard" to always feel the need to help, adding: “I do have this compulsion to try and make things better, and at the same time I would quite like to sit in a room and write books, which is my idea of enjoying the world, so yes, I am quite conflicted in that,” Rowling said.
She said the need to do good was a “key part” of her and was reflected in the Harry Potter character Hermione, whose attempts to raise money to free the house-elves came from her personal experience.
The programme is part of a Woman’s Hour Takeover which will see shows guest edited throughout the week by Kelly Holmes, Naomi Alderman, Doreen Lawrence and Lauren Laverne.