Rowling turned to therapy over her struggle with success
IT is set to be the publishing sensation of the year, with pre-orders of The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first novel for adults, running into the millions.
But while the Harry Potter phenomenon transformed her from an impoverished single mother into one of the world's richest authors, Rowling has admitted to struggling with her success, turning to therapy throughout her career.
Ahead of the publication of The Casual Vacancy, Rowling said that she had found her sudden success "incredibly disorienting".
The author, who has sold more than 450 million books since publishing her first Harry Potter book 15 years ago, said she had turned to therapy while feeling at "rock bottom" when writing her first book in Edinburgh, where she was living in a bedsit with her young daughter and surviving on benefits.
"And I had to do it again when my life was changing so suddenly -- and it really helped," she said. "I'm a big fan of it, it helped me a lot. For a few years I did feel I was on a psychic treadmill, trying to keep up with where I was. Everything changed so rapidly, so strangely. I knew no one who'd ever been in the public eye. I didn't know anyone to whom I could turn and say: 'What do you do?' So it was incredibly disorienting."
The author, who married her second husband, Neil Murray, a doctor, in 2001, said she had resorted to wearing a disguise while shopping for a wedding dress to escape the attentions of fans. Rowling, whose fortune is estimated at £560m (€695m) and who has given away more than £100m (€125m) to charity, said that she had also struggled with the huge number of demands to help others financially.
"You don't expect the pressure of it, in the sense of being bombarded by requests," she said. "I felt I had to solve everyone's problems. I was hit by this tsunami of demands."
The Casual Vacancy is set to become an instant bestseller when it is published on Thursday. Although details have been kept a closely-guarded secret, a few strands of the plot have emerged.
The story opens with the death of Barry, a parish councillor in a fictional West Country village that neighbours the Fields, a deprived council estate. Snobbish residents hope to fill Barry's seat with a new councillor who will vote to reassign responsibility of the Fields to a neighbouring council. The campaign to elect a successor begins to unravel as candidates jostle for position and anonymous messages begin appearing on the parish council website exposing villagers' secrets. The Casual Vacancy sees Rowling turning to more adult themes -- one of the central characters, Terri Weedon, is a prostitute and drug addict struggling to keep her three-year-old son out of social care.
Rowling, 47, said the novel poked fun at Britain's middle-class and that she had drawn inspiration from those closest to her. "I've laid my friends bare," she said. "We're a phenomenally snobby society and it's such a rich seam. The middle class is so funny, it's the class I know best, and it's the class where you find the most pretension, so that's what makes the middle classes so funny."
Rowling, who is based in Edinburgh, also said she opposed proposals for Scottish independence and would vote against it in a referendum. "I'm pro Union," she said. It is the first time Rowling has publicly stated which way she would vote should a referendum be held in 2014, the date put forward by the Scottish National Party.