‘My most influential writer, without a doubt, is Jessica Mitford.’
J. K. Rowling
‘I always say the same thing, which is to read as much as you possibly can. Nothing will help you as much as reading and you'll go through a phase where you will imitate your favourite writers and that's fine because that's a learning experience too and you'll also have to accept that you are going to hate a lot of the things you write before you find you like something.’
J. K. Rowling interviewed by Stephen Fry at Albert Hall
Jo described herself as a bookish child. Her love of reading didn’t diminish in later life by all accounts. She loved Jane Austen’s Emma and described it as the ‘most skilfully managed mystery I’ve ever read.’ According to Sean Smith’s Biography, Jo loves Jane Austen so much that she ‘reads the novels continuously in rotation.’
She also liked Edith Nesbit’s writings. In one of her early interviews she said that, ‘The first of my chosen books is the famous story of the six Bastable children, who set out to restore the "fallen fortunes" of their house: The Story Of The Treasure Seekers by E Nesbit. I think I identify with E Nesbit more than any other writer. She said that, 'by some lucky chance, she remembered exactly how she felt and thought as a child, and I think you could make a good case, with this book as Exhibit A, for prohibition of all children's literature by anyone who cannot remember exactly how it felt to be a child.’
In February 3, 2000, Joanne was interviewed online where she perhaps revealed the single most influential author on the Harry Potter stories.
Interviewer: Do you have a role model, if so, who?
J. K. Rowling: I don't really have a role model, but I have a heroine! Her name was Jessica Mitford, and she was a human rights activist.
Perhaps it was Jessica Mitford above all other writers who led her along her path of loving courage, working for human rights charity, Amnesty International, and writing an amazing series about courageously fighting for ‘good’.
‘When my great-aunt gave me Hons and Rebels when I was 14, she (Jessica Mitford) instantly became my heroine. She ran away from home to fight in the Spanish Civil War, taking with her a camera that she had charged to her father's account. I wished I had the nerve to do something like that. I love the way she never outgrew some of her adolescent traits, remaining true to her politics. She was a self-taught socialist throughout her life. I think I've read everything she wrote. I even called my daughter after her.’
In this chapter we learn several things. Firstly, the importance of being inspired by other people…who knows, had there been no Jessica Mitford, there might not have been a published J. K. Rowling, and what a shame that would be!
Secondly, J. K. Rowling didn’t just admire Jessica Mitford’s type of writing; she admired some of the characteristics of the author herself. She said that she wished she had the nerve of Jessica. But in fact, this trait of having enough nerve to do something was a characteristic that J. K. Rowling eventually expressed when she relied on her own creativity to get her from ‘rock bottom’ to somewhere better.
‘Reading and copying great writing is comparable to what an athlete does when he watches videos of other athletes. A skier watches expert skiers handle tough slopes; tennis players watch films of tennis champions; swimmers watch videos of legendary swimmers. All of these people are training their minds (and bodies) to record the pattern for creating success…Imitation isn’t stealing (unless you try to sell the imitation). It’s learning.’ Joe Vitale, Author
‘You might want to set aside a time period every week so you can do nothing but teach your mind through the awesome power of imitation.’ Joe Vitale, Author