It's gone midnight on a dark northern night and the Travelodge is freezing. I slip reluctantly out of bed to pull a jumper on and notice I've got a new email. I've got to be up at six, but habit gets the better of me and I gingerly tap open. It's a request from The Sun newspaper that's come via my agent- this is what it says.
Our features editor is looking for an author to write the chapter JK Rowling didn't- the magical moment when Harry and Hermione got together. We are looking for roughly 1300 words all about that special moment...
Is this something Cerrie would be interested in and does she have time? As always we are up against it and ideally they would like to run it in this Saturday's newspaper.
My eyes open almost as wide as the moon, as if by their widening the information will be absorbable. But still the absurdity of it doesn't go in. And a quiet sense of wonder descends on me, that someone in the world believes me capable of this. Then I'm attacked by a rollercoaster of reactions, which fling me into the depths of indecision.
The reason I'm even debating this question is due to JK Rowling's comment to Emma Watson during an interview for Wonderland magazine: "I wrote the Hermione-Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfilment...For reasons that have very little to do with literature and for more to do with me..." Her suggestion that Hermione, an ambitious young witch and troubled protagonist Harry would form a relationship of far stronger alchemy, caused outrage amidst the more dedicated potter fans. And now the media have honed in and here I am on a Thursday night with The Sun considering me a potential author.
All night I'm wracked with uncertainty and my dreams seem haunted by the oppressive presence of Dementors. There's the nagging unease that all tabloids have agenda's and this may be not something I'm not comfortable with. It also softly dawn's on me that it's over five years since I read the books. Do I have the skill to search out a heartbeat within a series of seven stories where a moment less magical but more real could happen? And even if I do is it not simply fan fiction? And what about the passionately militant Potter fans? I can see them, like an army of vauldemorts seeking me out with wands of wrath. And then I realise that only person who's opinion I care about in any of this is JK Rowlings- what will she think?
I can remember vividly the first time I came across Harry Potter. The delight of discovering that this neglected boy was by no means ordinary, but a wizard with a serious history. But beyond those books was another story that to my mind holds more enchantment than all of Hogwarts. The story of a single mother sat in a cafe on many a cold Edinburgh day, writing in the fleeting moments that her baby slept. A woman who was turned down by twelve publishers, until one of them at the urging of his daughter put ambivalence aside and took a 'risk'. A woman who was advised to hide her identity for fear it may discourage boys from reading her text. A Woman who walked into the face of adversity and bettered her life through the power of writing.
Long before I became a parent I respected J.K Rowling for this. Since becoming a single mum, her alliance and continued support of impoverished single parent families is something I find very heartening. Her disinterest in fame and continued belief that the work is of greater importance than the author, (as with the case of Robert Gallbraith) is charming and wonderfully enlightening. She is both an author and a woman who I hold in truly high esteem and I'm not prepared to do anything that might darken my name in her eyes. So it was on this thought I hung my decision.
At 9am the following morning I ring my agent from the makeup chair- she thinks it's a fabulous opportunity and has now secured a fee, more than I've ever been paid for a single night of writing. I ask for copy approval and insist the Sun contact JK Rowling's agent, The Blair Partnership. A long silence follows, so on my 11.15 tea break I ring The Blair Partnership myself. The woman I speak to vaguely listens. It's clear she's never seen CBeebies so can't appreciate that I'm a children's presenter and author and not in an any way a journalist. 'O.k. if you could put something in writing and I'll pass it on to the team' I try to say that it's not up to me and the article will go to print on Saturday regardless of whether or not I write it. Her response is unchanging 'Ok if you could put something in writing...' So here I am a new author and single parent and at heart a socialist being misunderstood by an agent, the irony doesn't escape me.
At lunch I call my literary agent who speaks to scholastic my publisher, who advises not to do it for fear of alienating Potter fans but I'm not sure this is strong enough reason to say no. I do some research of my own and find that a percentage of more wishful Potter fans are completely in favour of a Harry and Hermione union and even refer to it as' Harmony'. I speak to a friend who utterly adores the books and we decide together where the moment might fall.
It would happen amidst a flurry of snow on the night Harry and Hermione visit Godrics hollow to search out his parent's grave. At the moment of discovering the headstone, pained by grief anew, Harry would press his lips against Hermione's, letting the world disappear in a swirl of white. That is until the brief moment of euphoria is broken by the arrival of Bathilda Bagshot and suddenly I really think I can do this.
All afternoon in studio sentences flutter around mind, never quite settling. Something isn't right. This is not my magic. Every book has its own energy, its own kind of power and every book written casts a spell over someone. This spell does not belong to me; I'm simply changing its ingredients. If I want to really do it, if I want to really succeed at being an author, not a presenter with a book deal. If I really want to be a word smith, who can bring the world within her imagination to life upon the page. If my ambition is this, then I have to do it with my own enchantments, my own story, and my own tenacity.
Later that evening The Sun confirm they can give me copy approval but they can't get in contact with The Blair Partnership. I politely decline, forget the driving lessons for now, open my laptop and begin to type: Chapter One.