JK Rowling has revealed the heartbreaking moment she almost snatched a baby from her cot in a ‘cold and frightening’ state-run so-called orphanage in Eastern Europe. The Harry Potter author says her maternal instincts drove her to consider the unthinkable during a visit to the institution, which she claimed was more like a prison than a home. She says: ‘I’m an emotional person. I struggle with that a lot in this kind of situation. There was one little baby, a girl, and I was standing at this cot and I just thought, “I will take her. It was irrational but that’s your human response. There was no earthly way I could take this baby home but that is your most powerful reaction. You think as a mother, “I will save this baby, this one baby”.’
Rowling recalls the encounter in an emotional interview with Geordie Greig, Editor of The Mail on Sunday, in which she also discusses the work of her children’s charity Lumos, named after a spell in the Harry Potter novels.
The mother of three also reveals that, despite being worth £560 million, she still worries about money - the legacy of once being a single mother living on benefits. Rowling’s charity has rescued thousands of children from filthy and inadequate care homes in some of Europe’s poorest countries. They include orphans as well as those whose parents are no longer able to feed them properly.
JK Rowling speaks to Mail On Sunday's Event Magazine of her mission of hope. The writer, who is planning to expand the work of the charity to Britain, has donated millions of pounds of her own money and made a series of ‘secret’ visits both to the orphanage she is trying to close and the replacement homes she has helped to build.
In the interview, published in today’s Event magazine, she also discusses the emotional toil her encounters have had on her and how she hopes to help a million children in Moldova, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Romania. She says: ‘The one incident that absolutely killed me was a little girl with physical disabilities who had been put into the institution and used to ask for her mother. The nurse would go outside and ring the girl and pretend to be her mother. Utterly heartbreaking.’
And Rowling reveals how she came up with the charity’s unusual name – the wand-lighting charm in Harry Potter. She says: ‘Harry had been left in a very hostile environment, so there are clear parallels. He is a boy removed from his family by bereavement.’ The author speaks candidly about how her ‘emotional anxiety’ about money is deeply rooted in her past.
‘I still worry about money. Funnily enough it bears no relation to what is in your bank account, it is purely emotional,’ she says. ‘I was as poor as it’s possible to be in this country. ‘I was a single parent. The key phrase is “in this country” because we have a welfare state. I remember not eating so my daughter would eat... nights when there was literally no money, when I had one Rich Tea biscuit and that was dinner.’
She adds: ‘I was terrified of pressing the wrong button and losing everything, and having to look my daughter in the face and say, “We had a house and now through a stupid error...” I don’t know what I thought I was going to do but my terror was making a ridiculous mistake and it all disappearing.’
Rowling - whose seven Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies between them - is now enjoying success with her two adult fiction novels, The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling.
She was accused of being ‘anti-middle-class’ after her first novel looked at tensions between a sink council estate and the local town.
But she explains: ‘I’m not anti-middle-class in the slightest. Look at me! I am very pro people putting time and money and effort into trying to improve the world.
‘And the middle classes do that very, very well. I would be the last person to deny that, being middle-class myself.’
...AND HOW SHE WELCOMES 'HUGE' DIFFERENCE IN PRESS BEHAVIOUR
The Harry Potter author has welcomed the ‘huge’ improvement in the press’s behaviour. Rowling, who told the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 that her family’s privacy had been invaded on dozens of occasions, said she no longer felt that she was being ‘watched or followed’. And she claimed it was unlikely that anyone today would be exposed to the ‘tsunami’ of media attention she endured at the height of her Harry Potter fame.
‘In 1997 it was like the Wild West,’ she says in the interview with today’s Event magazine. ‘If Harry Potter happened now, I’d have a different experience. I have felt a change and it’s been really welcome. ‘It has largely disappeared, those mysterious phone calls trying to get information out of you. It went on routinely and has fallen away, and thank God for that.’
She adds: ‘Certain things aren’t up for grabs.’
Try and guess which part of the story the Daily Mail used for their headline. Hint: it wasn't the charity.