The spells are made up. I have met people who assure me, very seriously, that they are trying to do them, and I can assure them, just as seriously, that they don't work.
-- J.K. Rowling (Sch2)
The second online chat Rowling held through Scholastic.com. According to the website, “On October 16, 2000, classrooms across America went online to ask J.K. Rowling their burning questions about Harry Potter.”
Interesting facts and notes
Question: How did you make the spells? Did you make them up, or are they real names of people and places?
J.K. Rowling responds: The spells are made up. I have met people who assure me, very seriously, that they are trying to do them, and I can assure them, just as seriously, that they don't work.
Question: How did you come up with the idea of the underground chamber in Chamber of Secrets?
J.K. Rowling responds: I always knew the chamber was there. I don't know what first gave me the idea; I just liked the thought that Slytherin had left something of himself behind.
Question: Do wizards and witches have to go Muggle school before they go to Hogwarts?
J.K. Rowling responds: No, they don't have to.
Question: How does the Dark Lord affect American wizards and witches?
J.K. Rowling responds: He affects everyone, but his plan is European domination first.
Question: Which house was Lily Potter in, and what is her maiden name?
J.K. Rowling responds: Her maiden name was Evans, and she was in Gryffindor (naturally).
Question: Does Harry have a middle name?
J.K. Rowling responds: Yep, James after his dad.
Question: From where did you get the name for Harry Potter?
J.K. Rowling responds: 'Harry' has always been my favourite boy's name, so if my daughter had been a son, he would have been Harry Rowling. Then I would have had to choose a different name for "Harry" in the books, because it would have been too cruel to name him after my own son. "Potter" was the surname of a family who used to live near me when I was seven years old and I always liked the name, so I borrowed it.
Question: As an adult reader, I loved the books and was surprised at how much humour is in them. The Dursleys sound like something out of Monty Python! Do you like British comedy?
J.K. Rowling responds: British comedy is an obsession of mine. I love Monty Python.
Question: Harry Potter for grownups again! Is Voldemort the last remaining ancestor of Slytherin, or the last remaining descendent of Slytherin?
J.K. Rowling responds: Ah, you spotted the deliberate error. Yes, it should read "descendent." That's been changed in subsequent editions. (Keep hold of the "ancestor" one, maybe it'll be valuable one day!)
Question: How did the Dursleys explain away the tail when Dudley had to have it removed at the hospital?
J.K. Rowling responds: They went to a private hospital where the staff was very discreet, and said that a wart had got out of control.
Question: Can you explain how Lupin turns into a werewolf, since he didn't turn in the Shrieking Shack in Prisoner of Azkaban, but instead he turned only when the full moonlight hit him outside the tunnel? If he only turned into a wolf in the moonlight, why didn't he just stay inside? Did it have to do with the potion? Or was the moon not up yet?
J.K. Rowling responds: The moon wasn't up when he entered the Shrieking Shack.
Question: How many students attend Hogwarts, and how many students per year per house?
J.K. Rowling responds: There are about a thousand students at Hogwarts.
Question: Did you ever make a study of herbs and other Hogwarts subjects, or did you create all those classes from inspiration?
J.K. Rowling responds: Most of the magic is made up. Occasionally I will use something that people used to believe was true — for example, the "Hand of Glory" which Draco gets from Borgin and Burkes in Chamber of Secrets.
Question: You said Ron's cousin was taken out of Book 4, and you developed Rita Skeeter more after that. Do you still think that it would have been more fun to keep her? Can you tell me anything about what she was going to be like?
J.K. Rowling responds: Well, maybe I will use her in another book, so I don't want to talk about her too much. I had never "killed" a character before (in either sense) until Goblet of Fire, so that made writing the book a little more stressful!
Question: How old is old in the wizarding world, and how old are Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall?
J.K. Rowling responds: Dumbledore is a hundred and fifty, and Professor McGonagall is a sprightly seventy. Wizards have a much longer life expectancy than Muggles. (Harry hasn't found out about that yet.)
Question: How does the wizarding world protect Muggle banks and vaults, etc. from wizards apparating into them and stealing the contents?
J.K. Rowling responds: Well, the Ministry of Magic keeps tabs on people apparating. That's why you have to have a license to do it, and the moment you abuse it you can find yourself in serious trouble (or Azkaban!).
Question: What position did James play on the Gryffindor Quidditch team? Was it seeker like Harry, or something different?
J.K. Rowling responds: James was Chaser.
Question: Ms. Rowling, for being fictional books, the Harry Potter books have a great grasp of the Latin language. I have noticed that many, if not most, of the names and incantations are of Latin heritage. How much research does it take to give these books their Latin heritage?
J.K. Rowling responds: My Latin, such as it is, is self-taught. I enjoy feeling that wizards would continue to use this dead language in their everyday life.
Question: Why did you choose the owl as the animal messenger in your books?
J.K. Rowling responds: Owls are traditionally associated with magic, and I like them.
Second Scholastic online chat