Breaking Type

Actors call it typecasting, and it's a dirty word for them. It might as well be four letters in length.

Typecasting (aggh!!) has been the bane of many an actor, who gets pigeon-holed into a certain character or persona and, no matter how hard they try, can never really shake the image.

Typecasting isn't all bad, of course. Many an actor has made a mint playing the same character, either literally or similarly.

And, conversely, there have been cautionary tales of a performer getting restless and leaving a successful TV series, for example, in an effort to find something else, anything else, to play. And those folks ended up losing a boatload of money.

J.K. Rowling has been typecast---as an author.

Rowling, the rags-to-riches author of the "Harry Potter" series of books, decided that enough was enough and stopped writing the Potter books, despite the enormous fortune the stories netted her.

I don't know; if I was making the dough that Rowling was making---from the books and the films that were spawned from them---I think I might pump those suckers out like a Pez dispenser until my fingers fell off from all the typing.

But to her credit, Rowling decided to fight the typecasting and write "adult" stories. Not adult as in naughty---well, you get the idea.

Her first attempt at non-Harry Potter, non-adolescent, non-fantasy writing debuts soon---September 27, to be exact.

The novel is called "The Casual Vacancy," and it takes place in a little British town (naturally; she's a native Brit) called Pagford. It will retail for $35 and it revolves around an election held after a member of the parish council unexpectedly dies.

J.K. Rowling

From a story in today's Free Press:

"I expect the world to be ecstatic at the range of her imaginative reach," predicts Rowling's American publisher, Michael Pietsch. One of the few to have read the embargoed book, he calls Rowling "a genius, one of the great writers of all time." Reading the 512-page novel, he says, "reminded me of Dickens because of the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters."

Two words: We'll see.

More than 2 million hardcovers were printed, so it's clear that the Little, Brown publishing company expects a boon in sales.

But there are some similarities to the Potter books. Namely, there are no advanced copies and therefore no advanced reviews to be found. No one will know until after September 27 whether Rowling has a hit on her hands, or not.

Rowling's seven-part Potter series sold more than 450 million copies. So maybe a mere initial run of 2 million for "The Casual Vacancy" will prove to be a drop in the bucket.

The first Potter movie was released in 1997, so in 15 years those youngsters are now grown and perhaps have started families of their own. Will they be a target audience for Rowling's first adult novel?

"Fans who read Harry Potter as children will be one of the core audiences for this book, without a doubt," says Diane Roback, children's book editor at Publishers Weekly. "I cannot think of an author who is more beloved by her readers."

But will those readers break form and look at Rowling as she obviously would like to be seen? That is, as an author with some range?

Again, those two tiny words: We'll see.


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