J.K. Rowling has a new crime novel out this week, The Ink Black Heart, and while there are obvious parallels between her experiences and the book’s plot about a creator who faces backlash over controversial subject matter, the Harry Potter scribe claims it’s merely coincidental.
Published under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the sixth installment of her Cormoran Strike series follows Edie Ledwell, a co-creator of a popular cartoon called The Ink Black Heart. Per the book’s official synopsis, Edie “is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie.” According to Rolling Stone, Edie “sees internet trolls and her own fandom turn on her after the cartoon was criticized as being racist and ableist as well as transphobic for a bit about a hermaphrodite worm.” While detectives initially deny looking into the matter, they change course once Edie is found tasered and murdered in a cemetery.
In a new podcast interview with celebrated British host Graham Norton, Rowling said that parallels between the plot and her life are nothing more than coincidences. Rowling has been at the center of controversy dating back more than two years over comments she has made on social media and in an essay about a range of transgender-related topics from gender affirming medical care and conversion therapy to bathroom usage.
Norton says that while reading the tome, he couldn’t help but think of how it “echoes your life,” to which Rowling says there are “more echoes” than she realized. However, she was quick to claim that the book does not depict recent personal experiences online. “I’d written the book before certain things happened to me online,” she said. “I said to my husband, ‘I think everyone’s going to see this as a response to what happened to me,’ but it genuinely wasn’t.”
She continued that the first draft of the book was completed by the time she faced controversy herself online. “The fandom within The Black Heart is absolutely not the Potter fandom. I had this idea for the plot — it was about three years ago now — and I said to my two teenagers, ‘Who do you think is the most toxic fandom?’ To my amazement, they mentioned a certain cartoon, um, which I’d seen and thought was very witty and funny.”
Rowling declined to name the cartoon but did say she was surprised by their comment: “Then I went online and looked and thought, they’re absolutely right. So that’s why it’s an animator in the book. Originally I thought I might make it a comic script writer, but it’s an animator in homage to this particularly toxic fandom.”