J.K. Rowling Offers Up Sex, Drugs in First Post-“Potter” Novel

"The Casual Vacancy" looks to adult readers with heady doses of modern day life that would make Harry Potter blush.

Famed author J.K. Rowling has swapped fantasy for reality in her new book "The Casual Vacancy," which hits stores Thursday.

In perhaps the most hotly anticipated book of 2012, Rowling has eschewed Hogwarts for the fictional English village of Padford, where a local member of government has just died - a circumstance referred to as a "casual vacancy" in British legalese. Rowling told The New Yorker that the book is a “comic tragedy’’ aimed at adult readers and that she drew on experiences from her own upbringing in Gloucestershire, England, for the setting of the novel.

Poverty and heroin addiction are included in the 512-page tome, as are frank descriptions of sex and sexuality. Hermione Grainger would most likely not approve.

Rowling, 47, has sold 450 million books and amassed a personal fortune of almost $900 million thanks to the seven-book Harry Potter series. The author admits that her initial trepidation of publishing her first post-Potter story has eased.

“I thought I’d feel frightened at this point,” she said in The New Yorker interview. “Not just because it’s been five years, and anything I wrote after Potter — anything — was going to receive a certain degree of attention that is not entirely welcome, if I’m honest. It’s not the place I’m happiest or most comfortable, shall we say. So, for the first few years of writing ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re very lucky. You can pay your bills, you don’t have to publish it.’ And that was a very freeing thought, even though I knew bloody well, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to publish it. I knew that a writer generally writes to be read, unless you’re Salinger.”

Aware that the novel stands a good chance of alienating current fans who associate her solely with school-boy magicians, Rowling is happy to publish and let the cards, and fans, fall where they may.

"The worst that can happen is that everyone says, 'Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids' and I can take that," she told the Guardian." So, yeah, I'll put it out there, and if everyone says, 'Well, that's shockingly bad — back to wizards with you', then obviously I won't be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live.’’

Frank descriptions of sex and drugs will no doubt scandalize some of her core readers, but Rowling told The New Yorker she was ready for not just a change of genre, but also of audience. “I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me,” Rowling said. “The thing about fantasy—there are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.

“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher,” Rowling added in the interview. “I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”

While "The Casual Vacancy" deals with different storylines and characters, the author maintains there are some similarities with the boy wizard and the word he inhabits. “I think there is a through-line,” she told The New Yorker. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.”

The author will make a rare public appearance to promote her new work in October, when she will discuss "The Casual Vacancy" during a staged interview at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center on October 16. The sold-out event will be Rowling's only appearance in the U.S.and consist of an interview by fellow author Ann Patchett with Rowling taking select questions from the audience.
Already looking beyond the response - good or bad - to her latest literary work, Rowling announced that she has begun work on a pair of books for children younger than her Harry Potter readers and has also started writing another adult novel.
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