Yesterday I Met My Hero

Not many people get to say that. Not many people have the honour of being in their hero’s presence and not many people get to exchange words with them.

But let me start from the beginning.

As you know from my post yesterday and probably the news that J.K. Rowling had a new book come out and she celebrated it at the Southbank Centre in London with a hoard of 900 fans. She spent the day itself on a plane coming down from Edinburgh and watched Men in Black 3 with her Husband and eldest daughter.

Meanwhile fans were travelling from everywhere to get to the Southbank Centre, it was the hottest ticket in town. The must be place for the biggest release of the year. People flocked to this London location all carrying the brand new book that boasted the Gryffindor colours. The colours were bold and garish, perhaps symbolising the transition the children’s author was making, the themes she was exploring and the language she was using.

Inside was an air of jubilation, even when the foyer was mostly empty. I was one of the first in and the excitement was growing, tentative at first. More and more gather, red and yellow books everywhere, excited chatter building. The fact that J.K. Rowling was in the very same building was looming. Slowly the time ticked by, but we all had a book to read, which in itself was amazing. A crowd of 900 people all reading the same book.

Queues formed and dispersed as they filtered into the Queen Elizabeth Hall and eventually I did the same. Taking my seat I noticed that two comfy chairs and a table had been set up on the stage, the latter adorned with glasses of water and a copy of the book itself . Microphones were perched on it too. On the wall behind was a projection of the cover and beside bold, white words proclaiming the event.

On came the artistic director of the Southbank Centre to introduce the author and the journalist, saying how glad she was that a writer was getting the same reception that Lady Gaga might receive. She said how happy she was that J.K. Rowling had agreed to the event.

Soon after the interview started and J.K. Rowling came across so well, humble, eloquent and extremely funny. She made fun of herself and laughed along with Mark Lawson the journalist. When she first came on stage she was given a standing ovation.

As the interview got underway she began to joke. She revealed that the basic idea for The Casual Vacancy came to her on a plane and joked that she obviously needed to be on a vehicle in order to come up with a story and said that she was getting steadily more upmarket and that she would come up with her next story on a space shuttle.

She also didn’t realise that Barry rhymed with Harry until the press release had been published. She almost spat water in the journalist’s face when he made her laugh by saying that there was a small vulnerable character that rhymed with Dobby.

She also read from the book. The first segment she read was clean without any of the adult issues promised by all the recent reviews. But once the live streaming was switched off she read a scene between Tessa Wall and Krystal Weedon in the guidance office in which the latter character was swearing in every other sentence. Yet every person was silent, every person leaned forward in their seats, hanging on her every word. Drinking it all up because it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Some were even reading along.

After this the audience Q&A began. Perhaps the most memorable moment of this came from a Spanish guy. He asked J.K. Rowling if he could give her a gift and said he was nervous, to which the author replied ‘you’re nervous!?’ this gained a rapturous applause because it was the perfect way to calm the man’s nerves. She then invited him down on stage, getting up from her chair to give him a hug and then a kiss on the cheek. Everyone in the room found this emotional, and by the time he was back to his own chair he was almost in tears and his friends gave him massive hugs, emotional on his behalf.

Then the time came, in a split second the empty aisles and doors were overflowing with people all rushing out into the foyer, pushing past, running to join the ever-growing queue. In the grand scheme of things I was sort of near the front, at least closer to the front than I was to the back. The queue double backed on itself and snaked round yet it must have been full of Slytherins (the sly and sneaky kind, not the cool ones I know) because en masse they turned round and merged with those in front of them, pushing us further back. It was a result of poor management and once the damage was done it could not be rectified. Yet those who queued with us were nice enough, easy to chat to and excitable as well. A couple of friends had only managed to get tickets on the day, buying ones that had been returned, they even managed to get seats in row E which was so close to the front.

Eventually the line moved, haltingly at first but then as its confidence grew it moved faster. It seemed like in no time at all, she was there sitting at a table signing books. Security were telling us to put our cameras away and staff members ensured we had the book on the right page.

There were three people in front of me.

Then two.

Then one.

Then oh my god she’s there. In front of me, looking at me, grasping my hand and speaking to me.

The day before I had written out a thank you card and included the names of friends I had made in different countries. It seemed appropriate because we all met because of her and when the question ‘if you got the chance what would you say to J.K. Rowling’ was asked we all said ‘thank you’. So I gave her the card and she said ‘oh how very kind’.

Then I plucked up the courage to say something that sounded stupid in my head.

‘You’re my absolute hero, is there any chance I could get a hug, please?

She met my eyes and grasped my hand in both of hers and shook it reassuringly.

‘I can’t. I’ve been banned from giving hugs because it’s holding everyone up, but thank you.’

I’m sure I said thank you as well before moving away. But you see, the thing is, when you meet your hero you don’t really realise it’s happening until it’s halfway through. And when you do your brain is going oh my god. In my case it was when she looked into my eyes that I fully realised exactly what was happening. The woman I have idolised for two-thirds of my life was holding my hand and for just a few seconds knew that I existed. My brain was going ‘oh my god, J.K. Rowling is right in front of me, looking at me’ and that is the thing I remember with utmost clarity.

I moved away, still in a daze and turned round just in time to see my mum in conversation. At one point J.K. Rowling looked at me again, I smiled, and asked my mum what she had said when she came away.

‘Thank you for inspiring my daughter.’

‘What did Jo say?’

‘That is so good to hear.’

The thing is, she made it so personal, she sounded so sincere and when she said that to my mum she actually stopped to look at her and to say those words. It doesn’t matter that she’s probably said them a million times, those were our words, those were our moments.

After we left the signing area we entered a weird land. One half was a bunch of people stretching their arms as high as they would go to take photos of the author over the wall, the other half were all weeping.

I soon joined them.

It was a contentment, a pure happiness summoned by those few seconds spent with J.K. Rowling. It was her very own magic. The awe of being in her presence and being acknowledged and being the centre of her attention. It was overwhelming and soon overflowed in those joyous tears of utter ecstasy.

It was hard to leave, we kept going back to look at her signing those books, interacting with her other fans the way she interacted with us, never tiring, never wavering.

Eventually we left, and although I came away with a signed first edition of The Casual Vacancy the most valuable and precious thing I received was those few moments with J.K. Rowling.

So that was the day I met my hero.


19 responses to “Yesterday I Met My Hero

  • summum1967

    This blog has blown me away, I love the way it just comes from your heart. I was there that day you met you hero.

  • Moment Matters

    I’m jealous! I’ll meet J.K. Rowling too.

  • Tash

    THat was absolutely incredible!! I feel so stupid but you know I cried when you told me at the time you had literally JUST met here….and then I cried when I read that (it doesn’t hlep dr who aired last night) just you are unbelievably amazing and talented and I can’t wait to meet you one time and hug you into oblivion!!

  • beckyday6

    Wow, amazing! I’m so happy for you Summer! xD What a fantastic day.

  • rockersophz27

    That sounds really amazing, and you can really tell how much it meant to you! I’ve been lucky enough to meet my hero three times and I definitely know how you feel about not really realising what’s going on until it’s almost over. And I always find it really endearing when someone you idolise is humble and down to earth. Sounds like you had a great day! 🙂

    • Summer Grant

      Thank you for reading it 🙂 Ah that’s awesome, who’s your hero? Also I’m that the feeling makes sense to someone else haha, it’s just a really surreal moment isn’t it?

      • rockersophz27

        No problem! 🙂 he’s a singer, his name’s Alex DeLeon from a band called The Cab. haha me too! whenever I try to explain it to someone they usually don’t get it! And yeah it definitely is, I’m a music journalist and I recently did an interview with the singer from one of my favourite bands and that was really surreal! sitting there joking and having a laugh with someone whose cds you own! 🙂

    • Summer Grant

      Haha, that’s excellent! Did it get less hazy with each time or was it pretty much the same? I might have to check them out, always love listening to music I haven’t heard before. I’d love to be a music journalist too, there’s just something really thrilling about meeting the people who make such good music! What were they like to interview?

      • rockersophz27

        hmm the 2nd time wasn’t as bad I literally sat there having a full blown conversation with him and there were girls there who couldn’t even speak! and the third time he just saw me and was like ‘what it’s been? 6,7,8,9 months?’ so it was pretty amazing that he remembered me! but each time I do get the inital ‘OH MY GOD’ then I kinda make myself get over it and think, you may never get to do this again. Yeah I love discovering new bands and helping promote them so they get a bigger fan base, and I think they’re really inspirational, and they’re not that big over here yet so…But yeah I definitely know what you mean I love meeting bands and getting know them 🙂 I saw on your about page that you work for a few magazines too! what kind of stuff do you write? um I’ve never actually interviewed them in person, I did it via email but recently I interviewed the singer from a band called The Summer Set and that was just really fun and an awesome thing to be able to have done 🙂

    • Summer Grant

      Wow that’s amazing that he remembered you, hopefully there’s a fourth time! Same here, I think one of the best ones I’ve interviewed is a band called Little Fish. They’ve had a bit of trouble recently but their music is amazing.
      I mostly do music stuff, a venue is Southampton ran a monthly listings thing with a few previews of bands that would be playing and an interview with one from the previous month, but I’ve done some stuff for a film magazine and managed to get a few things published in my local newspaper, so I write about anything but feel most comfortable with music (and books).
      How long have you been writing about music?
      It’s always good when an interview makes an impression on you! 🙂

      • rockersophz27

        I sure hope so! I’m holding out to interview them when they finally come to play some shows here! Oh really? I’ll have to check them out. Wow that sounds great! 🙂 Yeah I do music (and book reviews) on here. I’ve been writing about music for the last 3 years after I did a work placement at Kerrang! and decided that I really did want to go for music journalism. And yeah definitely, interviewing is kind of the thing I gravitiate towards just because I love getting to know the bands behind the music, but I recently became a reviewer for a magazine called BBM, and I’m always approaching bands for interviews and magazines for contribution work, and I really love it 🙂

    • Summer Grant

      You have no idea how cool it is that you did placement at Kerrang! that was my dream during uni. How was it there? Interviewing is weird, I usually get nervous when talking to people I don’t know, but when it comes to interviews it just goes away, some of them really put you at ease. Oh awesome, I’ll keep an eye out for BBM! And also on your blog too! 😀

      • rockersophz27

        Oh really? they normally take people on for a week over summer, I was pretty lucky I emailed and got a place for the following summer. It was really cool, it really wasn’t like work at all, all the people there were so lovely and they played music at like full blast from the stereo all day! I’d definitely say go for it if it’s still something you want to do, I really enjoyed it 🙂 Yeah me too, like I can never just walk up to someone and be like ‘hi’ but I spose when it’s an interview I kinda go into work mode and you can’t really be a wallflower in journalism so it’s kinda like ‘what the hell’, and yeah most of them do in my experience which is always nice. Aww thank you! Same here, I’ll definitely be following your blog too! 🙂

      • Summer Grant

        Ah excellent, it sounds like it was a great place to be. It must be awesome to be in a workplace where music is blaring out. I might have to check it out if I have time. Also, sorry for the delay in reply, I haven’t really been around, how are you?

      • rockersophz27

        Yeah it was awesome, I’d love to go back at some point 🙂 I’d definitely recomend it! ahh that’s okay no worries, me either really. I’m good thanks, how’re you doing?

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