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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Rowling's magical morning
By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

Harry Potter author JK Rowling delighted 500 fans by appearing at the Edinburgh book festival on Sunday - and let them into a few secrets about her and her most famous creation.

The queue to meet JK Rowling
Hundreds of fans queued up to meet Rowling
They came from Holland, from California, from Canada, from Spain. Some came from London, from Glasgow and from just round the corner in Edinburgh.

The clues to why they were queuing outside the Edinburgh International Book Festival at the unearthly hour of 7am, came in the form of their wizards' capes, their stuffed owls and their dog-eared copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Author JK Rowling has appeared at the book festival before. The first time was in 1997, when a mere 20 people turned out.

This time, demand was so great, her publishers Bloomsbury released the 500 tickets by public ballot. And 21,000 fans applied from all parts of the world.

After reading an excerpt from the latest instalment, the 39-year-old author took questions from fans. Which was her favourite Potter book?

It was she said, until recently, The Prisoner of Azkhaban, also her favourite of the three films but she admitted her new favourite was the one she's currently writing, the sixth in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

JK Rowling and a fan
Rowling said she wrote her first story when she was six
She was asked which was her favourite character and which was the one most like her. She said she identified mostly with Harry, Hermoine and Ron and thought she was probably an amalgamation of them all.

But asked who she'd be for the day, she said it wouldn't be any of them because she knew what trouble lay ahead.

Instead, she said she'd rather be Peeves, the annoying and mischievous ghost.

Asked if any of her characters were based on real people, she said only Gilderoy Lockhart, a vain teacher, who she said in real life was even more insufferable.

We also found out that at the age of six, she handed her mother a story about a rabbit and asked her to publish it.

On some questions, she refused to give anything away. She said she thought most fans wanted her to tell them everything that would happen in books six and seven - and then erase their memories completely.

And since she couldn't perform that kind of magic, she had to keep some secrets.

JK Rowling
Rowling expected most fans to want to know what happens in future books
But she did have two clues about Harry's nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

She has never been asked two key questions about Voldemort which would help readers unravel the mystery of his character. Why did he survive the rebounding curse in the second book?

And why didn't Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, kill him when he had the opportunity in book five?

Both answers, she said, offered major clues to books six and seven.

And with that, it was off to the signing tent, to provide 500 avid fans with a magical end to an eventful morning.

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