Our friends at Always J.K. Rowling recently interviewed Bryony Evens, “the woman who discovered Harry Potter.” Bryony worked as a reader of “unsolicited manuscripts” at Christopher Little Literary Agency, who represented J.K. Rowling through the publication of the Harry Potter novels until 2011. On the job, Bryony came across J.K. Rowling’s submission and pushed for the agency to sign the new author, even though they did not represent new children’s book authors. That was 18 years ago, and we now have Bryony Evens to thank for the Harry Potter phenomenon.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
What stood out about J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” manuscript?
Two things – the book arrived in a folder, which had a clamp binding, which I’d never seen before. This caught my eye and made me look at the synopsis and standard three chapters which had been sent in. I started reading the manuscript and loved the tone of voice. When I got to the line about how Mrs Dursley had called to tell Mr Dursley that Dudley had learned a new word (“Shan’t!”) I giggled and realised I was on to something good! It took me back to a time when I was a kid, reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Charmed Life ‘illegally’ under the bedclothes with a torch, long after lights-out time, and giggling at the scene in the church when all the stained-glass windows and stone statues come to life! Once I’d read the whole thing, it ticked all the boxes for the sort of books I enjoy: detective story, school story, magical excitement, the fairy tale discovery that someone’s family background is not what they thought it was – and of course there was a train in it too!
How has Harry Potter & J. K. Rowling personally affected you?
Thinking about it, it’s probably getting on for 20 years now since that first envelope arrived on my desk (20 years? Blimey! Where has THAT time gone?!) I’m immensely proud of my small part in the story of J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter, as it proves I know a good thing when I see it! Over the years since then, I’ve met Jo 4 times, and have had lots of lovely opportunities to do exciting things which would never have happened without me playing my part in the story…