J.K. Rowling’s newest novel, “The Casual Vacancy,” has received mixed reviews. Mostly because it’s not a Harry Potter novel and has very naughty words that you don’t expect a children author to use. Never mind that the new novel is for adults, read by adults, and spoken by adults who tend to use very naughty words when they don’t think the kids are around (“Oh, fudgemuffian!”). The real issue is that Rowling’s has a second novel problem.
Wait a minute! Didn’t the Harry Potter series have seven books?
Yes. Seven books in one series. Obviously, Rowling got over the second novel problem in the Harry Potter series. If the second book wasn’t published, books three through seven wouldn’t exist, the movies wouldn’t be made, and we fanboys wouldn’t be ogling Emma “Hermione” Watson on the October 2012 cover of Glamour magazine.
However, if you view Harry Potter as being one massive novel, than “The Causal Vacancy” becomes the second novel. Like any author who has a wildly successful first novel, the high expectations for the second novel will determine if Rowling has a successful writing career after Harry Potter.
If the new “adult” novel sells out the two million copy print run, she can continue to write more novels and put Harry Potter on the shelf for good.
If the print run ends up on the remainder table at bookstores, she will have two options: keep writing what she wants to write but not publishing it, or return the world of Harry Potter like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did after killing off and bringing back Sherlock Holmes from the literary graveyard to satisfy popular demand.
I suspect Rowling will become the next Stephen King and write whatever she wants. God knows that King had put out a lot of fudgemuffian in between his more notable novels over the years. The forward momentum from his past successes guarantees some success for his newest novel. Even though his once formidable audience has dwindled away as he went from horror meister to literary master in honing his craft and staying fresh. A day may come when he too might continue to write but not publish.
Then again, even King went back to his Dark Tower series to add an eighth novel, “The Wind Through The Keyhole,” to his seven-novel magnum opus. Not as the sequel to the old series and the beginning of a new series, but a new story among the stories already told. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rowling does the same with Harry Potter. Someday.