J.K. Rowling reveals more about her reasons for writing with a pseudonym for 'Cuckoo's Calling'

Rowling recently discussed her reasons for making her literary alter ego a military man and why she chose to write a mystery on Robert Galbraith's author website.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
J.K. Rowling talked more about why she chose to write a mystery under a pseudonym on the author website for her literary alter ego, Robert Galbraith.

It was the unmasking heard around the literary world when it was revealed that what was thought to be a debut mystery novel written by a man named Robert Galbraith had actually been penned by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

Now J.K. Rowling has revealed more about her decision to write the novel under a pseudonym via the frequently asked questions section on Galbraith’s author website.

“I’ve always loved reading detective fiction,” the author wrote. “Most of the Harry Potter stories are whodunits at heart… but I’ve wanted to try the real thing for a long time. As for the pseudonym, I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

Rowling also discussed why she had Galbraith be a former member of the military.

“It was the easiest and most plausible reason for Robert to know how the Special Investigation Branch operates and investigates,” she said. “Another reason for making him a military man working in the civilian security industry was to give him a solid excuse not to appear in public or provide a photograph.” 

Rowling had already expressed her sadness that she was revealed as the author so quickly, and she reiterated that on the Galbraith site.

“If anyone had seen the labyrinthine plans I laid to conceal my identity (or indeed my expression when I realised that the game was up!) they would realise how little I wanted to be discovered,” she wrote. “I hoped to keep the secret as long as possible… This was not a leak or marketing ploy by me, my publisher or agent, both of whom have been completely supportive of my desire to fly under the radar. If sales were what mattered to me most, I would have written under my own name from the start, and with the greatest fanfare.”

She also discussed how she arrived at the particular name of Robert Galbraith. One was that “Robert F Kennedy is my hero,” she wrote.

“When I was a child, I really wanted to be called ‘Ella Galbraith’, and I’ve no idea why,” she wrote. “I don’t even know how I knew that the surname existed, because I can’t remember ever meeting anyone with it. Be that as it may, the name had a fascination for me. I actually considered calling myself L A Galbraith for the Strike series, but for fairly obvious reasons decided that initials were a bad idea.
“Odder still, there was a well-known economist called J K Galbraith, something I only remembered by the time it was far too late. I was completely paranoid that people might take this as a clue and land at my real identity, but thankfully nobody was looking that deeply at the author’s name.”

It was recently revealed that Rowling’s secret was allegedly told by a woman who heard it from a partner in Rowling’s law firm, Russells. The author released a statement when this became known, expressing her disappointment. 

“A tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know,” the “Harry Potter” author said. “I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced.”

The law firm apologized when the facts became public.

"Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly," Russells said of Chris Gossage, the partner who imparted the secret.

“Cuckoo” garnered very positive reviews when it was first released but skyrocketed in sales once the word was out that Rowling was behind the book. It’s still at number one for sales at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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