Every few weeks it seems, there’s a new headline that amounts to “J.K. Rowling said X on Twitter.”
Rowling reluctantly joined the service in 2009 after learning that someone had been impersonating her. She didn’t follow anyone, and she warned that she wouldn’t tweet much.
“I am told that people have been twittering on my behalf, so I thought a brief visit was in order just to prevent any more confusion!,” Rowling wrote. “However, I should flag up now that although I could twitter endlessly, I’m afraid you won’t be hearing from me very often…………………..as pen and paper is my priority at the moment.”
Since then, she’s tweeted fewer than 1,100 times at about an average clip of 15 times per month. By Twitter standards, that’s little more than a step up from Not Quite Mute. It’s surprising when you take into account how many news stories, blog posts and roundups (we know, we know, we’re doing it, too) are written based on her firing off a few quick words.
Because of her own celebrity status, Rowling exists outside of Literary Twitter, which has its own quirks. Rather, she’s a singular entity who can direct valuable attention to difficult and often-ignored subjects. She recently went on a retweeting spree to draw attention to missing children in the U.K. In 2013, she began advocating in earnest for her charity Lumos, which seeks to abolish orphanages where children suffer from abuse and neglect, and reunites children with their still-living parents. In April, she marked the launch of Lumos U.S.A. by lighting up the Empire State Building.
Rowling’s most popular and attention-getting tweets can generally be classified under these three categories: reads and clapbacks (that is, witty, one-off retorts to elements she considers unsavory), she’s just like us!, and Harry Potter.
Reads and clapbacks
Let’s begin with this category, because it is by far the most fun. Basically all celebrities operate under an assumed framework of constant public niceness and self-editing, which makes it so shocking and delicious when they say something that doesn’t fit within those guidelines.
Rowling vs. Westboro Baptist Church:
Rowling vs. Random Misogynist:
Rowling vs. Rupert Murdoch:
Rowling has never been shy about her lefty political leanings. She’s spoken in interviews about the importance of benefits (the U.K.’s version of welfare) in her life. Rowling was an unemployed single mother when she started writing the Harry Potter books in English cafes, and relied on benefits for basic living expenses. Still, tweets like these always attract attention.
She’s just like us!
Rowling still keeps up with the actors who brought her characters to life in the Harry Potter movies. Here’s how she responded to seeing suggestive photos of Matthew Lewis, the actor who played Neville Longbottom, shirtless on the cover of Attitude magazine. It’s the sort of thing you could easily imagine your own mother saying, but it’s a public, humanizing conversation:
Rowling has most certainly reached #BallerStatus, but she assures us that’s it’s only been responsible for small changes in her life.
Here’s how she responded to a fan who was going to be meeting her:
No really, she’s just like us:
All of this adds up to a person, who, in a very limited amount of communication, has effectively managed her image as someone who’s approachable, grounded and relatable. And that’s important if she still wants people to buy her books. Which brings us to …
Rowling also uses Twitter to fill in blank spots and unanswered questions from her best-selling series. Even though “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the last book in the series — was published in 2007 and the last part of the cinematic adaptation came out in 2011, Rowling still takes questions from fans. It’s an incredibly savvy way of keeping her work current and a part of modern conversation.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as confirming that Fred was the elder of the Weasley twins:
Or apologizing for her own plot decisions:
She recently revealed Moaning Myrtle’s full name, only to have to clarify that it was not a statement on U.S. politics:
And she stands up for Hufflepuffs: