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Rowling Preps for 'Shock' of Final Harry

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Six down, one to go – and J.K. Rowling is fretting what’s ahead.

At least, that’s what she confided to Owen Jones, the 14-year-old from Wales who won a contest to interview the Scottish author on Britain’s ITV shortly after her Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published at midnight Saturday.

Speaking to Jones inside a medieval castle in Edinburgh – where 70 other young contest winners from around the world heard her read an excerpt from the new book – Rowling said about starting the seventh and final book later this year: “I am dreading it in some ways. I do love writing the books, and it is going to be a shock, a profound shock to me. Even though I have known it is coming for the past 15 years, I have known that the series would end, I think it will still be a shock.”

Before sitting down to the keyboard again, Rowling, who turns 40 at the end of this month, foresees spending time with her 6-month-old daughter Mackenzie Jean.

“I have already done some work on it and I am still doing little bits and pieces, but realistically I have still got a very young baby, so I think probably next year I will do the proper writing of book seven,” she said.

Regarding her post-Harry career, the billionaire author says she wouldn’t rule out using a pseudonym to try out other novels. “A fake name is very attractive,” Rowling said. “I’ll have less pressure and I can write any old thing I want, and people won’t be clamoring for it and that might be nice.”

Meanwhile, the new Harry was selling in record numbers even before its rave reviews started pouring in. Scholastic, the American publisher of the series, said a record 6.9 million copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were sold in the first 24 hours in the U.S. (The sales are said to translate into $100 million at the cash register.) In Rowling’s native Britain, Half-Blood broke all British book sales records, selling more than 2 million copies on its first day of release.

“Rowling’s latest has lost none of the charm, intelligence and hilarity that have catapulted her series into publishing history. But this book also has a poignancy, complexity and sadness. There’s an emotional punch you won’t believe,” enthused the Chicago Sun-Times.

Equally effusive notices appeared in The New York Times (which favorably compared it to The Lord of the Rings trilogy) , the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times – which likened this sixth Harry to E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web.

Not that everyone was potty for Potter. The Washington Post merely found it “solid” and “somewhat predictable,” while the San Francisco Chronicle sniped, “It’s not that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is dull, exactly. … No, the main problem is that J.K. Rowling has now written six of these bricks. Even if they were getting better, they’re certainly not getting any fresher.”