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J.K. Rowling publishes first adult novel

J.K. Rowling stepped into the unknown by publishing her first adult novel

File Picture: Author of the Harry Potter book series, JK Rowling. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling took a step into the unknown on Thursday with the publication of her debut adult novel.

The Casual Vacancy is virtually guaranteed to top the bestseller lists in Britain, US and beyond, with Rowling's name enough to attract millions of buyers and give publishers and book stores a much-needed boost.

Yet even that may feel something of an anti-climax for an author who has rewritten the rules of publishing and generated the kind of media hype and public hysteria normally reserved for Hollywood royalty.

As each Harry Potter installment hit the shelves, hundreds of thousands of fans dressed up as wizards and witches and queued outside book stores from Toronto to Tokyo.

The 47-year-old Briton said she was looking forward to a more subdued book launch this time around.

"As much as is possible I wanted this to be a normal book publication," she told USA Today.

"Some of the furor that surrounded a Harry Potter publication was fun. I always loved meeting readers. I always loved doing events where I got to speak to readers, but some of it, candidly, wasn't fun at all.

"The thing took on a life of its own. Some of it was just sheer insanity, and I couldn't control it. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't rein it in. Incredible as it is to look back on, I'm never going to be chasing that again."

That "insanity" may explain why the run-up to the publication of her story about a small town in southwest England where class prejudices are laid bare has been so low-key.

The Casual Vacancy has been described by the New Yorker magazine as a "rural comedy of manners that, having taken on state-of-the-nation social themes, builds into black melodrama."

Rowling said she was proud of her first foray into adult fiction and had enjoyed the "sheer freedom" of the last five years since she closed the Potter saga.

If readers and critics turn out not to like it, she said "I can live with that".

Rowling has confirmed that her next book is most likely to be a novel for children, which is almost complete.

She is also contemplating a "director's cut" of two Potter novels because she had been in such a rush to finish them.