JK Rowling promotes The Casual Vacancy with Harry Potter hint

Author tells packed house in New York of existence of box containing the notebooks in which the boy wizard was born

On Tuesday night, in front of an audience that was compared by the author Ann Patchett to the screaming attendees of a Rolling Stones concert, JK Rowling made her first and only US public appearance in support of her new book.

Amid roars of adulation, Rowling sat down with Patchett in the David H Koch Theater at New York's Lincoln Center, to discuss The Casual Vacancy.

"You've done more for reading than anyone in my life," Patchett said, perfectly reflecting the overwhelming enthusiasm of the audience.

Rowling said that the same need that compelled her to write the Harry Potter novels had moved her to create The Casual Vacancy.

"I did feel the exact same powerful need to write the book, and need is the right word," Rowling said. "I think that I have had a very odd life and that I've moved through, economically speaking, I've been through virtually every variation you can have."

Rowling went on to say that her time spent living on the British equivalent of welfare was a formative experience on her life.

"It left me with me with an abiding, several abiding feelings about how we talk about the poor, how we discuss them, what it feels like to be poor, which can be a humiliating experience in ways well beyond those you may imagine if you've never been in that situation," Rowling said. "And all of that experience, though this is not a biography or memoir, could be used in this book."

In creating The Casual Vacancy, Rowling said her authorial troubles had not been the ones that critics expected.

"The biggest challenge wasn't, as many people suppose, 'you're writing in a contemporary world', 'you're writing in a real world', 'you haven't got magic to go to'," Rowling said. "No, and it sounds very dull, but the challenge was the structure of the book and I put a huge amount of work into that."

Along with multiple comparisons to Potter, the authors also joked about the book's similarities to another bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey – which neither had read.

"People have sex in the book, but they don't enjoy it," Rowling said of The Casual Vacancy.

Patchett also asked a question that treasure-hunters the world over are begging to have answered: would the almost-priceless papers that contain the beginnings, outlines and back-story of the Harry Potter series be archived at Oxford, or up the chimney, in case of Rowling's untimely death?

Rowling avoided the question but admitted that she has kept some boxes filled with old papers, including one that has "very precious materials" written on the top and which contains a piece of literary history: the two tiny notebooks in which she wrote the first notes about Harry Potter.

At the end of the talk, Rowling said she thought her next project would be a story for children slightly younger than the audience for Harry Potter.

With that tiny morsel of information, the Koch Theater's enthusiastic audience was directed to remain calmly seated, before getting in line for autographs.

guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds