Two issues here:
(1) I note that it was two years ago today (December 20; see the HPL timeline
) that JKR announced the completion of HBP. Her publishers followed this shortly with the announcement of a publication schedule for the following July 16.
I commented a bit on this a few months ago
, and still mostly stand by those remarks. Of course, with every day that passes without substantive information, the reasonable-to-expect probability of a summer release goes down ever so slightly; in September I said 50-50, now I might say 40-60.
The key question remains: How late can JKR finish and still allow a summer 2007 release? OotP took 157 days, HBP 208 (I suspect that HBP may have taken that long more for marketing reasons than for the actual mechanics of publication). My memory of GoF was that it was pretty quick, and this HPFGU archive post
(sorry, membership required) seems to confirm it as having been only 104 days (exactly half of HBP's 208, amusingly). My guess is that they won't crunch it that tightly again; wouldn't want any wand-order type mixups on Book 7!
I'm inclined to say that four months (about 120 days) would be the minimum schedule, and 150 days would be a pretty safe one. So, to have a release by the end of August, JKR would need to finish by the end of April at the latest, and more likely by the end of March. Which I don't think is impossible. The title of HBP was one that JKR had liked for a long time, and so I can well imagine that she settled on that earlier in the writing process than is becoming the case with Book 7. Furthermore, the OotP title ended up meaning something different than what she originally intended (see the discussion here
on how the Order and the DA seem to have swapped identities during the writing process). So I can imagine that, if she's in doubt about the title, she might want to hold off on publicizing what it would be.
Nevertheless, it does seem true that the completion of the manuscript is not imminent. She's not giving the sense of "any-day-now" that we had at this time two years ago. I'm still hoping for a March release, even if such hopes are becoming steadily less realistic; but I'd be surprised if it were much earlier than March.
I might also mention: It seems possible that Book 7 might be longer than HBP, and that this might partly explain the time it's taking JKR to write it. (Of course that's not the only possible explanation; but it seems reasonable.) At this point I'm sticking with my earlier prediction
of 220K words, 800 US pages, and 39 chapters (though I'm tempted to bump the chapter guess up to 40!); but I am becoming more confident that I didn't shoot too high with those guesses.
(2) On a rather different subject: I've been thinking a bit about JKR's remarks on the fantasy genre, from the July 2005 Time interview
: The most popular living fantasy writer in the world doesn't even especially like fantasy novels. It wasn't until after Sorcerer's Stone was published that it even occurred to her that she had written one. "That's the honest truth," she says. "You know, the unicorns were in there. There was the castle, God knows. But I really had not thought that that's what I was doing. And I think maybe the reason that it didn't occur to me is that I'm not a huge fan of fantasy."
Of course it's well-known how Terry Pratchett gave some rather snarky comments in reply to the above. But the thought has since occurred to me: Is
it really correct to label the HP stories as "Fantasy"?
That is: It has often been remarked that the HP stories use a lot of elements from the school-story genre (Encarta
, for example, says "The Harry Potter books combine two powerful genres—the school story and magical fantasy—but Rowling’s treatment of these is almost entirely original"). So my question is: Is it more accurate to view HP as a fantasy story with boarding-school elements, or as a boarding-school story with fantasy elements?
I can certainly agree that it's fairly close to 50-50. Certainly both were part of JKR's original vision ("boy finds out he's a wizard and goes to wizard school"). Yet I am inclined to view the school-story aspects as more fundamental to the series, and the fantasy elements as more of an added characteristic. In which case JKR's slowness in associating her story with the fantasy genre makes a fair amount of sense.
(But I reserve the right to alter or refine the above opinion. I would not say that I've yet gotten to the bottom of the question.)