With the release this week of several chapters of "The Ickabog," a new children's fairy tale written by J.K. Rowling, 60 Minutes Overtime travels back in time to 1999, when the author opened up her spellbook to Lesley Stahl. Daniel Radcliffe had not yet been cast as "the boy who lived" and the Hogwarts Express sat waiting at platform 9 and 3/4.
Before quidditch became a beloved sport and floo powder was the chic way to travel, J.K. Rowling was a struggling writer, relying on welfare to feed her infant daughter. She filed her magical world away in cardboard boxes. Each container filled to the top with scraps of paper chronicling Harry, Ron, and Hermione's struggle against Lord Voldemort.
Multiple publishers rejected her manuscript. By chance, an agent named Christopher Little pulled it out of the "slush pile" and began reading. Recognizing its brilliance, he convinced Bloomsbury to publish the book. Without publicity, sales climbed as word of Harry's adventures spread first from child to child and then parent to parent.
As for "The Ickabog," Rowling says she conceived of the idea while still writing Harry Potter, and explains the timing of the release on her website: "A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting 'The Ickabog' down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown. My now teenagers were touchingly enthusiastic, so downstairs came the very dusty box, and for the last few weeks I've been immersed in a fictional world I thought I'd never enter again."
Aaron Weisz contributed to this reporting.