J.K. Rowling reveals why she created alter ego Robert Galbraith

In a new interview, J.K. Rowling opens up about her myster-writing alter ego, Robert Galbraith.

In a new interview, J.K. Rowling opens up about her myster-writing alter ego, Robert Galbraith.

(Joel Ryan / Associated Press)

When Robert Galbraith’s debut novel, the mystery “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” was published in 2013, it received a smattering of decent reviews and very little attention. That all changed months later, when the book leaped to bestseller status after the true identity of the author was revealed: Galbraith was actually a pen name for J.K. Rowling, the creator of “Harry Potter.”

In an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast today, Rowling finally revealed why she created her secret alter ego, Galbraith.

"[T]here was a phenomenal amount of pressure that went with being the writer of Harry Potter, and that aspect of publishing those books I do not particularly miss,” Rowling said. “So you can probably understand the appeal of going away and creating something very different, and just letting it stand or fall on its own merits.”


The year before, Rowling had published her first novel for adults, “The Casual Vacancy.” Because it was the author’s first non-"Harry Potter” book, it was subject to tremendous scrutiny by the media, her fans and critics, who were lukewarm at best.

To protect her new project, a contemporary mystery series, Rowling closely guarded the secret of Galbraith’s identity. “My publisher didn’t know who I was when they first saw [“The Cuckoo’s Calling],” she told NPR.

Since being outed as Galbraith, Rowling has toyed with her dual identity, joking about it on Twitter. “We often take tea breaks together,” she tweeted about him earlier this year, adding, “My friend @RGalbraith’s first novel is going to be a TV drama on @BBCOne. He’s very excited, but expressing it with characteristic silence.”

Galbraith/Rowling’s new book, “Career of Evil,” the third in a series that began with “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” was released last month from Mulholland Books. The books feature detective Cormoran Strike, a disabled veteran and the son of a rock star.

Strike’s rock and roll heritage may be a reason the new book features plentiful references to the band Blue Öyster Cult, a favorite of Rowling’s (and of anyone who’s seen the now-famous “More cowbell!” sketch on “Saturday Night Live”).

Rowling told NPR that she sees part of herself in Strike. "[T]here are things that I like in him, and that I would like to feel that we share,” she said. "[A]t the point where we meet him in the very first book, he is absolutely on his uppers, in a way that I too have experienced, in that he is as poor as you can be without being homeless.”