Михаил Костов

#Interview: Mihail Kostov

You are one of the biggest “Harry Potter” fans and you have been supporting the Bulgarian fan community for years. Every day you write articles that give information to the Bulgarians about the Wizarding World. What motivates you to continue developing this activity?
From the very first question, I find it difficult to answer. A good response would be that I want “Harry Potter” to reach as many people as possible or that I try to keep alive the obsession for as long as possible, by keeping the passion of the fans and trying to kindle it again, where it has already extinguished. But the truth is that the only thing that motivates me is the pleasure I feel. I love to bury myself in the various editions of “Harry Potter” in Bulgarian, to look for translation errors, I love to look things up in the original to better understand what Rowling meant to say, I love to gather with fans and unravel the smallest details in the book to find a new perspective. I know that talks bad about me, but I wouldn’t be engaged in anything that I don’t like doing.

Does the interest in the franchise keep increasing and are the new books and movies the reason for that?
The last months of the last year, we witnessed an awakening of the Harry Potter obsession and the reasons for this are “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Of course, the fan society today cannot be compared with that of the period 2004-2007, but my prediction is that in the coming years the mania will return completely. However, the cinema is much easier to digest than the literature, so Rowling’s upcoming four films will reach more people – new fans as well as those who have loved the Wizarding World for years.

Do the children of the new generation read “Harry Potter” or they prefer the new fantasy series? Since you have said yourself that it was J.K. Rowling who paved the way for this genre, how would you comment on the choice of today’s children and youth?
Yes, children do read “Harry Potter”. I’m sure that most of the reading children have read the book. Arguably, however, the initiative is not their own but of the parents who buy the book hoping to get them excited about literature. And apparently, it works because most of the younger children, with whom I have talked about books, say they began reading precisely with “Harry Potter”. The other fantasy books for young people come later, and children reach out to them hoping to experience again something similar. It is no accident that series like “Twilight” and “Percy Jackson” are presented as the new/the next Harry Potter.

As to whether Rowling has paved the way for this genre, I would rather say that she paved the way to a much larger range of genres, including not at all fantasy and not at all children’s books such as “50 Shades of Gray”. And this is not necessarily a good thing, because before Rowling literature has never been as commercial as it has become since “Harry Potter”.

If I have kids (naturally, they will be HP fans before they learn to read), I would try to guide them towards their reading development. There is nothing wrong with a 9-10 year old child reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Percy Jackson”, but it should not remain only in one genre – a reader should develop further and search for new things. It probably sounds weird that a person like me, who has read the same book so many times, would talk about diversity, but I am convinced that only if a person has a wider experience with literature, he or she can reopen his or her favorite book and have a new perception on it.

Are there more fans in Bulgaria compared to other countries? Does the Bulgarian participation in the book attract more attention in Bulgaria?
Recently, there have been many startling statistics about literacy of young people in Bulgaria, so I do not think that there are more fans than abroad, of any book, except maybe of books supposedly written by famous pop-folk artists.

Otherwise, yes, the role of Krum attracts attention and often people who have not read the book or seen the film, when they find out that I’m a fan, ask me if there is really something about Bulgaria in “Harry Potter”. But apparently, this is not enough to read the book, or at least learn the name of Viktor Krum.

This disinterest surprises me a bit because Viktor Krum, although fictional, is one of the most famous Bulgarians in the world – after all he is the first boyfriend of Hermione Granger.

Tell us about the awards you have received for your activity.
The biggest reward for my work is my wife. She came at a meeting of the club and said she was a very big fan of “Harry Potter”. I told her to prove it, she did and we got married.

Apart from that, I have an award from the National Harry Potter fan club “Potter Mania” for special merits to the Bulgarian fan community, as well as two awards from the National Fantasy Club – “Knight of the Citadel” Award, for me personally and “Website of the Year” for the Harry Potter website I was occupied with.

Have you thought about creating a nonprofit organization to formalize your activities? Do you need any support or funding for the realization of your ideas?
I don’t think it’s necessary for my activities to be official. As I already mentioned, I am a bit selfish and I don’t set goals such as “Motivate children to read”. I like “Harry Potter”, I like expressing my opinion and I like it when someone is interested in my opinion.

As for the funding, I thought about how nice it would be if sometimes we could organize meetings like those “Potter Mania” once organized. A meeting with gifts and awards would attract much more people. On the other hand, more people doesn’t always mean a better meeting. In the “Daily Potter” club, it’s important to us that the fans who come have read “Harry Potter” at least once, to be able to participate in the discussions.

For a while, this issue might be resolved because there are several years of large HP mania ahead of us, so commercial organizations such as cinemas, publishers, bookstores and commercial centers will organize events. We will have fun and win prizes there, and in the club we will keep organizing readings and discussions. This suits me because when I am at such events I immediately spot the ones who seem more passionate about “Harry Potter” and I invite them to see my web pages.

You are also a blogger. What can we find in your personal blog?
You can find almost everything. I started blogging almost nine years ago, when Facebook wasn’t so popular and blogs were modern. During those years, I wrote about everything that moved me in some way – books, movies, TV series, stuff from around the world that harass me.

In fact, the blog is no longer quite personal because I decided to make it a family blog and I encourage my wife to write in it. She is the biggest reader I have ever met, but she doesn’t like to write very much and she rarely takes part in it.

What else do you do? Do you write fiction and are you planning a career in writing?
During most of the time, I do my muggle job in a large information agency. I don’t have much time left for writing because I am terribly undisciplined – I can sit down at 8 pm with the intention to write and at 3 am I notice that I am watching videos on the internet and I haven’t done anything.

Otherwise, I used to write and I dreamed to do it. Since I was very young I love writing because I have always expressed myself better this way, I also love reading and I have always had the feeling that I understand the authors and I am competent to say if something is written well or not.

It turned out, however, that this is not for me. I realized that some people are better readers than writers. And it’s not a bad thing – I don’t take it as if I have lost my dream, I just realized that I dreamed about the wrong thing.

I still love to write and I don’t think there is a better feeling than that of writing the perfect sentence, which expresses your opinion clearly and concisely. So, I decided to get started in journalism.

Wish something to the readers of this interview.
I haven’t said anything about “Harry Potter” for a while, so my wish will be related to the book.

I wish for those who haven’t read it, to read it, and for those who have read it, to read it again. J.K. Rowling has invested a lot of time, effort and love in these books and it is very sad when someone fails to understand them in depth, because he or she is too focused on the compelling storyline.

Oh, and if someone thinks that something is wrong with the book, anyone can contact me. I will gladly explain them what they haven’t understood.

LILIA IVANOVA

Lilia Ivanova#Interview: Mihail Kostov