JK Rowling, best known for writing the Harry Potter series, has sparked backlash online following the release of her latest novel, titled Ink Black Heart.
The writer has been accused of using her controversies regarding the transgender community over the past few years as inspiration for the contents of her new novel.
This is everything you need to know.
What is her new book Ink Black Heart about?
Ink Black Heart is Rowling’s latest instalment in her Cormoran Strike crime-thriller series, written under the pen name Robert Galbraith.
The new book features Edie Ledwell, the creator of a popular YouTube cartoon series, called The Ink Black Heart, whose fandom, and the internet at large, turns against her after the cartoon is criticised as racist, ableist and transphobic.
Ledwell has her address leaked on the internet with photos of her home, is subjected to death and rape threatens and is ultimately found murdered in a cemetery after being stabbed.
It’s suggested that Ledwell was the victim of a hate campaign that was orchestrated against her as Strike and private detective Robin Ellacott attempt to solve Ledwell’s murder.
The official synopsis for the book reads: “When frantic, dishevelled Edie Ledwell appears in the office begging to speak to her, private detective Robin Ellacott doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation.
“The co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, Edie is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie is desperate to uncover Anomie’s true identity.
“Robin decides that the agency can’t help with this - and thinks nothing more of it until a few days later, when she reads the shocking news that Edie has been tasered and then murdered in Highgate Cemetery, the location of The Ink Black Heart.
“Robin and her business partner Cormoran Strike become drawn into the quest to uncover Anomie’s true identity.
“But with a complex web of online aliases, business interests and family conflicts to navigate, Strike and Robin find themselves embroiled in a case that stretches their powers of deduction to the limits - and which threatens them in new and horrifying ways…”
Does the book mirror JK Rowling’s own controversies?
Audiences online were quick to point out the similarities between Rowling’s new book, including a number of reviewers, like Jake Kerridge at the Telegraph, who wrote: “[Rowling’s] new thriller sees a female celebrity hounded by self-righteous children’s fantasy fans. I wonder where she got the idea from…”
For those unaware, in 2020, Rowling found herself at the centre of controversy online after she posted tweets that were deemed as “transphobic”.
At the time, Rowling took issue with an article which used the phrase “people who menstruate”.
She tweeted the article and added: ““People who menstruate.” I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
In response to her tweet, many pointed out that menstruation is not something which is exclusively experienced by cisgender women.
Many highlighted the fact that transgender men experience menstruation, transgender (and some cisgender) women don’t, and other gender identities across the spectrum can also experience periods as well.
Her tweet started a conversation online about transgender people and their rights as a community, and Rowling, despite claiming not to be transphobic, continued to double down on her stance.
Over the following weeks and months, Rowling continued to post anti-transgender views online, as well as publishing a long personal essay titled J.K Rowling writes about her reasons for speaking out on sex and gender issues.
She tweeted about the essay with the caption “TERF wars”.
In the essay, Rowling wrote: “I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe.
“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman - and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones - then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.”
A number of studies, however, have found that the implementation of nondiscrimination laws, which allow transgender people to use the correct bathroom for their gender identity, have not led to any increase of criminal activity.
Among those who criticised Rowling for her transphobic views included Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Even prior to the 2020 tweets, Rowling faced backlash the year previous after publicly supporting Maya Forstater, a researcher whose job contract was not renewed after she released her own transphobic tweets on the social media platform.
Rowling, however, has claimed that the contents of the book were in no way inspired by any of her recent online controversies.
Appearing on Graham Norton’s Radio Show podcast, Rowling said: “I should make it really clear after some of the things that have happened the last year that this is not depicting [that].
“I had written the book before certain things happened to me online.
“I said to my husband, “I think everyone is going to see this as a response to what happened to me,” but it genuinely wasn’t.
“The first draft of the book was finished at the point certain things happened.”
In a Q&A feature on Robert Galbraith’s website, Rowling also adds: “I had been planning this book for so long and then a couple of the things that happen in this book have since happened to me.
“And so, I would like to be very clear that I haven’t written this book as an answer to anything that happened to me.
“Although I have to say when it did happen to me, those who had already read the book in manuscript form were – are you clairvoyant? I wasn’t clairvoyant, I just – yeah, it was just one of those weird twists.
“Sometimes life imitates art more than one would like.”
What has the reaction been like online?
As the contents of Rowling’s new book began to spread, many online were quick to share their thoughts.
On Twitter, one person wrote: “JK Rowling writing a book about how she gets targeted by people who don’t tolerate her bigotry under the pen name she borrowed from the man who invented anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, really should put it into persepective for anybody who continues to support her work.”
The person is referring to the fact that Rowling’s pseudonym shares a name with Robert Galbraith Heath, an American psychiatrist who was a pioneer of a range of practices that laid the foundation for the torturous methods of gay conversion therapy.
He experimented with a range of techniques to “cure” gay men, like using electroshock treatments and other such procedures that have since been condemned by the medical community.
A spokesperson for Rowling said: “JK Rowling wasn’t aware of Robert Galbraith Heath when choosing the pseudonym for her crime novels.
“Any assertion that there is a connection is unfounded and untrue.”
Regarding The Ink Black Heart, another person tweeted: “JK Rowling releasing a transphobic book under her transphobic pseudonym about being bullied online for being transphobic is beyond parody. You’re a multi-millionaire. Log off.”
“I love the JK Rowling is not only victimising herself in her new book, but also going after fat people and people with [Postural tachycardia syndrome] and Fibromyalgia this time. How can so much hate exist in one person? She acts like she’s been crucified. We get it. You hate sick and trans people. Yawn,” tweeted another.
Lark Malakai Gray, the co-host of the Harry Potter podcast called The Gayly Prophet told NPR in an email that he found the situation “deeply embarrassing” for Rowling.
He wrote: “She has published a 1,000-page self-insert fanfiction where she’s the victim—it’s the kind of behaviour that you’d expect from a petulant teenager, not a grown adult with immense wealth and power.
"I have no idea what she expected, but seeing the internet fill with jokes about the book has been an absolute joy after all the harm she has caused my community over the past several years."