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JK Rowling reveals she wrote unseen story on a party dress

JK Rowling may have created the most valuable 50th birthday dress in history, with the Harry Potter writer revealing that she wrote an exclusive children’s fairytale on a party dress, worn to celebrate her half-century in 2015.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for CNN, the bestselling author said: “The theme of my 50th birthday, which I held at Halloween, even though that’s not really my birthday, was come as your own private nightmare. And I went as a lost manuscript. And I wrote [most of it] over a dress.”

Fans hoping for a glimpse of Rowling’s tale will be disappointed. “I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but it’s actually hanging in a wardrobe,” she told Amanpour in the interview screened on Monday on the cable news channel.

The revelation came in response to a question about rumours that the Edinburgh-based writer was considering writing a politically themed book for children. A vocal opponent to Scottish independence and high-profile supporter of the Labour party, the author said: “It wasn’t political in a sort of party-political sense.”

Rowling used the interview to discuss her charity Lumos, which works with disadvantaged children around the world. Inspiration for the project came from reading an article about appalling conditions in a Czech institution for children with special needs. “I was pregnant and therefore perhaps particularly vulnerable and emotional to anything to do with small children,” she explained. “And I’m flicking through the Sunday paper and I saw what – still I see it in my memory. It was a very disturbing image of a very small boy screaming through chicken wire.”

What shocked Rowling, who famously wrote her debut novel while a single mother on state benefits, was that she went to turn the page on seeing the image. Admitting she was not proud of her reaction, she added: “And then I – I stopped and I thought, if the story is as bad as the picture looks, then you have to do something about it.”

The boy was kept in a “cage bed” – a cot covered in chicken wire – for up to 20 hours a day. “And that was his existence,” she added. “And from that, that’s how it all began. I was just appalled and horrified.”

Rowling also revealed her worst fear inspired the misery of Harry Potter’s bedroom in a cupboard under the stairs. She said that when she saw the boy in the cage she didn’t immediately make a link to Potter, but “although I didn’t think, ‘That’s like Harry in his cupboard’, I suppose, why did I put Harry in the cupboard?”

She also told Amanpour that she had been so pleased to have found a publisher, she was happy to accept Bloomsbury’s suggestion of a gender-neutral pseudonym. “I was so grateful to be published, if they told me to call myself Rupert, I probably would have done,” she said. How does she feel about her pen name now? “I actually quite like having a pen name, because… that feels like an identity and then I’m, in private life, I’m Jo Murray. And it feels like quite a nice separation.”