There's a wonderful new and lengthy interview with J.K. Rowling in the Spanish language newspaper El Pais.
Here's the original interview in Spanish, and here's the English translation, available at the Leaky Cauldron.
Here are a few quotes from the interview that really stood out to me:
Rowling (discussing chapter 34 in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): "For me, that chapter is the key of all the books. Everything, everything I have written, was thought of for that precise moment when Harry goes into the forest. That is the chapter that I had planned for 17 years. That moment is the heart of all of the books. And for me it is the last truth of the story. Even though Harry survives, of that there was no doubt, he reaches that unique and very rare state which is to accept his own death. How many people have the possibility of accepting their death before they die?"
The chapter she is talking about (The Forest Again) where Harry walks into the Forbidden Forest to consciously face his own death, is probably the most powerful (for me) in the whole series. I was crying as I read it, because I believed Harry was walking to his death. It makes sense to me that she planned it for 17 years, because it's an absolutely crucial moment.
Rowling (talking about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix): "The fifth book is the darkest of all because there is an absence of anticipation and an oppressive atmosphere. I think because of that, people didn’t like it as much. Even though there are readers who prefer this book to the others, they are a strange minority."
I give Rowling a lot of credit for saying this. Very few people like the fifth book. Lots of people have been unable to get past it (which is unfortunate, because I think the sixth and seventh books are better). I'm impressed that she's able to recognize that the fifth book isn't as likable. I think that's hard for an author to admit. It also intrigues me that she says that the book wasn't supposed to be enjoyable.
If you have a moment, I highly recommend taking a look at the full interview. There are a lot of interesting comments in there.