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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

ND junior writes bestselling Harry Potter book

It's not every college junior who can plump his résumé with running a Web site that receives 40 million hits a month and co-authoring a book that spent 26 weeks on The New York Times children's bestseller list.

But Notre Dame junior Emerson Spartz can, and it all goes back to Harry Potter.

The site - one of the most popular Harry Potter sites online - had already garnered Spartz significant income and an exclusive interview with author J.K. Rowling.

But in May 2006, Spartz received an email from Ulysses Press, a publishing company that expressed interest in a book of his insights into the Harry Potter series. Three months later, Spartz and a team of friends had completed the book, entitled "That Will Happen in Harry Potter 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Falls in Love, and How Will the Adventure Finally End." It was published in November 2006 and quickly became a bestseller.

Spartz's passion for all things Potter began when he was 12 years old.

"I read the first and second Harry Potter book[s] in one night, and finished the third the next day," he said. "A month later I started Mugglenet."

The highly successful Harry Potter Web site was a product of both passion and opportunity.

"I had just started home schooling, and had too much time on my hands," he said. "So I thought, what the hell, and I made a Web site."

The site that had humble beginnings blossomed after hard work.

"I didn't have huge plans when I started," Spartz said. "But when I saw what potential it had, I was determined to put in as much effort as possible to make it the biggest and most comprehensive Harry Potter site on the Internet."

Eight years later, Mugglenet certainly is one of the biggest Harry Potter Web sites. It earns Spartz more than $100,000 a year, he said, which he invests in global energy projects involving solar power.

Spartz has been able to manage the site while pursuing his studies because he has learned to delegate.

"I have a large volunteer staff of 120 people from all over the world," he said. "They cover a lot of the tasks that I used to have to do all on my own."

Some of the people he works with on Mugglenet have become his best friends, he said. Here at Notre Dame, he gets attention from Mugglenet fans on campus.

"Everyone in my dorm knows me as the guy who started Mugglenet, and sometimes I get people walking by to look in my room," he said. "My roommates just think it's funny."

This in-dorm celebrity is not the most impressive attention Emerson has received - particularly from the perspective of any real Potter fan.

One morning in May 2005, he received a call from none other than Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. His father burst into his room, excited, saying that Jo, as she had identified herself, was on the phone for him.

"I wondered why some guy Joe was calling me at eight in the morning," he said - but then comprehension dawned. "She said she thought she would have to do a lot to convince me that it was really her, but I recognized her voice."

His initial reaction was pure shock, he said.

Rowling invited Spartz, along with another Harry Potter Web site owner, to conduct an exclusive interview. So on July 14, 2005, before the release of the sixth book, he flew to Scotland and interviewed Rowling about the series.

The meeting went well.

"She was the nicest, most down to earth person," Spartz said. "The interview was only supposed to last an hour, but we ended up talking for about two and a half hours. I felt like she really enjoyed talking to a real Harry Potter fan."

A transcript of this interview can be found on the Mugglenet site.

The surprises were not over for Spartz yet, however. A little less than a year later, he received the email from Ulysses Press.

The publisher liked the Mugglenet site and asked if Spartz would consider writing a book. He soon teamed up with other Mugglenet staffers to produce the book.

The book made predictions about the final book in the seven-volume series of Harry Potter and sold 350,000 copies worldwide. Spartz described the experience as "surreal."

His published projections were met with high emotion within the Harry Potter community.

"It was controversial," he said. "We took a lot of heat from fans for some of the theories we presented, but we were right about a lot of the big plotlines of Book Seven."

This summer, Emerson traveled to 45 cities promoting the book.

Even now that all seven books are released, Mugglenet is still going strong. Spartz plans to continue running the site - particularly with two more movies and a possible Harry Potter encyclopedia on the horizon, he said.

"Harry Potter still has a legacy," he said.