J. K. Rowling came up with the idea of The Casual Vacancy on an aeroplane to the United States, when on tour for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. "Obviously I need to be in some form of vehicle to have a decent idea," referring to the conception of Harry Potter whilst on a train from Manchester to London, "this time I was on a plane and I thought 'local election!' And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It's a rush of adrenaline, it's chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this."
Jo moved from children's to adult literature when she decided that she was "ready to change genre". "The thing about fantasy," she said, referring to Harry, "there are certain things you just don't do...You don't have sex near unicorns. It's an ironclad rule. It's tacky." When asked about younger Harry fans being attracted to the new book, Jo said, "There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher. I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write."
Little Brown, the publishers of The Casual Vacancy, describe the book as a "black comedy". Jo rejects this as the genre for her new novel in an interview with The New Yorker: "It's been billed, slightly, as a black comedy, but to me it's more of a comic tragedy. If the novel had precedents, it would be sort of nineteenth-century: the anatomy and the analysis of a very small and closed society."
For two years, Jo was planning to name the novel "Responsible", until she saw the phrase "casual vacancy" in Local Council Administration by Charles Arnold-Baker. When the title "Responsible" was questioned, Jo said "This is a book about responsibility. In the minor sense — how responsible we are for our own personal happiness, and where we find ourselves in life — but in the macro sense also, of course how responsible we are for the poor, the disadvantaged, other people's misery."
Poverty, politics and classEdit
J. K. Rowling was "as poor as it is possible to be on modern Britain, without being homeless" and this was what drew her to write about poverty.
"How many of us are able to expand our minds beyond our own personal experience?" Jo discusses stubbornness to accept the poor. "So many people, certainly people who sit around the cabinet table, say, 'Well, it worked for me' or, 'This is how my father managed it' — these trite catchphrases — and the idea that other people might have had such a different life experience that their choices and beliefs and behaviours would be completely different from your own seems to escape a lot of otherwise intelligent people. The poor are discussed as this homogeneous mash, like porridge. The idea that they might be individuals, and be where they are for very different, diverse reasons, again seems to escape some people."
Another theme in the book is politics, described by the guardian as "a parable of national politics". Jo says that she is "interested in that drive, that rush to judgment, that is so prevalent in our society. We all know that pleasurable rush that comes from condemning, and in the short term it's quite a satisfying thing to do, isn't it?" Jo also criticizes the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition that has led since 2010's general election: "There has been a horribly familiar change of atmosphere [since the 2010 election], it feels to me a lot like it did in the early '90s, where there's been a bit of redistribution of benefits and suddenly lone-parent families are that little bit worse off. But it's not a 'little bit' when you're in that situation. Even a tenner a week can make such a vast, vast difference. So, yeah, it does feel familiar. Though I started writing this five years ago when we didn't have a coalition government, so it's become maybe more relevant as I've written."
Like so many British novels, The Casual Vacancy is about class. "We're a phenomenally snobby society," Rowling says, "and it's such a rich seam. The middle class is so funny, it's the class I know best, and it's the class where you can find the most pretension, so that's what make the middle classes so funny."
The novel also includes rape, racism, heroin and marijuana use, child abuse, self-harm and suicide.
Simon Price abuses his children Andrew and Paul throughout the novel. Jo was questioned about this being a reflection on her own hard past, replying "Andrew's romantic idea that he’ll go and live among the graffiti and broken windows of London — that was me. I thought, I have to get away from this place. So all of my energies went into that", although she added, "I did not have an easy relationship with my father, but no one in The Casual Vacancy is a portrait of any living person."
The Weedon Family reflects many social issues that the world suffers today. Terri uses heroin and is a prostitute, something she is condescended for within Pagford and The Fields. Krystal is raped by Obbo, a drug-dealer.
The book reached Number 1 on the Amazon Book Chart in the U.S. within hours of its release, being the second biggest opening of all time in the U.K., runner-up to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. It feel short of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which sold 2.6 millions copies on its opening night, becoming the fastest selling book in history. The Casual Vacancy became the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during its first week of release. The book's total sales have been over one million copies in English in all formats across the world, according to Little, Brown and Company.
There is a Sikh family in the novel, and Sukhvinder's character has sparked some controversy amongst some Sikhs. Head of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Avtar Singh Makkar, states that Rowling's book will be banned in India if the scrutiny board of SGPC find anything objectionable in it. They did not however, so his remark has been deemed pretty pointless. Rowling stated that she admire the Sikh faith, having done a copious amount of research on it. Other members of the Sikh community appreciate the fact that Sikhism is depicted in a favourable light in The Casual Vacancy and that the novel draws attention to the the racism that Sikhs suffer under.