| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Harry Potter might have waved his wand and cast a spell, but author J.K. Rowling sat down and cheerfully signed 1,600 books for schoolkids on Monday as she launched her first U.S. book tour in seven years.
"This is an amazing treat for me," Rowling said of the mass book signing and reading for cheering Harry Potter fans who gave her a pop star welcome in Los Angeles.
"I really miss being able to interact directly with the readers. Everyone keeps saying, 'it must be so onerous. Doesn't it hurt your hand?' But, honestly, that's the bit I really enjoy," Rowling told reporters.
The 42-year-old British author said that after 10 years of writing to a deadline, she now felt as if she was on vacation and has not yet started writing the promised Harry Potter encyclopedia that fans around the world are awaiting.
She gave no clues as to her next project, but told an audience of 1,600 children that Harry Potter would be a hard act to follow.
"I want to fall in love with someone the way I fell in love with Harry. I never think about a particular genre. It is all about the story and the characters, but it has to be something I adore," she said.
Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" -- the seventh and final book in the boy wizard series -- became the fastest-selling book in history when it was released in July. More than 11 million copies were sold in the first 24 hours in the United States and Britain.
Seated on an oversized red and gold throne in the Kodak Theatre -- home to the annual Oscar ceremony -- Rowling read a chapter to a spellbound audience and answered questions from 12 Los Angeles children about her inspiration as a writer and about characters in the series.
She will hold similar readings and book signings in New Orleans and New York this month.
"I was super excited. I have been looking forward to this day for weeks," said Hannah Nelson, 12, one of the lucky few who got to pose a question.
"I really idolize her, and to be able to meet her was a great experience," Nelson said.
Despite widespread praise from teachers and parents for boosting interest in reading in children, the Harry Potter books have regularly been banned by schools and libraries in parts of the United States and Britain because of their focus on wizardry.
But Rowling said she was in good company with other acclaimed writers. "I take my inclusion on the banned book list as a massive compliment."