By Emily Dunn
BY DAY Andy McCray is like any 18-year-old student, keeping up with the demands of a gruelling Higher School Certificate.
At home on his computer he is the founder of harrypotterfanzone.com, the only official Australian website dedicated to the Harry Potter book and film phenomenon.
With a volunteer staff of 30 the website gets an average of 20,000 hits a day, turns over an estimated [omitted] a year – most of which McCray reinvests in the site – and has received J.K. Rowling’s seal of approval.
Today McCray, from Theodore in the ACT, packs his bags and heads to Los Angeles for next weekend’s US premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
It will be a repeat of a trip taken in 2005 when McCray represented the site in New York at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, walking the red carpet with Daniel Radcliffe.
But it was the Order of the Phoenix book that inspired him to start the website in the summer holidays of 2001 [note from Andy: it was 2003].
“It introduced me to a new genre of books … It is the longest one with the deepest plot,” said McCray, who grew up with the books, reading the first when he was 10. “I started the website as a bit of fun and never expected it would pick up like this, we are all just teenagers doing it for a hobby.”
Most of the website’s volunteers are in the US.
McCray, a self-confessed technology junkie, spends an hour a day on the site and maintains “I don’t run it as a business”.
He was one of the first in Australia to receive news on the publication date of the seventh and final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on July 21.
“This was supposed to be a summer project and I am going to keep running with it. I don’t think there will be another [book] but there will be enough open-ended areas where people can discuss theories,” he said.
“It has definitely opened opportunities I never thought I would do in my teenage life, travelling overseas and learning about journalism.”
First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 2007.