So - do I need to say this? - spoilers for the end of the Harry Potter series.
While the HP series was still in progress, one of the biggest reasons to avoid the Internet was the shipping wars between the hardcore Harry/Ginny shippers and the hardcore Harry/Hermione shippers. At times it was an absurdly toxic subject. I wasn't in the (online) fandom until right before the last book dropped, so I didn't see much of it firsthand, but some of the stories I've since heard are so ridiculous they're hard to believe.
One of the most famous incidents was the 2005 interview between JK Rowling and the Mugglenet fansite, wherein the possibility of Harry/Hermione was brought up. The people at Mugglenet suggested that H/Hr shippers were "delusional". JKR didn't agree they were delusional, but she agreed that Ron/Hermione had already been clearly established. Understandably, H/Hr shippers were upset, and some went nuts. Some insisted that the series had a consistent H/Hr subtext, Ron/Hermione was not only the lesser pairing, it was fundamentally flawed, and, maybe the biggest statement yet, JKR was just bluffing her fans and the final book would still end with Harry/Hermione together forever.
And then Book 7 arrived and Harry married Ginny and Ron married Hermione.
And then, six and a half years later, JKR admitted that, now that she thinks of it, Harry was really the one for Hermione. I haven't read the full interview, but what she seems to be saying is that Ron/Hermione was a holdover from her earlier plotting process, and she held on to it for sentimental reasons, rather than wrote things as they should have turned out.
I was never hugely invested in either of those ships, so this doesn't ruin anything for me, but I do find it really interesting, from a writing point of view. JKR's saying that she made a huge misstep in the series. Would she write it differently now if she had the chance? And what would she change? Would she try to make Ron and Hermione work together better as a couple? Or would she deep-six the Harry/Ginny angle and go with the new pairing?
And then there's the writing aspect of it. Thoughts:
1. When a writer looks back on her writing, she cringes. At least, I do. I may love the story, but years - even months later - I reread it and see it differently. Hopefully I still love it, but I also see the awkward lines, the pointless scenes, the over-writing, the missed opportunities. Time gives you perspective, so I understand a writer looking at her work and thinking, If I was writing this now, it would be so much different, and so much better.
2. But: There is something to be said for the choices you make in the heat of writing. You don't have as much perspective, but you can be so close to your story. It's like you're seeing the world through the eyes of the story itself, so you make the choices that seem right at that very moment. That's when you're on the same wavelength as the story. After a few months have passed, the story has stayed the same, but you've grown up a bit, so you're a bit estranged from it.
3. BUT: If the Ron/Hermione thing was a holdover from her early planning, and not the place she was in while actually writing the romance arcs of the later books, well - she wasn't writing in the moment. She was writing a past idea that was no longer compatible with her present book. So she wasn't even on the proper wavelength.
4. BUT: She still had it published. At that point, would she really be making her decisions lightly? So it may be that now, in 2014, she's not giving her mid-2000s self enough credit. Maybe it's not the decision she'd make now, but one hopes it made sense at the time. So that doesn't mean it's completely invalid.
5. BUT: Actually, no, this is a slightly different topic. Is H/Hr now canon? At least, sort of? I suppose not, but it's really hard to decide how to take information like this when it comes through interviews, and not the original book/movie/game/whatever.
My final thoughts: I can see why Hermione might be a good fit for Harry. And yeah, I can see why Ron and Hermione would have to have marriage counseling. But Ron/Hermione, as JKR originally wrote it, was still easy to spot from a mile off. I never really saw how people could realistically believe it would go any other way. Whatever fans wanted, JKR's intentions were obvious. And while romance isn't JKR's strong suit, she wrote Ron/Hermione convincingly enough that I wasn't bothered. But does that mean she wrote it well? Or does it mean she didn't write her characters as well as I once thought? After all, if the pairing really is as jarring as she now feels it is, doesn't that mean that more of us should have been troubled by it?
Guess I should be glad she didn't touch the Bill/Fleur pairing. I love it, and it's canon, but I still can't figure out what possessed JKR to throw them together.