Swish and flick. Harry Potter's know-all pal Hermione Granger can make time go backwards but perhaps my wand lacks the appropriate magical ingredient (unicorn hair, phoenix tail feather or dragon's heart string) because I'm having trouble transporting myself back to Nicolson's Cafe in Edinburgh and my first meeting with Joanne Rowling.

A few weeks before the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 10 years ago this week, I had contacted Bloomsbury requesting an interview, after my daughter Laura and her friend, Jill Allardice, echoed the wild enthusiasm I felt for this book.

The publisher's response was ecstatic because rookie authors struggle for press coverage. I was so late that The Herald's photographer had left empty-handed having failed to identify the striking young red-head in the bright blue silk jacket as the JK Rowling on his brief. He had expected a crusty matron.

She laughed off the confusion and settled to telling her own story over a string of black coffees and Marlboro Lights. The previous week, rival publishing houses had been bidding into six figures for the American rights, which seemed like the stuff of fantasy to this writer for whom a £2500 Scottish Arts Council grant had been all that lay between her and penury a few months beforehand.

My story began: "Three years ago, Joanne Rowling landed in Edinburgh with a baby under one arm and a dog-eared manuscript under the other. Apart from the proverbial battered suitcase, she owned nothing else." After a thousand retellings it may sound like a trite back-to-front country-and-western song, but at the time it simply felt grim. Having dreamed up during a train journey in 1990 the idea of an orphaned boy wizard and a school of witchcraft, she began carving out a book from what she describes as "an incoherent mass of adventures", using the ancient notion of a magical philosopher's stone as the central theme.

Unsure of how her work would be received, Rowling was still considering returning to part-time French teaching when we met.

Looking back, I was far more confident than she was about her path to greatness. Several years later, she told me she sometimes thought she was temperamentally better suited to being "a moderately successful writer", with more time to write and without the persistent limelight.

The publicity began on a modest scale. In June 1997 Bloomsbury brought her to my little local library to meet a primary class, including Alistair Ogilvy, who recalls the occasion here. What quickly pitched Jo Rowling from obscurity to global stardom shortly afterwards was not some cynical marketing campaign, but the power of the playground whisper, amplified by the modern magic of internet communication. There's simply no substitute for kids saying to their friends: "You've got to read this. It's fantastic."

Another interview in June 2000 involved a string of phone calls and a secrecy agreement which forbade me from divulging anything about "book four" before July 8. Now blonde and expensively dressed, Rowling nevertheless looked pale. She had come close to a nervous breakdown after finding a serious flaw in the plot of the doorstopper that turned into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It necessitated a major rewrite. Each time we met, we joked that the hype around the books couldn't get any further over the top. Each time we were wrong, which was becoming an issue for someone who admits to being "borderline phobic" about large crowds. Pushy parents nearly started a riot at a signing event in Boston, after 2000 fans showed up.

Inevitably, some of the publicity turned nasty, too. As she retired to her study and wrestled with the troublesome Goblet of Fire, newspapers that were refused interviews accused her of being aloof and reclusive and tried to dig the dirt. Rowling got her own back in the poisonous tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter, who ends up as a beetle. There were clumsy attempts to deconstruct the Potter books as gospels for a post-Christian, New Labour Britain stuck between nostalgia for the past and uncertainty about the future. There were facile rip-offs with two-dimensional characters and trashy plots. And there were plenty of critics, happy to pooh-pooh her work as formulaic and repetitive. Her answer: "I didn't write them for you."

Will the Potter books be winning new generations of young readers in 2107? I'm sure they will. Why? Like the best fantasies, she creates an extraordinary and intriguing world that draws in young readers and holds them there. Children often say they feel as if they are "inside" the story. Some of the later books are, frankly, a bit flabby, but open any of the first three at any page and what strikes you is their colourful inventiveness: portraits that speak, a flying Ford Anglia, Quidditch, the Sorting Hat, baby dragons fed on brandy and chicken blood aged 12, Jill Allardice described Philosopher's Stone as "an imagination in overdrive".

Yet the human characters are all perfectly recognisable. Harry is every boy, but with a twist - his world is our world but seen through a distorting mirror. These adventures capture the intensity and vulnerability of adolescence.

And the relationships the children have with each other are familiar, too - sometimes they fall out or let each other down.

Harry is no 2-D hero. There's a dark side to him, too. Why else would the Hogwarts Sorting Hat think of putting him in slippery Slytherin before opting for glorious Gryffindor? And why is the phoenix feather in Harry's wand matched only in the wand that gave him his lightning-shaped scar? All is about to be revealed.

Will Harry survive in the final book, due out on July 21? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's worth remembering something Joanne said in 2000 when we were discussing the importance for the dramatic tension in her books of there being limits to what is susceptible to magic. One fundamental is that you can't reverse death. "That's a given," she said, "though in book seven you'll see just how close you can get."

Like Laura, I loathe the shameless marketing that has accompanied the Potter films: the horrid plastic models, stupid games and overpriced sweets masquerading as Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. But I'll be there with the rest of them to collect my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Why? Because of the child in me.

We read it first': the Potter preview that got three young readers longing for more

Alistair Ogilvy,19
I don't really think our primary six class from a small village in Stirlingshire knew just how lucky we were to meet J K Rowling, long before she became a household name.

It was 10 years ago, just around the time the first book was published. Our teacher had got hold of a proof from Anne. We read sections in class and used it for a project. So we were all mad about Harry before the book was even in the shops.

Having not met an author before, I didn't know what to expect, but J K Rowling was lovely. I remember being entranced by the expression in her voice as she read to us.

You could tell from the way she answered our questions that she knew the characters inside out. We'd taken along our paintings and poems based on the book and she seemed to be genuinely delighted by them. At the end of the session we were each given signed copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which made us feel special.

Fantasy fiction has always appealed to me. I've grown up with books such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Roald Dahl's The Witches, but nothing quite compares with the Potter books for the compulsion to find out what happens next.

It meant a lot to meet such a creative person and I think she made a big impression on all of us.

Laura Balfour(Anne's daughter), 21
Some time around January 1997 I found a manuscript of the first couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in mum's briefcase. I read it in a few minutes and remember begging her somehow (anyhow!) to get hold of the rest of the book. It was the way the book drew you into that magical world of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts that made it so compulsive.

One way and another, Harry Potter became a major influence in my life, despite the media circus that soon engulfed the series and Daniel Radcliffe's frankly spew-inducing screen performance.

For a long time I jealously guarded my signed proof ("To Laura - I'm so glad you enjoyed this book - from Jo Rowling"), but ultimately, with an only slightly heavy heart, I invoked the magic of Sotheby's to turn it into a gap year of adventures in Kenya and Australia.

Not entirely by coincidence, I've ended up at Oxford, a sort of earthly Hogwarts, complete with gargoyles, gowns and dreaming spires, studying for a degree in the care of magical creatures. Well, OK - biology.

Jill Allardice, 22
It is now 10 years since a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone landed in my letter box. I wasn't overly impressed by the title - I'd never heard of Harry Potter (imagine!) and had no idea what a philosopher did but, not being one to turn down a book, I got stuck in.

People use words such as "gripping" and "page-turner" pretty casually these days, but that's exactly how I remember that first encounter with Harry and Co.

There was a feeling of anticipation, right from the first page. By the time Anne asked for my feedback a few days later, I was already on my fourth re-reading.

When she took my proof copy along to J K Rowling and returned with a signed message thanking me for my "kind comments", I was delighted. I still treasure it.

I'm very grateful to have had the chance to read the book before it really took off, and to assess it for myself without the influence of public enthusiasm.

I no longer read each new book multiple times, nor have I taken to queuing obsessively at midnight, but I am still looking forward to the last book. Sadly, I don't have an advance copy this time - I'll just have to enjoy reading it at the same time as everyone else.