Joanne Rowling (born July 31, 1965) is a British writer who writes under the pen name of J.K. Rowling, she is the world famous author of the Harry Potter series. She was born in Yate, Gloucestershire in England, her parents were Peter and Anne Rowling and she has a younger sister, Dianne. As a teenager, Rowling’s life was difficult and she was unhappy. Her mother was ill and she did not have a very good relationship with her father. She eventually attended the University of Exeter and studied for a BA in French and Classic Literature, she graduated in 1986.
She began working at Amnesty International in London and was now living in Manchester. When she was delayed for hours on a crowded train trip into London from Manchester she came up with the idea for a story about a young wizard, all the details of the various characters and the story concepts. When she returned home she immediately began writing the story of the “Philosopher’s Stone”. Shortly afterwards, her mother died after suffering from multiple sclerosis for the past ten years. Suddenly her sadness at her mother’s passing affected her writing.
Seeking a change, Rowling had seen an advertisement for a teacher’s position in Portugal; she moved there and taught during the day but still continued to write the Harry Potter story at night. While in Portugal she meet Jorge Arantes and they quickly married on October 16, 1992 and had a daughter named Jessica, who was born on July 27, 1993. The marriage proved to be an unhappy one and they separated in November 1993. Rowling and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rowling had returned a very broken women; she felt she was a failure in life with a bad marriage, no job prospects with a small child to raise and support on her own. By 1994, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and had signed up for welfare benefits. To complicate matters, her estranged husband followed her to Scotland but she obtained a restraining order and finally filed for a divorce. To set a goal for herself, she returned to college and began a course at Edinburgh University to get a post graduate teaching certificate. During this time she would take her daughter on walks around Edinburgh and once Jessica fell asleep on daily walks she would stop in cafes to continue to write her Harry Potter story.
By 1995, Rowling had finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and submitted the manuscript to twelve publishing houses which all rejected the story. A year later she finally had a publisher, Bloomsbury a publishing house located in London. She was advised to keep her day job since there was very little chance to make money writing children’s books. Within a few months after the book’s release she began receiving awards for her first Harry Potter book, one of the most the prestigious British book award was for Children’s Book of the Year. By 1998, Scholastic Inc. secured the rights to publish Harry Potter in the United States. With her large advance of $105,000 Rowling soon moved from a small flat into a large house in Edinburgh.
The worldwide success of the first Harry Potter books led to the publishing of “The Chamber of Secrets” in 1998, “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in 1999, and “The Goblet of Fire” in 2000. After a three year interval she continued the successful series with “The Order of the Phoenix” in 2003, “The Half-Blood Prince” in 2005 and the final book “The Deathly Hallows” in 2007. The last four books set publishing records and the series has been translated in 65 languages, Harry Potter was now a global brand worth an estimated $15 billion.
In 1998, Warner Bros. purchased the film rights and Rowling stipulated in her contract that she wanted the films to be shot in Britain with an all-British cast and she also retained creative control and script approval. The film adaption of “The Philosopher’s Stone” (published in the U.S. as “The Sorcerer’s Stone”) was released in 2001, followed by “The Chamber of Secrets” in 2002, “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in 2004,”The Goblet of Fire” in 2005, “The Order of the Phoenix” in 2007 and “The Half-Blood Prince” in 2009. The final book was divided into movies, “The Deathly Hallows Part One” released in 2010 and “Part Two” in 2011.
In the years since writing the first Harry Potter book, Rowling’s life has completely changed from relative poverty to wealth and financial security. She found personal happiness as well, marrying Neil Michael Murray in 2001. Their son, David, was born on March 24, 2003 and their daughter, Mackenzie, was born on January 23, 2005.
Her professional career has flourished as well and in 2010 at the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened. The architecture of this unique section of the Island of Adventure Theme Park is truly a visual wonder. It has proved to be so successful with the park’s visitors that an expansion of the Wizarding World has recently been announced to open in 2014. In the meantime, Rowling has continued her writing career with the recent publication of the book, “The Casual Vacancy” in 2012 which is a complete departure from the Harry Potter series. It also has been recently revealed that Rowling, writing under the name of Robert Gailbraith, is the true author of the crime fiction book “The Cuckoo’s Calling” released in 2013.
J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter Trivia
- Rowling’s publisher suggested she use initials rather than her real name in order to appeal to male readers since they would probably not read an adventure/fantasy book written by a woman author. She chose the initials J.K., J for Joanne which is her birth name and she selected K for Kathleen which is her grandmother’s name.
- J.K. Rowling is the first person to become a billionaire by writing books.
- Harry’s birthday of July 31, 1980 which is the same month and date as Rowling birthday, but she was born in 1966.
- Rowling has said that she partially based the character of Hermione on herself when she was the same age, 11 years old at the start of the Harry potter series.
- Rowling has said that the inspiration for the name of Harry Potter’s school, known as “Hogwarts”, came from the name of a plant that she saw in the Kew Gardens in New York City.
- The headmaster at St. Michael’s Primary School was Alfred Dunn and she has suggested that he was the inspiration for the character of Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
- At one point in her life, Rowlings struggled with the disease of depression. She has said that the Dementors, which are the deadly phantoms that guard Azkaban Prison in the Harry potter series, represent depression and the darkness that it brings to a life.
- Rowling has said that she considered a small part in the first film playing Lily Potter (Harry’s mother) in the Mirror of Erised scene. Ultimately, she declined the role stating that that she was not an actress but a writer.