J.K Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, July 31st, 1965. Her childhood was generally happy, although she does remember getting teased because of her name, “Rowling” – She recalls often getting called “Rowling pin” by her less than ingenious school friends. J.K. Rowling says she never really warmed to her own name, although, she does remember having a fondness for the name Potter from quite an early age. J.K.Rowling studied at St Michael’s Primary School in Gloucestershire, before moving to Chepstow, South Wales at the age of nine.
From an early age, J.K. Rowling had the ambition to be a writer. She often tried her hand at writing, although little came from her early efforts. Aged six she wrote a book about a rabbit with measles. After her mother praised her effort. Rowling replied ‘well get it published then.’ She admits it was a ‘Bit of an odd thing for a child of six to think. I don’t know where it came from…”
In her own autobiography, she remembers with great fondness, when her good friend Sean became the first person to give her the confidence that one day she would be able to make a very good writer.
“he was also the only person who thought I was bound to be a success at it, which meant much more to me than I ever told him at the time”
Sean was also the owner of a battered old Ford Anglia, which would later appear in one of the Harry Potter series as a flying car.
After finishing school, her parents encouraged her to study French at the University of Exeter. She slightly regretted choosing French, saying she would have preferred to study English. However, it was her parents wish that she study something “ more useful” than English.
After having spent a year in Paris, J.K.Rowling graduated from university and took various jobs in London. One of her favourite jobs was working for Amnesty International; the charity, which campaigns against human rights abuses throughout the world. Amnesty International, is one of the many charities, which J.K.Rowling has generously supported since she attained a new found wealth.
It was in 1990 that J.K.Rowling first conceived of the idea about Harry Potter. As she recalls, it was on a long train journey from Manchester to London when she began forming in her mind, the characters of the series. At the forefront, was a young boy, at that time not aware that he was a wizard. The train was delayed for over four hours, but she didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask for one nothing,
“To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one.”
But she remembers being very enthusiastic, and excited about the ideas which were filling her mind.
On arriving at her flat in Clapham Junction, she began work on writing the book immediately, although, it would take several years to come to fruition.
It was also in December of 1990 that J.K.Rowling lost her mother, who died of Multiple Sclerosis. J.K.Rowling was very close to her mother, and she felt the loss deeply. Her own loss gave an added poignancy to the death of Harry Potter’s mother in her book. She says her favourite scene in the Philosopher’s Stone is, The Mirror of Erised, where Harry sees his parents in the mirror.
In 1991, J.K.Rowling left England to get a job as an English teacher in Portugal. It was here that she met her first husband, Jorge Arantes – and together they had a child Jessica. However, after a couple of years, the couple split after a fierce argument; where by all accounts J.K.Rowling was thrown out of the house.
In Dec 1993, Rowling returned to the UK, moving to Edinburgh where she tried to finish her first book. She was surviving on state benefits and bringing up her daughter as a single parent. She would often go to Edinburgh cafes to work on the book whilst her child had a nap.
Eventually, she finished her first copy of “The Philosopher’s Stone ”, and sent it off to various agents. She found an agent, Christopher, who spent over a year trying to get a publisher. It was rejected by 12 major publishing houses. But, eventually, a quite small publisher, Bloomsbury agreed to take the book on. The editor Barry Cunningham also agreed to pay her an advance of £1500. The decision to take on the book was, in large part, due to his eight-year-old daughter’s enthusiastic reception of the first chapter (However she was advised to continue her training as a teacher because she was told writers of children’s books don’t tend to get very well paid.)
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
Within a few weeks of publication, (1996) book sales really started to take off. The initial print run was of only 1,000 – 500 of which went to libraries. First editions are now said to be worth up to £25,000 each. She also received a grant from the Scottish arts council, which enabled her to write full time. After the books initial success in the UK, an American company Scholastic agreed to pay a remarkable £100,000 for the rights to publish in America. In 1998, Warner Bros secured the film rights to the books, giving a seven-figure sum. The films have magnified the success of the books, making Harry Potter into one of the most recognisable media products. Under the close guidance of J.K.Rowling, the films have sought to stay close to the original plot; also at J.K.Rowling’s request, all the actors are British and are filmed in Britain.
On the 21st December 2006, J.K.Rowling finished her final book of the Harry Potter Series – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (Amazon). The book was released in July 2007, becoming one of the fastest selling books of all time. J.K.Rowling has said the book is her favourite, and it makes her both happy and sad. She has said she will continue writing but there is little chance of continuing the Harry Potter Series. She has published a dictionary of things related to Hogwarts and Harry Potter, that were never published in other books.
Since the end of her Harry Potter series, she says she has finished some short stories, she also hinted on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1st October 2010, that an 8th book in the Harry Potter series is a possibility.
On 27 September 2012, Rowling released the ‘Casual Vacancy’ an adult novel – to mixed reviews. In 2013, The Cuckoo’s Calling was published. Initially, the author was stated as being Robert Galbraith. But, this was a pseudonym used by J.K.Rowling. After her authorship was discovered, sales went through the roof.
J.K.Rowling and Media
J.K.Rowling has sought to protect her children from media intrusion. In 2011, she gave testimony to the Leverson enquiry about how unscrupulous reporters sought to intrude into her family’s privacy. After her books became best-sellers, reporters would often be camped outside her home. J.K. Rowling said:
“However, as interest in Harry Potter and myself increased, my family and I became the target of a different kind of journalistic activity. The effect on me, and our family life, truly cannot be overstated. We were literally driven out of the first house I had ever owned (which faced almost directly onto the street) because of journalists banging on the door, questioning the neighbours and sitting in parked cars immediately outside the gate. Old friendships were tested as journalists turned up on their doorsteps, and offered money for stories on me. “(J.K.Rowling’s Testimony to Leveson Enquiry Nov 2011.)
After finding a letter from a journalist in her child’s satchel, she remarked:
“It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my 5-year-old daughter’s school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.”
J.K.Rowling currently lives in Scotland, on the banks of the River Tay, with her 2nd husband Neil Murray; J.K.Rowling has three children, two with husband Neil.
Inspiration to write
Speaking on a BBC Radio Programme “The Museum of Curiosity”, 23 December 2019, Rowling talked about the process by which she writes. She says she imagines she walks through a forest towards a lake. At the lake, she waits for an inspiration to emerge from its depth. Then she takes this back to her cottage where she has to polish the dream-like inspiration until it is in a fit state to publish. To Rowling, writing is a dual process – gaining inspiration from an unknown source and then working on the inspiration to make it a solid reality. She prefaced the story by saying she was reluctant to explain her process as it was difficult to explain.
Wealth of J.K.Rowling
In 2017, according to Forbes, her estimated wealth stands at $650 million, it would be higher but she has donated substantial sums to charity. The global Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth £7 billion.
Charity Work of J.K.Rowling
J.K.Rowling has contributed considerable sums to charities she supports. This includes:
- Anti-Poverty. She is President of the Charity – One Parent Families
- Multiple sclerosis. She has contributed money to the research and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, which her mother suffered from.
- Lumos – helping institutionalised children in Eastern Europe
She has publically supported the Labour party. In 2008, she donated £1 million to the Labour party, saying she felt vulnerable families would be better off under a Labour government. She describes her political hero as Robert F.Kennedy.
J.K.Rowling states that she considers herself a Christian, and attends a local Church of Scotland congregation. She said, that unlike other members in her family, she often had a deep interest in religion, and would go to churches alone. However, she also says that although she believes in God, at times she doubts her faith.
“I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty. I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul.”
– J.K.Rowling (2008, interview in El Pais – a Spanish Newspaper)