J. K. Rowling
something magical, mystical, and even prophetic about daydreamers and
writers. The two seem to go together quite naturally. Certainly
they went together when Joanne Kathleen Rowling, better known to Harry Potter
fans as J. K., met the boy wizard, himself. The combination has proven
to be wondrous and inspirational as well as extraordinarily successful.
Born in Chipping Sodbury, England, on Aug. 1, 1966, Rowling
turned her own natal day into the birthday of Harry Potter. When he reached his
eleventh year, he learned that he was a wizard. He was asked officially
to leave his Muggle aunt and uncle and attend the special Hogwarts' school
As a child, Rowling was remarkably similar to her most
famous fictional character. She was short and stocky and wore very thick
glasses. By her own
admission, she was argumentative and bookish. She did well in school and
was named the top girl in her class in her senior year. Rowling said
that as a child she resembled Hermione Granger, adding that she hoped she
was neither as clever nor as annoying as Granger.
After being graduated from public school with top honors in
English, French, and German, Rowling went on to study French at the
University of Exeter, where she earned a degree in 1986. Over the next
several years, she held a number of clerical jobs, including one at a
publishing firm, where one of her primary duties was to send rejection slips
out to prospective
Inside, though, Rowling had already decided what she wanted to do with the
rest of her life. She had decided that she wanted to write.
began work on her first Harry Potter book in 1990. The idea for
the main character, a lonely, downtrodden 11-year-old orphan who learns
that he is actually a wizard when he's invited to attend Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, came to Rowling while she was stuck on
a delayed train between Manchester and London. Although she left
England a short time later to teach English in Portugal, she continued to
flesh out Harry's story.
Rowling returned to Britain in 1993, settling in Edinburgh, Scotland, to
be near her sister. Divorced, unemployed, and living on public
assistance while caring for her young daughter, Jessica, she suffered
through a period of poverty and depression while struggling to make
ends meet. She wrote much of the first Harry Potter story during her
daughter's naps, often at a table in a small neighborhood cafe. She wrote
it in longhand because she couldn't afford even a used typewriter.
When the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish
the book, she finally completed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
It was released in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone in 1998 and was an overnight sensation. Rowling became
famous, and Harry Potter quickly turned into a euphemism for a gold mine.
During promotional tours, Rowling often speaks at major sporting
venues, with images of her face projected on big screens behind her, more in
keeping with a rock star than a children's book author. By the age of
35, she had become the highest-earning woman in Britain, netting more than
$30 million in 2000.
Rowling has had a series of seven Harry Potter story lines
rattling around her head since 1995. She plans to turn each of them into a
book. They include one book for each year Harry spends at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"I want to finish these seven books and look back and think
that whatever happened," the author said, "however much this hurricane
whirled around me, I stayed true to what I wanted to write. This is my
Holy Grail: that when I finish writing book seven, I can say--hand on
heart--I didn't change a thing. I wrote the story I meant to write."
Rowling released Harry Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix on June 21, 2003. Within an hour, Barnes and Noble, the
largest bookseller in the country, had sold 286,000 copies, which distills
down to 80 books a second. By the end of the day, the book had sold
five million copies.
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