Novelist, Film Producer, Television Producer, Screenwriter, Philanthropist.
Born: 31 July 1965, Yate, Gloucestershire, England.
Birth Name: Joanne Rowling.
Pen Name: J K Rowling, Robert Galbraith.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Young Adult Fiction, Tragicomedy, Crime Fiction.
Notable works: Harry Potter Series.
Childhood and Early Life
J K Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling, a science technician, on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire. Rowling’s sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old. She attended St Michael’s Primary School. Her headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
As a child, J K Rowling often wrote fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister. Aged nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother worked in the science department. When she was a young teenager, her great-aunt gave her a copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling’s heroine, and Rowling read all of her books.
J K Rowling has said that her teenage years were unhappy. Her home life was complicated by her mother’s illness and a strained relationship with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.Rowling later said that she based the character of Hermione Granger on herself when she was eleven.
In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted and read for a B.A. in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. Rowling recalls doing little work, preferring to listen to The Smiths and read Dickens and Tolkien. After a year of study in Paris, Rowling graduated from Exeter in 1986 and moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
Career and Life before Harry Potter
After working at Amnesty International in London, J K Rowling and her then boyfriend decided to move to Manchester, where she worked at the Chamber of Commerce. In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind.
When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately. In December, Rowling’s mother Anne died after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis. Rowling was writing Harry Potter at the time and had never told her mother about it. Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing, and she channeled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.
An advertisement in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language. She taught at night and began writing in the day while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. After 18 months in Porto, she met Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in a bar and found they shared an interest in Jane Austen. They married on 16 October 1992 and their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal. The couple separated on 17 November 1993. In December 1993, Rowling and her then-infant daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near Rowling’s sister with three chapters of what would become Harry Potter in her suitcase.
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure. Her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing. During this period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”
J K Rowling was left in despair after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, seeking both her and her daughter. She obtained an Order of Restraint, and Arantes returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994. She began a teacher training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University, after completing her first novel while living on state benefits. She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (owned by her brother-in-law, Roger Moore), and the Elephant House, wherever she could get Jessica to fall asleep. In a 2001 BBC interview, Rowling denied the rumour that she wrote in local cafés to escape from her unheated flat, pointing out that it had heating. One of the reasons she wrote in cafés was that taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.
Harry Potter and Success
In 1995, J K Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on an old manual typewriter. Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1,500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London. The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next. Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.
In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. Five months later, the book won its first award, a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year, and later, the Children’s Book Award. In early 1998, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for US$105,000. Rowling said that she “nearly died” when she heard the news. In October 1998, Scholastic published Philosopher’s Stone in the US under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a change Rowling says she now regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time. Rowling moved from her flat with the money from the Scholastic sale, into 19 Hazelbank Terrace in Edinburgh.
Its sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July 1998 and again Rowling won the Smarties Prize. In December 1999, the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, won the Smarties Prize, making Rowling the first person to win the award three times running. She later withdrew the fourth Harry Potter novel from contention to allow other books a fair chance. In January 2000, Prisoner of Azkaban won the inaugural Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year award, though it lost the Book of the Year prize to Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
The fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released simultaneously in the UK and the US on 8 July 2000 and broke sales records in both countries. 372,775 copies of the book were sold in its first day in the UK, almost equalling the number Prisoner of Azkaban sold during its first year. In the US, the book sold three million copies in its first 48 hours, smashing all records. Rowling said that she had had a crisis while writing the novel and had to rewrite one chapter many times to fix a problem with the plot. Rowling was named Author of the Year in the 2000 British Book Awards.
A wait of three years occurred between the release of Goblet of Fire and the fifth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gap led to press speculation that Rowling had developed writer’s block, speculations she denied. Rowling later said that writing the book was a chore, that it could have been shorter, and that she ran out of time and energy as she tried to finish it.
The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released on 16 July 2005. It too broke all sales records, selling nine million copies in its first 24 hours of release. In 2006, Half-Blood Prince received the Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards.
The title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book was announced on 21 December 2006 as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In February 2007 it was reported that Rowling wrote on a bust in her hotel room at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh that she had finished the seventh book in that room on 11 January 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on 21 July 2007 (0:01 BST) and broke its predecessor’s record as the fastest-selling book of all time. It sold 11 million copies in the first day of release in the United Kingdom and United States. The book’s last chapter was one of the earliest things she wrote in the entire series.
Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated US$15 billion, and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.
The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television
Remarriage and Family Life
On 26 December 2001, J K Rowling married Neil Murray (born 30 June 1971), a Scottish doctor, in a private ceremony at her home, Killiechassie House, near Aberfeldy. Their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003. Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she ceased working on the novel to care for David in his early infancy.
J K Rowling is a friend of Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, whom she met when they collaborated on a charitable project. When Sarah Brown’s son Fraser was born in 2003, Rowling was one of the first to visit her in hospital. Rowling’s youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.
In October 2012, a New Yorker magazine article stated that the Rowling family lived in a seventeenth-century Edinburgh house, concealed at the front by tall conifer hedges. Prior to October 2012, Rowling lived near the author Ian Rankin, who later said she was quiet and introspective, and that she seemed in her element with children. As of June 2014, the family resides in Scotland.
Financial and Social Success
In 2004, Forbes named J K Rowling as the first person to become a U.S.-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world. Rowling disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire. The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK. In 2012, Forbes removed Rowling from their rich list, claiming that her US$160 million in charitable donations and the high tax rate in the UK meant she was no longer a billionaire. In February 2013 she was assessed as the 13th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.
In 2001, J K Rowling purchased a 19th-century estate house, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross. Rowling also owns a £4.5 million Georgian house in Kensington, west London, on a street with 24-hour security.
In 2017, Rowling was worth an estimated £650 million according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Works after Harry Potter
The Casual Vacancy
In July 2011, J K Rowling parted company with her agent, Christopher Little, moving to a new agency founded by one of his staff, Neil Blair.
On 23 February 2012, his agency, the Blair Partnership, announced on its website that Rowling was set to publish a new book targeted at adults. In a press release, Rowling said that her new book would be quite different from Harry Potter.
In April 2012, Little, Brown and Company announced that the book was titled The Casual Vacancy and would be released on 27 September 2012. Rowling gave several interviews and made appearances to promote The Casual Vacancy, including at the London Southbank Centre, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Charlie Rose and the Lennoxlove Book Festival. In its first three weeks of release, The Casual Vacancy sold over 1 million copies worldwide.
Cormoran Strike Series
In 2007, during the Edinburgh Book Festival, author Ian Rankin claimed that his wife spotted Rowling “scribbling away” at a detective novel in a café. Rankin later retracted the story, claiming it was a joke, but the rumour persisted, with a report in 2012 in The Guardian speculating that Rowling’s next book would be a crime novel. In an interview with Stephen Fry in 2005, Rowling claimed that she would much prefer to write any subsequent books under a pseudonym, but she conceded to Jeremy Paxman in 2003 that if she did, the press would probably “find out in seconds“.
In April 2013, Little Brown published The Cuckoo’s Calling, the purported début novel of author Robert Galbraith, whom the publisher described as “a former plainclothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry”. The novel, a detective story in which private investigator Cormoran Strike unravels the supposed suicide of a supermodel, sold 1,500 copies in hardback (although the matter was not resolved as of 21 July 2013; later reports stated that this number is the number of copies that were printed for the first run, while the sales total was closer to 500) and received acclaim from other crime writers and critics—a Publishers Weekly review called the book a “stellar debut“, while the Library Journal’s mystery section pronounced the novel “the debut of the month“.
India Knight, a novelist and columnist for The Sunday Times, tweeted on 9 July 2013 that she had been reading The Cuckoo’s Calling and thought it was good for a début novel. In response, a tweeter called Jude Callegari said that the author was Rowling. Knight queried this but got no further reply. Knight notified Richard Brooks, arts editor of the Sunday Times, who began his own investigation. After discovering that Rowling and Galbraith had the same agent and editor, he sent the books for linguistic analysis which found similarities, and subsequently contacted Rowling’s agent who confirmed it was Rowling’s pseudonym. Within days of Rowling being revealed as the author, sales of the book rose by 4,000%, and Little Brown printed another 140,000 copies to meet the increase in demand. As of 18 June 2013, a signed copy of the first edition sold for US$4,453 (£2,950), while an unsold signed first-edition copy was being offered for $6,188 (£3,950).
J K Rowling said that she had enjoyed working under a pseudonym. On her Robert Galbraith website, Rowling explained that she took the name from one of her personal heroes, Robert Kennedy, and a childhood fantasy name she had invented for herself, Ella Galbraith.
Soon after the revelation, Brooks pondered whether Jude Callegari could have been Rowling as part of wider speculation that the entire affair had been a publicity stunt. Some also noted that many of the writers who had initially praised the book, such as Alex Gray or Val McDermid, were within Rowling’s circle of acquaintances; both vociferously denied any foreknowledge of Rowling’s authorship. Judith “Jude” Callegari was the best friend of the wife of Chris Gossage, a partner within Russells Solicitors, Rowling’s legal representatives. Rowling released a statement saying she was disappointed and angry; Russells apologised for the leak, confirming it was not part of a marketing stunt and that “the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he [Gossage] trusted implicitly”. Russells made a donation to the Soldiers’ Charity on Rowling’s behalf and reimbursed her for her legal fees. On 26 November 2013 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issued Gossage a written rebuke and £1,000 fine for breaching privacy rules.
On 17 February 2014, Rowling announced that the second Cormoran Strike novel, named The Silkworm, would be released in June 2014. It sees Strike investigating the disappearance of a writer hated by many of his old friends for insulting them in his new novel.
In 2015, J K Rowling stated on Galbraith’s website that the third Cormoran Strike novel would include “an insane amount of planning, the most I have done for any book I have written so far. I have colour-coded spreadsheets so I can keep a track of where I am going.” On 24 April 2015, Rowling announced that work on the third book was completed. Titled Career of Evil, it was released on 20 October 2015 in the United States, and on 22 October 2015 in the United Kingdom.
J K Rowling confirmed that she would release the fourth installment of the series sometime in 2017. In March 2017, Rowling revealed the fourth novel’s title via Twitter in a game of “Hangman” with her followers. After many failed attempts, followers finally guessed correctly. Rowling confirmed that the next novel’s title is Lethal White.
Books By J K Rowling
|Harry Potter Series (Children Books)|
|Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone||1997|
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||1998|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||1999|
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||2000|
|Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||2003|
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince||2005|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows||2007|
|The Casual Vacancy||2012|
|Cormoran Strikes Series (written with pseudonym Robert Galbraith|
|The Cuckoo’s Calling||2013|
|Career of Evil||2015|
*Upcoming Cormoran Strike book
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