J. K. Rowling (aka Joanne Kathleen Rowling) is most well known for her epic and phenomenally popular books series ‘Harry Potter’. The books took her life and work to a whole new level, yet she has been passionate about books and children for her entire life and led an interesting existence even before we all got to know Harry Potter and his friends. Even today we often see Rowling making a political point, donating to charities and raising awareness of good and worthy causes. So who is this powerful and talented lady?
Rowling was born in 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. From a young age, she was interested in literature, languages and stories, and left her local neighbourhood and school for Exeter University where she studied a degree in French and Classics. As part of her degree, she spent a year abroad in Paris.
After graduating, Rowling moved to London and worked in a number of jobs, one as a researcher at Amnesty International. In fact, she has always taken a strong interest in human rights and even today still is vocal about how all humans should be treated with dignity. It was during her time in London when Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series, on a delayed Manchester to London train journey. Over the following five years, she outlined the plots for each book of the series and began writing the first novel.
After her time in London, Rowling moved to northern Portugal where she taught English as a foreign language. She got married in 1992 and gave birth to her daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she with her daughter Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, where ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone’ was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The ‘J’ for Jo or Joanne, and the ‘K’ for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name, which was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not attract young boys as a readership audience.
The second title in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, was published in July 1998 and was No. 1 in the adult hardback bestseller charts for a month after publication. Somehow Rowling had managed to conquer the adult readership market as well the kids’ market! Adults and kids alike loved to read the fantasy stories of Harry Potter and lose themselves in stories that were completely different to their own daily lives.
‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ was published on 8th July 1999 to worldwide acclaim and spent four weeks at No.1 in the UK adult hardback bestseller charts. The fourth book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ was published on 8th July 2000 with a record first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It quickly broke all records for the greatest number of books sold on the first day of publication in the UK.
‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ was published in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia on 21st June 2003 and broke all records as the fastest selling book in history. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ was published in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries on 16th July 2005 and also achieved record sales. By now readers were truly hooked on the stories and left wanting to find out what would happen next to each character. The seventh and final book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries in 2007. By now, the books had been turned into films on the big screen.
Rowling has also written two small volumes that appear as the titles of Harry’s school books within the novels. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and ‘Quidditch Through The Ages’ were published in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. Furthermore, in December 2008, ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now Lumos).Yet again, Rowling showed her humanitarian side. There have been rumours that she has donated millions to different charities, but as a private person, she has refused to make such deeds public.
As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature,Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She has also been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University, USA.
However, Rowling not only writes for her human companions but she also supports them in other ways. She is a keen supporter for a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.
Although the Harry Potter series has been widely read by adults, in 2012, Rowling published her first novel for adults ‘The Casual Vacancy’, which has now been published in 44 languages. She has also written ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, her first crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was published in 2013 and is to be translated into 37 languages. She chose to use a pseudonym in order to attract the right readership instead of receiving praise simply on the basis of her name.
Rowling is currently writing a screen play called ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, an original story set in the wizarding world, some of which will be familiar to Harry Potter fans. It marks her screenwriting debut and the start of a new film series with Warner Bros. Currently, Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children.
It’s no wonder that a person leading an interesting life would be able to write amazing stories for us – please see her website for more information on her books and public engagements: