JK Rowling became an international literary sensation when the first three instalments of her Harry Potter children’s book series took over the top three slots of The New York Times best-seller list. The phenomenal response to Rowling’s books culminated in 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became the fastest-selling book in history.
JK Rowling was born Joanne Rowling, on July 31, 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, England. And Rowling has actually been writing since she was five years old. Her first story, called Rabbit, was filled with interesting characters, such as a large bee called Miss Bee. Along with her parents and sister, Rowling moved twice while she was growing up. While at one of their homes, close to Bristol and in Winterbourne, she had friends next door whose last name was Potter. She never forgot the children, or the last name, which she liked very much.
When she was nine years old her family moved again to Tutshill and Rowling attended a primary (grade) school in Tutshill, and later Rowling attended Wyedean
She was shy, freckly, with no natural athletic ability but a great love of literature. Later, when she graduated from Wyedean Comprehensive, she attended Exeter University. Here, Rowling studied French after her parents encouraged her into what they believed would be a wonderful career as a bilingual secretary. After graduation, however, it didn’t take Rowling long to realise that she was not meant to be a secretary. Self described as “the worst secretary ever, very disorganised”, she found it increasingly hard to remain attentive during meetings, actually writing story ideas instead of taking notes as she had been
Birth of the
When Rowling was 26, she moved to Portugal to be an English teacher. She loved teaching English, often teaching in the afternoons and evenings so that she could be free to work on her writing during the mornings. It was during this period that she began working on a story about a ‘wizard story’.
During this time Rowling met and married a Portuguese journalist and her daughter Jessica was born in 1993. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, the marriage ended in divorce and Rowling, along with her infant daughter, moved to Edinburgh, Scotland so that she could be near her younger sister, Di.
It was during this time that she became determined to not only finish her Harry Potter wizard novel, but to get it published. Often, she would write in restaurants, where she and her daughter could stay warm while she wrote. Rowling requested a grant from the Scottish Arts Council, which she eventually received, in order to complete her book. When it was completed and after several rejections, she sold the novel, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, to Bloomsbury in the UK for the equivalent of about $4,000.
The book, and its subsequent series, chronicled the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his motley band of cohorts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Fame and fortune
To support her daughter and herself, Rowling began working as a French teacher. After several months Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press bought the American rights to the first Harry Potter, and Rowling received enough money to give up teaching and write full time. She described this moment as the happiest of her life.
After Bloomsbury Children’s Books published the book in June 1997, it wasn’t long before Rowling was recognised as a major discovery. The awards and accolades grew quickly for both Harry Potter and Rowling. In 1997 the book won The British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Smarties Prize.
Rowling quickly wrote a sequel, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, which was published in July, 1998 in the UK, and in June 1999 in the USA. Immediately after this successful sequel a third book, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, was published in July and September of 1999, in the UK and the USA, respectively.
To her amazement, and joy, Rowling became a household name when the first three instalments of the Harry Potter series took over the top three spots in the New York Times bestsellers list.
By the summer of 2000, the first three Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban earned approximately $480 million in three years, with over 35 million copies in print in 35 languages.
In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire saw a first printing of 5.3 million copies and advance orders of over 1.8 million. After a postponed release date, the fifth instalment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hit book stores in June 2003.
The sixth instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sold 6.9 million copies in the United States in its first 24 hours, the biggest opening in publishing history.
Prior to its July 2007 release, the seventh and final instalment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the largest ever pre-ordered book at chain stores Barnes & Noble and Borders, and at Amazon.com.
Rowling, now Britain’s 13th wealthiest woman—wealthier than even the Queen—does not plan to write any more books in the series, but has not entirely ruled out the possibility.
The film versions of the Harry Potter series have also did well in the box-office.
After Harry Potter
Although Rowling’s Harry Potter series is finished, the author continues to work on more written works. Her newest book hit bookshelves on November 4, 2008, at a tea party for 200 schoolchildren at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. The book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is a collection of five fables mentioned in Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter book series. Rowling donated all the royalties from the book to Children’s High Level Group, a charity she co-founded to support institutionalised children in Eastern Europe, which has since been renamed Lumos.
Rowling has announced that she had written her first book aimed at adults. To be published in the fall of 2012, The Casual Vacancy has been described as a dark comedy about a local election in the small English town of Pagford. Rowling is also reportedly at work on a new Harry Potter-related book as well. On her website, she announced that she will write “an encyclopedia of Harry’s world” and the royalties from this volume will be donated to charity.
On December 26, 2001, Rowling married anaesthetist Dr Neil Murray at the couple’s home in Scotland. They have two children together, David born in 2003 and Mackenzie born in 2005. —