J.K. Rowling is the first author ever to make a billion dollars from writing books. She is renowned all over the world for Harry Potter series, one of the most beloved children’s books of our time.
J. K. Rowling was born on 31 July 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England. Her full name from which she derived her famous initials (J.K.) is Joanne Kathleen Rowling.
The author recalls being not particularly fond of her name and getting teased by her school friends due to her last name “Rowling” – she was called “Rowling Pins” by her classmates.
Rowling went to St Michael’s Primary School in Gloucestershire, before moving to Chepstow, South Wales at the age of nine.
A Year in Paris
After finishing school at Wyedean Comprehensive, Chepstow, Rowling was encouraged by her parents to study French.
After spending a year in Paris as part of her studies, Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in French and Classics.
Out of college, Rowling took various jobs in London including one with Amnesty International. She enjoyed working for Amnesty and still supports the organization, which campaigns against human rights abuses throughout the world.
Interest in Writing
From an early age J.K. Rowling was interested in being a writer and wrote her first story at the age of six. Her first story was about a rabbit with measles. Rowling recalls asking her mother to get the story published – quite extraordinary for a child of six!
In her autobiography Rowling mentions her friend Sean as being the first person to boost her confidence in being a writer.
J.K Rowling paid tribute to her friend Sean in one of the Harry Potter books – Sean owned an old Ford Anglia which appears in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” as a flying car.
The idea of Harry Potter came to J.K. Rowling in 1990, during a train journey from Manchester to King’s Cross, London. The train was delayed by about four hours and she recalls being excited about an intriguing new idea beginning to form in her mind.
Although she started writing and planning the Harry Potter books immediately upon arriving home from her journey, it took her several more years to finish the book due to her personal circumstances. She lost her mother to multiple sclerosis in 1990. She was deeply affected by this loss, as she was very attached to her mother.
J.K. Rowling left England in 1991 and went to Portugal as an English teacher. It was here that she met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes, her first husband. She married Arantes in October 1992 and gave birth to her daughter Jessica in 1993. Sadly her marriage ended within a couple of years and Rowling returned to UK in 1993 to live near her sister in Edinburgh.
Back in England, Rowling went through a tough period in her life. She was raising her daughter as a single mother and surviving on state benefits as she tried to complete her first book. Due to her poor living conditions, Rowling would often go to cafes in Edinburgh in order to work on the book while her daughter took a nap by her side.
She completed her first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in 1996 and started looking for publishers. She found a supportive agent who spent over a year trying to find her a publisher.
Finally, after being rejected by 12 major publishing houses, Rowling found a small publisher named Bloomsbury that agreed to publish her book. Barry Cunningham, the editor at Bloomsbury paid Rowling an advance of £1500 and advised her to continue working as a teacher – he told her that writers of children’s books don’t really get paid well.
Well Deserved Success
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books with an initial print run of about 1000 copies. Within a short time the book sales started to take off and J.K Rowling received a grant from Scottish Arts Council, which enabled her to write full time.
Due to the success of the book in UK, the American publishing company Scholastic offered her £100,000 for the rights to publish the book in America. In 1998 Warner Bros offered J.K Rowling a seven figure sum for the film rights to make a movie based on her books.
Rowling wanted the films to stay as close to the books as possible and also requested the producers that the movie be filmed in Britain with British actors playing the main characters.
The first Harry Potter movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson was a phenomenal success, as were the sequels. The movies magnified the success of the Harry Potter books, turning Rowling and Harry Potter into a major international brand.
The internationally famous Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth £7 billion and J.K Rowling’s current net worth is estimated to be over $1 billion.