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Joanne Rowling ( 1965 - )  Category ( Authors ) [suggest a correction]

Joanne J.K. RowlingJoanne "J.K." Rowling (pronounced rolling) is the British author of the highly successful Harry Potter series of books. She was born to Peter and Anne Rowling in 1965 at Yate, Gloucestershire, England. She has a younger sister, Dianne, who was born when Rowling was 23 months old. She attended St. Michael's Primary School, which was founded nearly 200 years ago by the abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. It is said that her elderly headmaster at the school, Alfred Dunn, served as inspiration for the Harry Potter character, Albus Dumbledore. Rowling enjoyed writing fantasy stories when she was a child, and she often read them to her sister. When she was nine years old, her family moved to Chepstow, South Wales. While there, her great aunt, who according to Rowling taught classics "and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind," gave her an old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College. Rowling has said that "Hermione is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Later, Rowling read for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. She also studied for a year in Paris, and then moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.

In 1990, while she was traveling 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 arrived home, she began to write immediately. However, she had to put her writing on hold due to her mother's terminal illness. She had never told her mother about Harry Potter, but Rowling said her mother's death heavily affected her writing. Having experienced the loss of a loved parent, she was able to introduce much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book. Rowling then moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. While there she married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes. Their one child, Jessica, was born in 1993. The couple separated later that year, and the following year Rowling and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Scotland. During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. It was the feelings of hopelessness and despair that gave her the ideas for the Dementors in the Harry Potter series. At this point Rowling was unemployed and living on welfare. She completed her first novel in local cafes, though not because her flat had no heat, as persistent rumors have suggested. She maintains that she wrote in cafes because taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to get her to sleep.

By 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was written entirely on an old manual typewriter. The Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. It was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she finally found a publisher, Bloomsbury, a small British publishing house in London. However, her editor advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money writing children's books. However, in 1997 she received an 8000-pound grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue to write. In the spring of 1998 Rowling received even greater news when an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic, Inc., for $105,000. Rowling has said she "nearly died" when she heard the news. The novel was a huge success in the U.S., and won a number of prizes. Subsequent books in the series were even more successful and her work continued to receive awards and accolades. The seventh and final Harry Potter book was released in July 2007 and broke its predecessor's record as the fastest-selling book of all time. It sold eleven million copies in the first day of release in the U.K. and the U.S. Rowling said that the last chapter of the book was written "in something like 1990," as part of her earliest work on the series. Harry Potter now is a global brand, worth an estimated seven billion pounds. The series, totaling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages. Films based on the books are also popular worldwide.

In late 2007, Rowling agreed to an interview with British television, which showed her returning to her old flat where she lived, and completed the first Harry Potter book. Revisiting the site moved the author to tears, and she said that it was "really where I turned my life around completely."

Image: JK Rowling, after receiving an honorary degree from The University of Aberdeen.

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