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Biography of Author J. K. Rowling

Updated on September 25, 2013
J.K. Rowling at the White House in 2010.
J.K. Rowling at the White House in 2010. | Source

The Harry Potter Generation

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J.K. Rowling reading the first book in the Harry Potter series at the White House.
J.K. Rowling reading the first book in the Harry Potter series at the White House. | Source

J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter Universe

Did you know that some estimate J.K. Rowling makes $8.00 every minute? With the success of her Harry Potter novels alone, Rowling has become one of the highest paid authors and has inspired a whole generation of readers all over the world with her work. You may be familiar with the biography of her star hero, Harry Potter, in her novels, from the time he received his trademark lighting bolt scar, to the names of his children, but, how well do you know the woman behind the words?

J.K. Rowling's pen name comes from the first initial of her first name, Joanne, and the initial of her grandmother's name, Katherine. Before the success of the best selling book series in history, followed by the highest grossing film series based on those very books, Joanne "Jo" Rowling worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International in London.

Her idea for the infamous Harry Potter universe came to her one day while waiting for a delayed train from Manchester to London. She describes this moment on her website:

"I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head. I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn't have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me. Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write 'Philosopher's Stone' that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book."

Little did Rowling know that for the next seven years, from 1990 when inspiration struck while she waited for that bus, to 1997, her life would be turned upside down, with seemingly no light at the end of that proverbial tunnel until the first book's publication and success.

During those seven years, Rowling's mother passed away, she and her husband divorced, and she was faced with poverty. In the years following her success with the Harry Potter series, Rowling was named the 48th most powerful celebrity in 2007 by Forbes, runner up for person of the year for TIME magazine in 2007, the twelfth richest woman in the UK in 2008, and "Most Influential Woman in Britain" in 2010. Her rags to riches story, as well as her support for many charities, make her an inspiration to many authors and young children out there, despite any controversy her books might face concerning magic and witchcraft.

Who is J.K. Rowling?

The Life of J.K. Rowling Before Harry Potter

There's no doubt that Harry Potter has seriously influenced the life of J.K. Rowling, but, what about the life of the author before the books and spotlight? Yes, the two share the same July 31st birthday, but there's more to Ms. Rowling than just witchraft and wizardry.

Jo was born to Peter and Anne Rowling in 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. Even as a small child, Rowling was known to write fantasy stories that she'd read to her younger sister, Dianne. Her teenage years, she recalls, were a bit rough, with an ill mother and a difficult relationship with her father. She was very bookish, much like her character Hermione Granger, and didn't truly feel happy until she began her studies in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. She graduated in 1986.

The Casual Vacancy aimed for a much more adult audience than the Harry Potter world.
The Casual Vacancy aimed for a much more adult audience than the Harry Potter world. | Source

J.K. Rowling's Life After Harry Potter

In 2012, J.K. Rowling surprised many fans with a new novel, meant for a more adult audience. The Casual Vacancy sold over one million copies in just the first three weeks after it was released and hit the number one spot on Amazon in just hours. It's received mixed reviews from fans but was still the second biggest adult book opening in the UK and the 15th best selling book of that year. In 2014, it is expected to be adapted into a television series on BBC One.

More recently, in 2013, Rowling surprised fans again when it was discovered that The Cuckoo's Calling, a detective novel that was supposedly written by Robert Galbraith, turned out to be written by the infamous Rowling instead. The name was taken from one of her heroes, Robert Kennedy, and a name she'd made up, Ella Galbraith. Although she made it clear she was disappointed in the loss of anonymity for the novel, the great reviews it had received beforehand proved that she was a great writer that could survive without her now infamous name and the works already associated with it.

As to the future of Rowling, she has promised to continue the series following The Cuckoo's Calling under the same pseudonym. She has also mentioned a project focused on a much younger audience than those of the Harry Potter novels. As to the world of Harry Potter, Rowling has said: "I can't say I'll never write another book about that world just because I think, what do I know, in ten years' time I might want to return to it but I think it's unlikely."

J.K. Rowling's signature
J.K. Rowling's signature | Source

A Conversation With J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe

Who is J.K. Rowling?

For a little more insight into author J.K. Rowling, check out the lengthy interview above as she sits down with Daniel Radcliffe, who stars as Harry Potter in the movie adaptations of her novels.

How did the Harry Potter series effect your life? Did you enjoy J.K. Rowling's novels outside of the Harry Potter universe? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

© 2013 Lisa


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    • loganappenfeller profile image


      7 years ago from Topeka, KS

      The Harry Potter series has a place on my bookshelves indefinitely. Although I like so many other Harry Potter fans, do not fit in the explicit age group of the intended audience, my enjoyment of the series continues to increase with time. It is such a beautifully woven saga, one that I will certainly share with my little girl. J.K. Rowling is certainly an inspiration to me. She has exemplified the fact that with hard work, creativity, perseverance and a dream, one can accomplish amazing things and touch countless lives.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 years ago from Germany

      I´m fond of JK Rowling and I have read almost all the Harry Potter books. She´s a very interesting woman and a great writer. Thanks for sharing the informations about her. Great hub.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I am a fan of JK Rowling. She is quite an inspiration as a person and as an author. Thanks for sharing more tidbits of information about her. I didn't know the exact moment that Harry popped into her head. That must have been one cool train ride for JK. Very interesting and awesome!!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      8 years ago from Taos, NM

      Wonderful and interesting read on Rowling. She certainly has had a spectacular journey with the Harry Potter books. It think they are wonderful and so great to inspire children to read ( or anyone for that matter). I personally, could not get into the Potter books. I preferred the Lord or the Rings series and the Hobbit, much better. I don't know why that is because I think her imagination is great. Maybe it was because of the ages of the characters. Anyway, she has contributed a great classic series of books to the world. I enjoyed reading your take on her. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Gypsy48 profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting read. A very talented and smart woman. Her hard work definitely paid off.

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Have seen most of the Harry Potter movies although I have not read the books. Your bio of J.K. Rowling is interesting and a good read. Thank you for giving me an insight to this interesting and talented woman.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      It's interesting to get more insight as to how Harry Potter came to be in J.K. Rowling's mind. I sure wish I had an idea that simply fell into my head like that. Her mother was ill with MS and I've heard her talk about how difficult it was. My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan and connects with her on this point as well. Voted up and more.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm really not a Harry Potter fan but I'm a huge fan of Rowling. She is the epitome of a hard-working writer who did not give up. Great information here, Lisa!

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      A very interesting article! J.K. Rowling is such a fascinating and talented woman! I had heard of her rags to riches story before but your article revealed a lot about her that I was unaware of. Imagine having a rush of creativity running through your head while stuck on a train without a pen!?! What an incredible gift she received that day. I really enjoyed this as I am always interested in success stories such as J.K. Rowling's. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose


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