Did You Know?
✦ J.K. Rowling shares her birthday with the character Harry Potter. It is July 31.
✦ Hermione Granger resembles Rowling at a young age.
✦ Hermione Granger resembles Rowling at a young age.
J.K. Rowling, needless to say, is one of the most popular writers of the day. The Harry Potter Series authored by her, was a phenomenon. It met with controversy for political and religious reasons but ultimately emerged as one of the most successful works in modern-day literature. It reached the zenith of popularity and earned international acclaim for the author. We tell you about her in this Penlighten article on the interesting facts about J.K. Rowling.
Joanne "Jo" Rowling is a British writer who writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling. Besides the Potter novels, she is also famous for her "rags to riches" life story.
Interestingly, the first Harry Potter book read the author name as Joanne Rowling after which her publisher Bloomsbury requested her to use her initials rather than disclosing her first name. The publisher was afraid that young boys might not buy books written by a female author. She had no middle name and derived the letter 'K' from her paternal grandmother Kathleen. And this was how the name, 'J.K. Rowling' was born.
Joanne was born on July 31, 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling. She had a two-year younger sister. Within a few years from her birth, the Rowlings shifted to a village called Winterbourne.
During childhood, Rowling was always interested in writing fantasy stories. She used to narrate stories to her younger sister. The first story written by her was that of a rabbit which gets measles and has different friends visiting it.
Rowling was a student of St. Michael's Primary School. When she was 9, she shifted to Tutshill, a village near Chepstow, South Wales. During her early teenage years, her aunt gifted her an old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. On reading this book, Joanne idealized Mitford and read all her books.
Rowling was a student of the secondary school at Wyedean School and College. After a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter, she went for a year of study to Paris. She then moved to London and worked as a researcher and a bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
How did the 'Harry Potter' idea come to J.K. Rowling? She says that the idea of this story struck her while she was traveling in a train from Manchester to London in 1990. The idea of a boy attending a school of wizardry came to her mind during this train journey. On reaching her destination, she began writing it.
Rowling claimed that her headmaster at primary school was her inspiration behind the character Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Hermione, another famous character in Harry Potter, was based on her own self. According to Rowling, Hermione resembles the way Joanne herself looked during her teen years. The character Ron Weasley bears a slight similarity with Joanne's friend Sean Harris.
The demise of her mother in the December of 1990 deeply impacted Joanne's writing. It was then that she introduced the details of Harry's loss in her first book in the series.
During the rough patch in her life after separating from her husband, when Rowling was in depression, the thoughts of her illness led her to the idea of Dementors, the soulless creatures in Harry Potter.
Later, Rowling migrated to Porto, Portugal and served as an English teacher.
In 1992, she married Jorge Arantes, a television journalist in Portugal. They had a girl child in July 1993 and in November the same year, they parted ways.
Rowling, with her little daughter Jessica, moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. She was going through bad times, was diagnosed with depression and even thought about suicide.
She was unemployed and living on the state benefits. She had to take care of her baby and also pursue writing. In this struggle, she was all alone. She had to take time out to write when she could put her baby to bed. To make the baby fall asleep, she used to take her out and sit in cafes, completing her novel.
Rowling completed her first novel sitting in different cafes. Perhaps, the one she visited the most was Nicholson's Cafe.
In 2001, Rowling married Neil Michael Murray. They had a son in 2003 and a daughter in 2005. Around the same time, she had started working on the novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She dedicated this book to her daughter.
Even after the completion of her first book, success did not come easy. Her work was rejected by many publishers till editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury accepted her writings. It was actually Cunningham's eight-year old daughter who was given the first chapter of Rowling's book to read. On reading the first one, she demanded the next one, which led to Cunningham's decision of publishing Rowling's work. No one was quite sure of the response that Rowling's writing would get, but a success story had begun!
The Harry Potter Phenomenon
After her first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Rowling received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council. It enabled her to continue writing. In 1997, the book won its first award, a Nestle Smarties Book Prize followed by the award for the Children's Book of the Year and then the Children's Book Award. In August 1999, it topped the list of New York Times Bestselling Fiction. Its United States edition was titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It is said that Rowling wrote ten versions of the first chapter of this book.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published in 1998. It was enlisted as one of the 2000 Notable Children's Books and one of the Best Books for Young Adults, by the American Library Association. Booklist enlisted the book as one of its Editors' Choices and also among its Top Ten Fantasy Novels for Youth. It was made the CCBC Choice of 2000 in the "Fiction for Children" category by the Cooperative Children's Book. It received the Children's Book of the Year British Book Award and also the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.
In 1999, the book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out. It received the Editors' Choice Award of Booklist, Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, FCGB Children's Book Award, and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2000, among others. In the same year, it was also named as an American Library Association Notable Children's Book and enlisted among their Best Books for Young Adults. It won the title of Whitbread Book of the Year for children's books. Like the previous ones in the series, even this novel topped the New York Times Bestseller list. It won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize. With this, J.K. Rowling became the first author to receive this award thrice.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, released in 2000, made a record-breaking sale in the UK and the US. In the US, three million copies were sold during the first forty-eight hours, breaking all the sales records. In 2001, this book received the 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. It was a winner of the Indian Paintbrush Book Award, which the previous two books in the series had also received.
After a gap of three years, her fifth book in the Harry Potter series titled, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released. Rowling had admitted to have become exhausted towards the completion of this book. It was named as an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and received many other awards.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince entered the market in 2005. It made phenomenal sales. It won the British Book of the Year Award in 2006. It was enlisted as one of the Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. It received the Quill Awards for Best Book of the Year and the Best Children's Book.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh book in the series became the fastest selling book after its release in 2007. The New York Times enlisted it among the 100 Notable Books and as one of the Notable Children's Books. The following year, the American Library Association named this book as one of the Best Books for Young Adults and as one of the Notable Children's Books.
Rowling authored Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which describes the magical creatures from the Harry Potter universe. It was published in 2001.
In the same year, she wrote Quidditch Through the Ages which talks about Quidditch, the competitive sport in Harry Potter. Before writing this, she is believed to have written many pages of q-words.
The proceeds of these two books were given to the charity Comic Relief.
In 2007, Rowling said that she planned to write an encyclopedia of the Harry Potter Universe. She also announced that the profits made from this writing would be given to charity. At the end of the year, she said that it could take her a decade to complete the encyclopedic work.
She also wrote The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which has children's stories. Its seventh copy was sold at auction for 1.95 million pounds, making it the most expensive modern book. The earnings were given to Lumos, a charity organization founded by her that works for the underprivileged children.
Harry Potter prequel is a short story written by Rowling. It narrates an adventure involving Sirius Black and James Potter. The events are shown to occur before those in the Harry Potter series.
Pottermore is a website founded and owned by J.K. Rowling and developed in partnership with Sony. It features content from the Harry Potter Series that is unknown or unpublished.
The Harry Potter Film Series
In October 1998, Warner Bros. bought the film rights to the first two novels in the Harry Potter Series. The film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in November 2001 and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came out in the same month, the following year. The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in 2004 and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in 2005. In 2007, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out in 2009.
Steve Kloves wrote scripts for the first four and the sixth and seventh films. He was assisted by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was scripted by Michael Goldenberg.
Rowling had demanded that all the films be shot in Britain and the cast in them be British. She had urged Coca Cola to tie in their products to the Harry Potter films and donate USD 18 million to Reading is Fundamental an American charity and many other charities.
The actors playing Severus Snape and Hagrid were told some things about their characters which the books were yet to disclose. Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry Potter had asked Rowling if his character dies in the series. Rowling had replied saying that he would have a death scene, thus not stating if his character would die.
For the Harry Potter film series, J.K. Rowling received the British Academy Film Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.
In 2007, it was rumored that Rowling had begun writing a detective novel. In 2012, The Guardian reported that Rowling's next book would be a crime novel.
A few years before that, Rowling had said during an interview that she would like to write books under a pseudonym, which however, the media would easily find out.
Rowling's first book after the Harry Potter Series was The Casual Vacancy. It was published in September 2012. It was also her first novel for adult readers. BBC and HBO have jointly produced a TV series (miniseries) by the same name. It premiered in UK in February 2015.
The Cuckoo's Calling, a crime fiction work was published in 2013, as author Robert Galbraith's first novel. It was soon discovered that the author was in fact J.K. Rowling, after which the book's sales tremendously rose. The Silkworm, another crime fiction novel of Rowling, written under the same pseudonym, came out in 2014.
In 2001, Rowling was appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Rowling, as given by Forbes in 2004, was the first to become a US dollar billionaire by writing books. Rowling had argued saying that she wasn't a billionaire. Later, Forbes dropped her name out of the billionaires' list stating that owing to her charity work and given that tax rates in the UK are high, she is not a billionaire.
She was also the second-richest female entertainer and the 1062nd richest person in the world.
She was a runner-up for the 'Person of the Year' title of 2007.
In 2013, Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 declared her as the 13th most powerful woman in UK.
Forbes 2014 list of the World's Most Powerful Celebrities ranks her on position 84, with a net worth of $14 million.
Time ranks Rowling as one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet.
She is enlisted among the 100 greatest Britons. She is the recipient of a number of honorary degrees from many prestigious universities.
J.K. Rowling supports many charities and serves as an inspiration for many. In 2000, she founded the Volant Charitable Trust that works towards removal of poverty and social inequality and also funds organizations that work for children, single parents, and research on multiple sclerosis.
She presides over Gingerbread, a charity organization that works for single parents.
She supports The Shannon Trust that works to teach and promote reading among prisoners.
In 2013, Rowling was given the Beacon Award for Philanthropy. This award aims at encouraging philanthropic work and is given to individuals whose charitable work has an impact on society.
J.K. Rowling is undoubtedly an iconic figure in literature. Readers around the world, mesmerized by her works, are looking forward to more from this brilliant author.