Rowling is perhaps equally famous for her "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. As of March 2011, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling's net worth to be US$1 billion. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Great Britain. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fandom. In October 2010, J. K. Rowling was named 'Most Influential Woman in Britain' by leading magazine editors. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and Lumos (formerly the Children's High Level Group).
NameAlthough she writes under the pen name "J. K. Rowling", pronounced like rolling , her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply "Joanne Rowling". Fearing that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself "Jo" and has said, "No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry." Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murray when conducting personal business.
BackgroundRowling was born 31 July 1965 to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16.1 km) northeast of Bristol. Her sister Dianne (Di) was born at their home on 28 June 1967 when Rowling was 23 months old. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. Her headmaster at St Michael's, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls that "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." At the age of nine, Rowling moved to the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. When she was a young teenager, her great aunt, who Rowling said "taught classics and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind", gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.
She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother, Anne, had worked as a technician in the Science Department. Rowling has said of her adolescence, "Hermione [A bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books. "Ron Weasley [Harry Potter's best friend] isn't a living portrait of Sean, but he really is very Sean-ish." Of her musical tastes of the time, she said "My favourite group in the world is The Smiths. And when I was going through a punky phase, it was The Clash." Rowling read for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter, which she says was a "bit of a shock" as she "was expecting to be amongst lots of similar people– thinking radical thoughts." Once she made friends with "some like-minded people" she says she began to enjoy herself. After a year of study in Paris, Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry "came fully formed" into her mind. She told The Boston Globe that "I really don't know where the idea came from. It started with Harry, then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head." When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately.
However, in December of that year, Rowling’s mother died, after her ten-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Rowling commented, "I was writing Harry Potter at the moment my mother died. I had never told her about Harry Potter." Rowling said this death heavily affected her writing and that she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew about how it felt.
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as "the biggest failure I knew." Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:
Harry Potter books
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,|
|Potter and the Goblet of Fire,|
|Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows|
Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated £7 billion ($15 billion), and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.
The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although the series' overall impact on children's reading habits has been questioned.
Harry Potter films
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets|
 In an unprecedented move, Rowling also demanded that Coca-Cola, the victor in the race to tie in their products to the film series, donate $18 million to the American charity Reading is Fundamental, as well as a number of community charity programs.
The first four, sixth and seventh films were scripted by Steve Kloves; Rowling assisted him in the writing process, ensuring that his scripts did not contradict future books in the series. She has said that she told him more about the later books than anybody else (prior to their release), but not everything. She has also said that she told Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) certain secrets about their characters before they were revealed in the books. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) asked her if Harry died at any point in the series; Rowling answered him by saying, "You have a death scene", thereby not explicitly answering the question. Director Steven Spielberg was approached to helm the first film, but dropped out. The press has repeatedly claimed that Rowling played a role in his departure, but Rowling stated that she has no say in who directs the films and would not have vetoed Spielberg if she had. Rowling's first choice for the director had been Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, as she is a fan of his work. However, Warner Bros. wanted a more family friendly film and eventually they chose Chris Columbus, who was set to direct all seven entries in the series. Columbus declined to direct the succeeding films to the second adaptation as he claimed he was "burned out". This led to directors Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell and David Yates to join the series. Cuarón and Newell helmed one film each, while Yates directed the final four entries, becoming the only person to have guided more than one Harry Potter film since Columbus.
Rowling had gained creative control on the films, approving all the scripts as well as acting as a producer on the final two-part instalment, Deathly Hallows.
On her website, Rowling revealed that she was considered to have a cameo in the first film as Lily Potter in the Mirror of Erised scene. Rowling, however, turned down the role, stating that she was not cut out to be an actor and, "would have messed it up somehow".
Rowling, producers David Heyman and David Barron, along with directors David Yates, Mike Newell and Alfonso Cuarón collected the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at the 2011 British Academy Film Awards in honour of the Harry Potter film franchise.
Life after Harry Potter the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world. When first listed as a billionaire by Forbes in 2004, Rowling disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire. In addition, the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List named Rowling the 144th richest person in Britain. In 2001, Rowling purchased a luxurious 19th-century estate house, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Rowling also owns a home in Merchiston, Edinburgh, and a £4.5 million ($9 million) Georgian house in Kensington, West London, on a street with 24-hour security.
|Neil Michael Murray|
Rowling has received honorary degrees from St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, the University of Exeter, the University of Aberdeen and Harvard University, for whom she spoke at the 2008 commencement ceremony. In 2009 Rowling was awarded the Légion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. She revealed publicly, during the Elysée Palace ceremony, that her maternal grandfather was French and had also received the Légion d'honneur for his bravery at the First World War battle of Verdun.
Subsequent writingRowling has stated that she plans to continue writing. In an interview with Stephen Fry in 2005, Rowling claimed that she would much prefer to write any subsequent books under a pseudonym; however, she conceded to Jeremy Paxman in 2003 that if she did, the press would probably "find out in seconds." In 2006, Rowling revealed that she had finished writing a few short stories and another children's book (a "political fairy story") about a monster, aimed at a younger audience than Harry Potter readers.
As regards the possibility of an eighth Harry Potter book, she 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." However, on 1 October 2010, JK Rowling had an interview with Oprah stating a new book on the saga might happen.
Rowling has said she will be writing an encyclopaedia of Harry Potter's wizarding world consisting of various unpublished material and notes. Any profits from such a book would be given to charity. During a news conference at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre in 2007, Rowling, when asked how the encyclopaedia was coming along, said, "It's not coming along, and I haven't started writing it. I never said it was the next thing I'd do." As of the end of 2007, Rowling has said that the encyclopaedia could take up to ten years to complete, stating "There is no point in doing it unless it is amazing. The last thing I want to do is to rush something out".
In July 2007, Rowling said that she wants to dedicate "lots" of her time to her family, but is currently "sort of writing two things", one for children and the other for adults. She did not give any details about the two projects but did state that she was excited because the two book situation reminded her of writing the Philosopher's Stone, explaining how she was then writing two books until Harry took over. She stated in October 2007 that her future work was unlikely to be in the fantasy genre, explaining, "I think probably I've done my fantasy ... it would be incredibly difficult to go out and create another world that didn't in some way overlap with Harry's or maybe borrow a little too much from Harry." In November 2007, Rowling said that she was working on another book, a "half-finished book for children that I think will probably be the next thing I publish." In March 2008, Rowling confirmed that her "political fairy tale" for children was nearing completion.
In March 2008, Rowling revealed in interview that she had returned to writing in Edinburgh cafés, intent on composing a new novel for children. "I will continue writing for children because that's what I enjoy," she told The Daily Telegraph. "I am very good at finding a suitable café; I blend into the crowd and, of course, I don't sit in the middle of the bar staring all around me."
Relationship with the pressRowling has had a difficult relationship with the press. She admits to being "thin-skinned" and dislikes the fickle nature of reporting. "They went in one day from saying, 'She’s got writer’s block' to saying, 'She's been self-indulgent'", she told The Times in 2003, "And I thought, well, what a difference 24 hours makes." However, Rowling disputes her reputation as a recluse who hates to be interviewed. In 2001, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by Rowling over a series of unauthorised photographs of her with her daughter on the beach in Mauritius published in OK! Magazine. In 2007, Rowling's young son, David, assisted by Rowling and her husband, lost a court fight to ban publication of a photograph of him. The photo, taken by a photographer using a long-range lens, was subsequently published in a Sunday Express article featuring Rowling's family life and motherhood. However, the judgment was overturned in David's favour in May 2008.
Rowling has said she particularly dislikes the British tabloid the Daily Mail, which made references to a stalker Rowling insists does not exist, and conducted interviews with her estranged ex-husband. As one journalist noted, "Harry's Uncle Vernon is a grotesque philistine of violent tendencies and remarkably little brain. It is not difficult to guess which newspaper Rowling gives him to read [in Goblet of Fire]."
Some have speculated that Rowling's fraught relationship with the press was the inspiration behind the character Rita Skeeter, a gossipy celebrity journalist who first appears in Goblet of Fire. However, Rowling noted in 2000 that the character actually predates her rise to fame: "People have asked me whether Rita Skeeter was invented [to reflect Harry Potter's popularity], but in fact she was always planned." "I tried to put Rita in Philosopher's Stone – you know when Harry walks into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time and everyone says, "Mr. Potter you're back!", I wanted to put a journalist in there. She wasn't called Rita then but she was a woman. And then I thought, as I looked at the plot overall, I thought, that's not really where she fits best, she fits best in Four when Harry's supposed to come to terms with his fame."
PhilanthropyIn 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. The fund also gives to organisations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. Rowling said, "I think you have a moral responsibility when you've been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently."
Anti-povertyRowling, once a single parent herself, is now president of the charity One Parent Families, having already become their first Ambassador in 2000. Rowling collaborated with Sarah Brown to write a book of children's stories to aid One Parent Families.
In 2001, the UK anti-poverty fundraiser Comic Relief asked three bestselling British authors – cookery writer and TV presenter Delia Smith, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, and Rowling – to submit booklets related to their most famous works for publication. Rowling's two booklets, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, are ostensibly facsimiles of books found in the Hogwarts library. Since going on sale in March 2001, the books have raised £15.7 million ($30 million) for the fund. The £10.8 million ($20 million) they have raised outside the UK have been channelled into a newly created International Fund for Children and Young People in Crisis.
In 2005, Rowling and MEP Emma Nicholson founded the Children's High Level Group (now Lumos). In January 2006, Rowling went to Bucharest to highlight the use of caged beds in mental institutions for children. To further support the CHLG, Rowling auctioned one of seven handwritten and illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a series of fairy tales referred to in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book was purchased for £1.95 million by on-line bookseller Amazon.com on 13 December 2007, becoming the most expensive modern book ever sold at auction. Rowling commented, "This will mean so much to children in desperate need of help. It means Christmas has come early to me." Rowling gave away the remaining six copies to those who have a close connection with the Harry Potter books. In 2008, Rowling agreed to publish the book with the proceeds going to the Children's High Level Group.
Multiple sclerosisRowling has contributed money and support for research and treatment of multiple sclerosis, from which her mother suffered before her death in 1990. In 2006, Rowling contributed a substantial sum toward the creation of a new Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University and in 2010 she donated a further £10 million to the centre. For reasons unknown, Scotland, Rowling's country of adoption, has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. In 2003, Rowling took part in a campaign to establish a national standard of care for MS sufferers. In April 2009, she announced that she was withdrawing her support for Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland, citing her inability to resolve an ongoing feud between the organisation's northern and southern branches that had sapped morale and led to several resignations.
Other philanthropic workIn May 2008, bookseller Waterstones asked Rowling and 12 other writers (Sebastian Faulks, Doris Lessing, Lisa Appignanesi, Margaret Atwood, Lauren Child, Richard Ford, Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, Michael Rosen, Axel Scheffler, Tom Stoppard and Irvine Welsh) to compose a short piece of their own choosing on a single A5 card, which would then be sold at auction in aid of the charities Dyslexia Action and English PEN. Rowling's contribution was an 800-word Harry Potter prequel that concerns Harry's father, James Potter and godfather, Sirius Black, and takes place three years before Harry was born. The cards were collected together and sold for charity in book form in August 2008.
On 1 and 2 August 2006 she read alongside Stephen King and John Irving at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Profits from the event were donated to the Haven Foundation, a charity that aids artists and performers left uninsurable and unable to work, and the medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières. In May 2007, Rowling gave $495,000 to a reward fund of over $4.5 million for the safe return of a young British girl, Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal. Rowling, along with Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, and Alan Greenspan, wrote an introduction to a collection of Gordon Brown's speeches, the proceeds of which are donated to the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory.
Rowling is a supporter of The Shannon Trust which runs the Toe
Political viewsIn September 2008, on the eve of the Labour Party Conference, Rowling announced that she had donated £1 million to the Labour Party, and publicly endorsed Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown over Tory challenger David Cameron.
2008 United States presidential election with the Spanish-language newspaper El País. She said she is obsessed with the United States elections because they will have a profound effect on the rest of the world. In February 2008, she said that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be "extraordinary" in the White House. In the same interview, she also said her hero was Robert F. Kennedy.
In April 2010, Rowling published an article in The Times in which she heavily criticised Cameron's plan to encourage married couples to stay together by offering them a £150 annual tax credit.
Religious viewsOver the years, many religious people have decried Rowling's books for supposedly promoting witchcraft. However, Rowling identifies herself as a Christian. She attended a Church of Scotland congregation while writing Harry Potter and her eldest daughter, Jessica, was baptised there. "I go to church myself", she says, "I don't take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion". She once said, "I believe in God, not magic." Early on she felt that if readers knew of her Christian beliefs, they would be able to "guess what is coming in the books."
In 2007, Rowling described her religious background in an interview with the Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant:
Rowling has occasionally expressed ambivalence about her religious faith. In a 2006 interview with Tatler magazine, Rowling noted that, "like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return. It's important to me." In a British documentary, JK Rowling: A Year in the Life, when asked if she believed in God, she said, "Yes. I do struggle with it; I couldn't pretend that I'm not doubt-ridden about a lot of things and that would be one of them but I would say yes." When asked if she believed in an afterlife, she said, "Yes; I think I do." She further said "It’s something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books." In a 2008 interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Rowling said, "I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty. I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul." In an interview with the Today Show in July 2007, she said, "…until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on… would give away a lot of what was coming. So… yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book."
Legal disputesRowling, her publishers, and Time Warner, the owner of the rights to the Harry Potter films, have taken numerous legal actions to protect their copyright. The worldwide popularity of the Harry Potter series has led to the appearance of a number of locally produced, unauthorised sequels and other derivative works, sparking efforts to ban or contain them.
Another area of legal dispute involves a series of injunctions obtained by Rowling and her publishers to prohibit anyone from reading her books before their official release date. The injunction drew fire from civil liberties and free speech campaigners and sparked debates over the "right to read".
Awards and honors
- 1997: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- 1998: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 1998: British Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- 1999: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 1999: British Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 1999: Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 2000: British Book Awards, Author of the Year.
- 2000: Order of the British Empire, Officer.
- 2003: Premio Príncipe de Asturias, Concord.
- 2003: Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, winner Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- 2006: British Book of the Year, winner for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
- 2007: Blue Peter Badge, Gold.
- 2008: British Book Awards, Outstanding Achievement.
- 2009: Légion d'honneur, presented by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
- 2010: Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, inaugural award winner.
- 2011: British Academy Film Awards, Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema for the Harry Potter film series, shared with David Heyman, cast and crew.
- Honorary degrees: St Andrews University, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, University of Exeter, Harvard University
Harry Potter series
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (26 June 1997)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2 July 1998)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (8 July 1999)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (8 July 2000)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (21 June 2003)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (16 July 2005)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (21 July 2007)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (2001)
- Quidditch Through the Ages (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (2001)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (2008)
- Harry Potter prequel (July 2008)
- "The First It Girl: J.K. Rowling reviews Decca: the Letters of Jessica Mitford ed by Peter Y Sussman", The Daily Telegraph 26 July 2006
- Introduction to "Ending Child Poverty" in Moving Britain Forward. Selected Speeches 1997–2006 by Gordon Brown, Bloomsbury (2006)
- Foreword to the anthology Magic, edited by Gil McNeil and Sarah Brown, Bloomsbury (2002)
- The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, J.K. Rowling, Harvard Magazine, 5 June 2008
- Foreword to "Harry, A History", written by Melissa Anelli, Pocket (2008)
- Gordon Brown – The 2009 Time 100 J.K Rowling, Time Magazine, 30 April 2009
- The single mother's manifesto J.K Rowling, The Times, 14 April 2010