J.K. (Joanne) Rowling Biography
Joanne Kathleen Rowling (pronounced rolling) was born on July 31st, 1965 in
Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England. Her sister, Di, was born a little
under 2 years later. Rowling can remember telling stories from early on
and writing down her first story when she was 5 or 6 years old - about a rabbit
called Rabbit who got the measles and was visited by friends including a giant
bee called Miss Bee.
She moved house twice while growing up. The first was from Yate, just
outside Bristol, to Winterbourne - also close to Bristol. In Winterbourne
she was friends with a brother and sister whose surname was Potter. She
says she always liked the name, and preferred it to her own because the children
always made annoying jokes about rolling pins!
Her family moved again when she was nine years old - to Tutshill near
Chepstow in the Forest of Dean. After attending Tutshill Primary School
she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. She describes herself as having been
quite, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports. Her favorite subject
was English followed by languages. She used to tell stories to her friends
- usually involving them all doing heroic and daring deeds that they wouldn't
dare to do in real life.
She went to Exeter University straight after school and studied French,
having been encouraged by her parents who said that this could lead to a great
career as a bilingual secretary. On graduating from Exeter she spent a few
years as 'the worst secretary ever'.
In 1990, at the age of 26, she moved to Portugal to teach English. She
says that she loved teaching English. She taught in the afternoons and
evenings, leaving the mornings free for writing. At this time she was
starting work on her third novel (the first two having been abandoned as being
'very bad'). The new book was about a boy who found out he was a wizard
and was sent off to wizard school.
While in Portugal she met and married a Portuguese journalist. Their
daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce,
Rowling and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be close to her
younger sister, Di. Rowling set herself a deadline - to finish the Harry
novel before starting work as a French teacher - and, of course, to try and get
it published. She wrote at a café table while Jessica was napping.
The Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book and, after a
number of rejections, she eventually sold Harry Potter and The Philosopher's
Stone for the equivalent of about USA $4,000 to Bloomsbury (UK).
By this time Rowling was working as a French teacher (being serenaded down
the corridors with the first line of the theme from Rawhide "Rolling,
rolling, rolling, keep those wagons rolling...')
A few months later Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press bought the American
rights for enough money that she was able to give up teaching.
The book was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children's Books in June 1997
(at the time of writing 1st editions of this book are on the market for upwards
of 12,000 UK pounds/ USA $20,000). Thereafter the accolades began to pile up.
Harry Potter won The British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, and the
Renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the book was published in the
USA in September 1998 by Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press, with
illustrations by Mary Grandpre.
The sequel, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was published in the UK
in July 1998 and in the USA in June 1999. The third book, Harry Potter and
The Prisoner of Azkaban, was published in the UK in July 1999 and in the USA in
In 1999 Rowling became an international literary sensation when the first
three installments of the Harry Potter series took over the top 3 slots in the
New York Times bestsellers list - after achieving similar success in the UK.
This resulted in the New York Times introducing a bestseller list for children's
literature - a relief to many adult authors vying for the top slots on the list
and an honor for Rowling.
By Summer 2000, the first three books had sold over 35 million copies in 35
languages and earned approximately $480 million.
In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had a first printing of 5.3
million copies with advance orders of over 1.8 million.
By 2000, Ms. Rowling had sold at least 30 million copies of the first three
books which had been printed in 35 languages, earning approximately $400
The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix was
published in 2003 with a first print run of 8.5 million copies (USA). 5
million copies were recorded sold in the USA on the first Saturday after it was
published. Barnes and Noble reported selling 286,000 copies in just one
By 2003 at least 192 million copies had been sold in over 200 countries, and
the books have been translated into at least 55 languages, including
Latin. In 2003 she was estimated to be the richest woman in England - a
position previously held by the Queen.
The sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was published simultaneously in multiple countries on July 16th 2005. The seventh,
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in July 2007.
first two movies were directed by Chris Columbus who also directed Home Alone and Mrs
Doubtfire. The third movie was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The fourth movie, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell, was released in 2005. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix followed in 2007. Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince was released in November 2008, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released in November 2010. The final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, was released in July 2011.
The Harry Potter series has sparked new enthusiasm amongst children for
books. Having said that, Rowling's books are not free from criticism - some Christian fundamentalists, express concern that
the books promote and encourage satanic practices. On the other hand, other Christians applaud the books for the themes of courage, loyalty, justice, honesty and fairness that they portray and compare them to books such as The Chronicles of Narnia by
Rowling says she wrote Harry Potter when "I was very low, and I had to
achieve something. Without the challenge, I would have gone stark raving
Will there be another Harry Potter book? For sometime Rowling has insisted that she will not write another Harry Potter book, but in an article in Time Magazine in January 2008 she confessed to "weak moments" when she feels like succumbing to the pressure from her many fans, including her her 14-year-old daughter Jessica. Rowling says, "If - and it's a big if - I ever write an eighth book, I doubt that Harry would be the central character. I feel I've already told his story.
"But these are big ifs. Let's give it ten years." In the meantime, Rowling has launched Pottermore.com, a website where fans can participate in "
an online experience based around the Harry Potter books, which includes exclusive new information from [Rowling]."
In September 2012 Rowling published her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, to huge sales but mixed reviews. In July 2013 it was revealed that she was the author of the The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, published in April 2013 by Mulholland Books (a division of Hachette). The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly ("a stellar debut") and Library Journal ("totally engrossing") and, at the time that the pseudonym was revealed had sold perhaps 1500 copies in hardcover in the UK and 500 in the USA.
This biography was last updated on 07/15/2013.
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