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About the Harry Potter authoress, J. K. Rowling

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor

Joanne Rowling was born on the July 31, 1965 in Gloucestershire, England to Peter James and Anne Rowling. From a very early age she enjoyed telling and writing stories, and often acted them out with her younger sister Di.

She started school in Bristol, then at the age of 9 they moved to Wales where she finished school. After school, influenced by her parents she went to study French at Exeter University. She says she would rather have studied English, but her parents insisted that French had better career opportunities.

Finishing her degree, she worked as a secretary for several companies in London. At one time she was working with Amnesty International. That particular job really opened her eyes to some of the problems in the world.

In 1990 while on a train that was delayed for 4 hours, she came up with the concept for Harry Potter and started writing the first novel. At this time, her mother passed away at the young age of 45 from multiple sclerosis. This influenced her in a deep and profound way. It also affected the Harry Potter story.

As part of trying to deal with life at that difficult time, she took up a English teaching position in Porto, Portugal. This is where she met and married her first husband, Jorge Arantes, a TV journalist. Her first daughter, Jessica Isabel Rowling Antares, was born on July 27, 1993. The marriage to Jorge didn't work out. They separated in November, 1993. Subsequently, Joanne moved back to Edinburgh to be close to her sister, while taking care of her daughter.

Trying to write a book is not easy. A famous author said it's like opening a vein in your wrist. Try doing that while taking care of your daughter while you're a single mother on a welfare check. That's what she did. She'd take her daughter for a walk in a stroller and when her daughter would fall asleep, she'd go into a cafe and spend more time writing the novel.

When she finally finished the manuscript in 1995, she sent the first three chapters to an agent. The first agent just sent it right back. The second agent she sent it to agreed to take it on and asked to see the rest of the manuscript.

Even then, it took almost a year to find a publisher willing to publish it, and they had 12 other publishers saying "No thanks" to publishing the first Harry Potter novel. Finally a small London publisher, Bloomsbury, agreed to publish it. Why? Because the Chairman's daughter read it and couldn't get enough!

They gave her an advance but advised her to keep teaching because children books don't pay very well. Not that they were trying to discourage her. They were actually looking out for her interests. Very few writers can actually make a living at it. And this is why the first print run only was only 1,000 books.

The publisher sent 500 of these to libraries, a move that was prudent given the normal dynamics of publishing a first-time author.

But the book started winning awards (the first three books won the Nestle Smarties award three years in a row), and the publishing rights in the US were picked up by Scholastic Press for a huge sum.

Joanne's patience and hard work paid off big time.

Still watching out for her interests, Bloomsbury suggested that boys might not like to read books by a female author. So she chose the K for Kathleen, her grandmother, as her middle initial. That's how the "K" in her "JK Rowling" came to be.

In 1998, Warner Bros, bought the movie rights to the franchise for an undisclosed 7 figure sum. But JK Rowling still had a big say in the content of the films, including that it had to be shot in Britain and that all the actors had to be British. Coca-Cola won the bid for in-film product placement after agreeing to donate $18 million to Reading is Fundamental charity.

She married a second time in December 2001 to Neil Michael Murray and they have two children together, David Gordon Rowling Murray (born March 24, 2003) and Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray (born January 23, 2005).

She has properties in Edinburgh, Perth and London, but still calls Edinburgh home. Her mother's death from multiple sclerosis influenced her charitable donations. She also chairs the One Parent Families charity after her experience as a single mom.

JK Rowling's life is an inspiring rags-to-riches story. She kept believing in her dreams even through the hard times. And now that she is famous and wealthy, she insists on giving back by being involved with charitable work.

Facts about Harry Potter:

  • Harry Potter books have sold over 400 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007, and sold 11 million copies on the first day of its release, breaking Rowling’s earlier records for the fastest selling book of all time.
  • Rowling’s books were the first children’s books included on the New York Bestseller list since E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in 1952.
  • According to Rowling, her favorite book as a child was "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge.
    When Coca-Cola won the rights to tie in its product with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling insisted the company donate $18 million to the U.S. Reading Is Fundamental campaign to encourage children to read.
  • In 2003, members of the Jesus Non-Denominational Church in Greenville, Michigan, publicly demonstrated their concern over what they perceived to be evil in the Harry Potter books by gathering around a bonfire and burning Rowling’s books.
  • Harry Potter books made the American Library Association list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books for five consecutive years. A challenge is a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.
  • Most parent protests against the books include arguments that the books glorify witchcraft, encourage children to break rules and defy authority, and dwell on dark themes and death. But other parents argue in favor of the books, saying they serve as a mirror for finding a young child’s full potential.
About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.



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