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JK Rowling: Making magic with words

By By HT Correspondent,

The author created the immensely popular and critically acclaimed Harry Potter series of fantasy novels is also a philanthropist, screenwriter, film and television producer.

JK Rowling, fondly known as Jo, wanted to be a writer since a young age. She wrote her first book – Rabbit – at the age of six; and had written her first novel by the time she was 11.(Illustration: Rushikesh Tulsiram Gophane)

Born on July 31, 1965 near Bristol, England to Peter James Rowling, an aircraft engineer and Anne Rowling, science technician at the school that her daughter would later attend, young Joanne Kathleen Rowling, grew up surrounded by books. “I lived for books,’’ she said and added: “I was your basic common-or-garden bookworm, complete with freckles and National Health spectacles.”She was fondly known as Jo, and as a writer, took on the pen name of JK Rowling .

A writer is born

Jo wanted to be a writer since quite early in life. She wrote her first book – Rabbit – at the age of six. And at 11, she had already written her first novel – about seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them.

She studied at Exeter University, in West England, where she read so widely outside her French and Classics syllabus that she clocked up a fine of £50 for overdue books at the library. Her knowledge of the classics proved useful in creating the spells when she wrote the Harry Potter series.

Jo had also worked as a researcher with Amnesty International. “There, in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life,” she has stated on

Building the World of Harry Potter

The idea of Harry Potter came to her in the year 1990 during a delayed four-hour train trip from Manchester to London. Over the next five years, writing mostly in longhand, she drew up the outline for the seven books of the series. At one time, Jo also trained as a teacher and began teaching , while she continued to write in every spare moment.

After completing the manuscript, Jo sent the first three chapters to several literary agents. One of them wrote back wanting to see the entire book. The book was first published in June 1997 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books under the name JK Rowling. The ‘K’ in her name stands for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name. It was added at her publisher’s request, who thought a book by an obviously female author might not appeal to the target audience of young boys.

The Potter series of books was adapted into successful movies by Warner Bros in which Rowling had the overall approval on the scripts, and was also the producer of the final films in the series. She married Dr Neil Murray in 2001. They live in Edinburgh with their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray and their daughter, Mackenzie.

Supporter of Causes

The writer supports a number of causes and organisations, mainly through her charitable trust, Volant. She is also the founder and president of the international children’s charity Lumos.

Apart from the Harry Potter books, she has written the novel The Casual Vacancy and the crime novel titled Cuckoo Calling (under another pen name of Robert Galbraith) and many other works.

Interesting Facts:

1. When she worked on her first book in the Potter series — Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — Rowling did not have a proper income and depended on welfare benefits. She and her daughter Jessica stayed at her sister’s place in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

2. She received an advance payment of just £1,500 for the first Harry Potter book. After the commercial and criticial success of the books and the movies, Rowling is now the world’s richest author with an estimated net worth in the range of $750 million to $1 billion.

3. Rowling and her iconic character, Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe in the movies, share the same birthday — July 31. She created the character of Hermione Granger, based on her own self. The author had described herself as a young bookworm at age 11.

4. In the year 2000, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. She is an eminent philanthropist and has contributed money to several notable charities such as Comic Relief and Gingerbread. Reportedly, Rowling donates 16% of her total net worth. ($160 mn approx).

5. Harry Potter has grown into a global brand which has made Rowling a billionaire author. While the novels have sold at least 500 million copies worldwide and grossed $7.7 billion, the movies have also grossed more than $7.7 billion, according to Businessinsider.


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