If you have never heard of J. K. Rowling or Harry Potter, you have clearly been living in outer space! Rowling is one of the most successful children’s book authors of all time. Her bespectacled hero Harry Potter has inspired seven books, eight movies, a theme park, and a host of video games, costumes, and toys; however, things had not always been so magical for J. K. Rowling.
The Early and Hard Years
Born in Gloucester, England on July 31, 1965, Joanne Kathleen Rowling was the first born child to Anne and Peter James Rowling, a couple who had met at the now famous King’s Cross Station. Rowling was raised in the suburbs of Chipping Sodbury with her sister, Di. From an early age, Rowling loved writing. Her first story, Rabbit, was written when she was six. Also, at a young age, Rowling was very imaginative and would spin times telling her younger sister stories.
Rowling did well in school and ultimately enrolled in Exeter University, where she studied French and Classics. The author graduated in with a Bachelors degree and after a year of study in Paris, worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
By 1990, Rowling was still writing, but not as settled. One day, while taking the train from Manchester, where she was living, to London, the idea of a boy attending a wizarding school came to her. She began to write the tale began to take shape; however, tragedy struck her family by year’s end, when her beloved mother died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis (MS.). Rowling, still working on her first Harry Potter book, was deeply affected by her loss.
Leaving England, Rowling moved to Portugal where she met and married Portuguese television journalist, Jorge Arantes. The marriage which took place in October 1992 barely survived its first year, but Rowling was blessed with the birth of her first child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes, in July 1993. With her young child, Rowling left Portugal and moved near her sister in Scotland.
Life had become difficult. Rowling suffered from depression and even considered suicide, but with support and the love of her family Rowling survived. Having been a teacher, Rowling went back to earn certification so that she could work to support herself and her young child. Even while studying, she began to make head way on her Harry Potter novel. She wrote in cafes while her daughter slept. In 1995, living on welfare, Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Potter Boy
In the Harry Potter world, Rowling incorporated many of her wonderful and tragic life experiences. By doing this, she made Harry Potter and his friends very relatable.
The fact that Rowling was inspired on a train ride and her parents met on a train is highly interesting and symbolic. Harry Potter arrives and leaves his magical sanctuary on the Hogwarts’ Express. Descriptions of characters come from Rowling’s own childhood. Hermione Granger is Rowling’s alter ego, old friend Sean is the inspiration for Ron Weasley and Ian Potter gave her the name for her title hero. Her depression spawned the creation of the Dementors and the flying Ford Anglia was part of special memories.
As for Harry Potter, he was a spectacled boy, who suffered the loss of parents and had to find his place in the world. His personal isolation, reentry and sacrifices mirror the daily problems people face with poverty, self-value, and destiny.
From Wands to Riches
After finishing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling sought an agent to help her get her book published. She eventually was signed with Christopher Little Literary Agents. The agency worked diligently to get the novel considered. Rejection after rejection came, but finally, Barry Cunningham of Bloomsbury Publishing, a small London based publishing house, agreed to print the book.
Bloomsbury published 1000 copies of Philosopher’s Stone in July 1997. In the meantime, Rowling was awarded the Scottish Arts Council grant to pursue her career in writing. Within five months, the book won the Nestle’ Smarties Book Prize. By early 1998, the first Harry Potter book won the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. Before the end of the year, Scholastic Books published the United States version of Rowling’s first novel as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
From this point, the Harry Potter book series became an instant success in the United States. Internationally, over 400 million books have been sold. Rowling, in the span of five years, became one of the wealthiest women in the world and a philanthropist for such charities as One Parent Families and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain.
J. K. Rowling has inspired the world with her clever writing and her personal story. Her success was more than just timing. Rowling believed in herself and while circumstances were not always great, she adapted and used her experiences to improve her stories. While Harry Potter is a champion in the magical world, Rowling is an inspiration to all that dreams can come true.