People Who Kick Buts: J.K. Rowling
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.
- Born on July 31, 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol.
- The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies to become the best-selling book series in history and been the basis for a popular series of films, in which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts as well as maintaining creative control by serving as a producer on the final instalment.
- Rowling conceived the idea for the series on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990.
- Rowling has led a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on social security 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.
- 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).
- On 12 April 2012, Rowling announced that her new adult novel The Casual Vacancy would be published in the UK by Little, Brown and Company on 27 September 2012.
- Anticipating 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.
- Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling. Her mother Anne was half-French, half-Scottish.
- 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.
- 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.
- After working at Amnesty International in London, Rowling and her then-boyfriend decided to move to Manchester. 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.
- In December of that year, Rowling’s mother died, after ten years suffering from 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.
- Rowling then moved to Porto in Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. While there, on 16 October 1992, she married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes. Their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal. They separated in November 1993. In December 1993, Rowling and her daughter moved to be near Rowling’s sister in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- 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:
Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.
I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – J. K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008.
- On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Michael Murray (born 30 June 1971), an anaesthetist, in a private ceremony at her Aberfeldy home.
- Rowling’s and Murray’s son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003. Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince she took a break from working on the novel to care for him in his early infancy. Rowling’s youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.