Joanne Rowling CH, OBE, HonFRSE, FRCPE, FRSL, better known by her pen name J.K. Rowling, is a British author and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has won multiple awards and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history.
Joanne ("JK") Rowling was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England on July 31, 1965. Growing up, she would write fantasy short fiction stories and read them to her sister Dianne. She has stated that her childhood years were unhappy, citing a strained relationship with her father and her mother's ongoing health battles with multiple sclerosis. She has said that she based the character of Hermione Granger off herself at the age of 11. After JK graduated from the University of Exeter, where she studied French and Classics, she moved to Porto, Portugal to become an English teacher.
Rowling was working as a secretary and researcher for Amnesty International in 1990 when she dreamed up the idea for her first novel, about a boy who finds out he is a wizard and attends wizardry school, during a delayed train trip from Manchester to London. As soon as she got back to her flat in Clapham Junction, she began to write it.
She finished her first novel in 1995, titled "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (re-titled as "Sorcerer's Stone" in the United States). She nabbed a literary agent, submitted to twelve publishing houses, and was met with a resounding rejection from each one. A year later, Bloomsbury Publishing gave her the green light and a £1,500 advance. Bloomsbury's chairman had given his 8-year-old daughter the first chapter of the book to review, and her response was to eagerly demand the rest immediately, thus cementing the decision to go forward with the book. Rowling was soon given a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to write the second book.
With an initial print run of just 1,000 copies (some of which went straight to libraries), "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was published in June 1997. The sleeper novel eventually began to win awards, and gain attention and in 1998, Scholastic Inc won the rights in an auction to publish the novel. Scholastic published the book in 1998 in the U.S. under the altered title of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (a decision which Rowling now admits disagreeing with and regrets saying yes to the change.)
This first installment of the series would turn out to be the first in an eventual series of seven books and the beginning of a major literary, film, and licensing industry. As the "Harry Potter" books gained popularity around the world, they broke literary sales records. The last two, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", sold nine and eleven million copies, respectively, within twenty-four hours of their releases. The books have now been translated into 65 languages around the world. Published at a time when readership in children was declining and young adults were said to be abandoning books at a rapid rate in favor of the booming internet, the series was a turning point in rekindling an interest in reading among the youth.
Following the huge success of the novels came a series of popular films, which kicked off in 1998 when Warner Brothers paid seven figures for the rights to the first two books. The film adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was released in November 2001, and the second adaptation was released the following November. The years 2004 and 2005 saw the subsequent releases of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The second two film adaptations came out in July 2007 and July 2009, and the final installment of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was released in two segments, one in November 2010 and the final segment in July 2011. Steve Kloves wrote all of the screenplays save for the fifth film, which Rowling assisted in. She leveraged some creative control, and reviewed each script before they were made. Rowling's main request for the films was that they all be shot in Britain with an all-British cast.
In 2013, Warner Bros and Rowling announced a planned series of five films to be scripted and co-produced by Rowling about the character Newt Scamander, author of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them". The first "Fantastic Beasts" movie was released in 2016, set 70 years before the events of the "Harry Potter" series, and the second movie was released November 2018.
Rowling married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in 1992, and had a child (Jessica) on July 27, 1993 in Portugal. The couple separated on November 17, 1993, and Rowling and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. JK was a self-described broke, struggling single mother on welfare the entire time she worked on the first "Harry Potter" installment. During this period, she struggled with depression and contemplated suicide.
She married anesthetist David Murray in 2001, and the couple has two children, along with Jessica from her previous marriage. They live in Edinburgh, London, and Aberfeldy, Scotland.
Rowling's mother, Anne, lost her ten-year battle with multiple sclerosis in December 1990. Anne's death heavily influenced JK's writing, as she channeled her grief by diving into the character of Harry and how he dealt with loss.
JK Rowling is a British author and movie producer who has a net worth of $1 billion.