This week Harry Potter fans were treated to the first teaser trailer for the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. With the tenth film set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter set for theaters soon, what better time to take a closer look at J.K. Rowling, the woman behind the immensely popular universe.
Harry Potter has risen to the status of the bestselling book series in history. And it all began with a ride on a train. British novelist, film and TV producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist Joanne Rowling, was born on July 31, 1965 in Gloucestershire, England. During childhood she often wrote fantasy stories and frequently read them to her younger sister. In her early teens, she was gifted a copy of Jessica Miford’s autobiography Hons and Rebels, and the author became her heroine. Rowling later stated that the character of Hermione Granger was based on herself when she was 11 years old.
She attended Wyedean School and College, then earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. Rowling moved to London to work as researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International and after that she moved to Manchester and worked at the Chamber of Commerce. In 1990 while on a train trip from Manchester to London she got the idea for a story about a boy attending a school for wizardry. She began immediately working on Harry Potter.
Rowling’s next step was to move to Porto, Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, teaching at night and writing during the day. It was then that she was briefly married to Jorge Arantes and had her daughter Jessica. After separating from Jorge, she and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. Jobless and with a child, she was diagnosed with clinical depression, and signed up for welfare benefits.
In August 1995 she began teacher training at the Moray House School of Education at Edinburgh University while finishing the first novel. She decided to use the penname J.K. Rowling based on the notion that young boys might not read Harry Potter if they knew it was written by a woman.
In ’95 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was completed and was rejected by 12 publishing houses. A year later it was greenlit by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury. However, he did advise her to find a day job since she wouldn’t likely make money in children’s books. The book was published in June 1997 with an initial print run of 1,000 copies. It quickly earned book awards and a bidding war began for the rights to publish in the U.S. – won by Scholastic In. for $105,000. It was published in the U.S. in October 1998 retitled as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
The rest of the series quickly followed with Chamber of Secrets published in July of that year, followed by Prisoner of Azkaban in December ’99, Goblet of Fire in July 2000, Order of the Phoenix three years later in ’03, Half-Blood Prince in July ’05, and Deathly Hallows in December ’06. With each successive release the books sold faster and with more fervor than the predecessor. Warner Bros. purchased the film rights in ’98 and the first movie was released in November ’01 with subsequent films hitting theaters through 2011.
Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, was published in September 2012. Then she switched gears and began a detective series starring the character Cormoran Strike. Rowling started using the penname Robert Galbraith for the series, beginning with The Cuckoo’s Calling in April 2013. It was followed by The Silkworm in June 2014 and Career of Evil in October 2015.
Harry Potter projects have continued with the website Pottermore, stories that take place in the wizarding world, like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As the new Fantastic Beasts film series continues building fans, Harry Potter-themed parks open, and her other novels see success, there’s no end to the success of J.K. Rowling.