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J.K. Rowling

Joanne Rowling, OBE (born 31 July 1965), commonly known as J.K. Rowling (pronunciation: role-ing, as in rolling stone) is a British fiction writer. Rowling is most famous for authoring the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has gained international attention and won multiple awards. In February 2004, Forbes magazine estimated her fortune as £576 million, making her the first person to become a US dollar billionaire by writing books; Rowling is also the wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom, well ahead of even Queen Elizabeth II.

Early Life

J.K. Rowling was born in the General Hospital at Chipping Sodbury, near her parents' home in Yate, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom in 1965. Together with her mother, father, and younger sister, Diana, she moved to Winterbourne, Bristol and then to Tutshill near Chepstow. She attended secondary school at Wyedean Comprehensive, where she told stories to her fellow students. In 1990, her 45-year-old mother succumbed to a decade-long battle with multiple sclerosis.

After studying French and Classics at Exeter University, with a year of study in Paris, she moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. During this period, she had the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry while she was on a four-hour, delayed train trip between Manchester and London. When she had reached her destination, she already had the characters and a good part of the plot for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in her head, which she began working on during her lunch hours.

Rowling then moved to Oporto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language. While there she married Portuguese TV journalist Jorge Arantes on 16 October 1992. They had one child, Jessica Rowling Arantes (born 27 July 1993), before their divorce in 1995.

In December, 1994, she and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh. Unemployed and living on state benefits, she completed her first novel, doing some of the work in an Edinburgh cafe. (There is a widely circulated rumour that she wrote in a local cafe in order to escape from her unheated flat - but according to the author this is false).

Harry Potter

Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, wanted to use initials on the cover of the Harry Potter books, suggesting that if they used an obviously female name, the target group of young boys might be reluctant to buy them. Rowling chose to adopt her grandmother's name, Kathleen, for the middle initial.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or, as it was called when released in the United States, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) was a huge success, and she has thus far published five sequels. The sales made her a billionaire, and in 2001, she purchased a luxurious 19th-century mansion, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay in Perthshire, Scotland, where she married her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray, on 26 December 2001.

The Harry Potter series is expected to run to seven volumes, one for each year Harry spends in school. Six of these have already been published. The fifth book, titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was delayed by an unsuccessful plagiarism suit directed towards her by rival author Nancy Stouffer (see below). Rowling took some time off from writing at this point, because during the process of writing the fifth book she felt her workload was too heavy. She said that at one point she had considered breaking her arm to get out of writing, because the pressure on her was too much. After forcing her publishers to drop her deadline, she enjoyed three years of quiet writing, commenting that she spent some time working on something else that she might return to when she is finished with the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter books

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (June 26, 1997) (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (September 8, 1999)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (July 8, 2000)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (June 21, 2003)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 16, 2005)

Harry Potter-related books:

  • Quidditch Through the Ages (2001)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001)
The last two purport to be facsimiles of books mentioned in the novels. Fantastic Beasts is a textbook, while Quidditch is probably the most popular book in the Hogwarts library. They are complete with handwritten annotations and scribblings in the margins, and include introductions by Albus Dumbledore. All proceeds from them go to the UK Comic Relief charity. She has contributed money and support to many other charitable causes, especially research and treatment of multiple sclerosis, from which her mother died in 1990. This death heavily affected her writing, according to Rowling.

Harry Potter movies

A film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in late 2001 and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002.

A darker atmosphere was adopted in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, attributed to the new director, Alfonso Cuarón. Rowling, who was a fan of Cuarón's work prior to the third film, has stated that the third film is her personal favourite.

November 2005 will mark the release date of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Alfonso Cuarón was offered the chance to direct this installment in the series, but declined as he would still be working on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Director Mike Newell decided against the studio's original idea of adapting the 734 page book into two separate films to be released several months apart, figuring that he could cut enough of the book's bulky subplots to make a workable film. The Dursleys were cut from the film due to time constraints, as was Molly Weasly. Mike Newell is the first British director of the series.

Rowling resisted suggestions by the filmmakers that the movies should be filmed in the United States or cast with American actors (only one American appears in the first film). She only reluctantly went along with changing Philosopher's Stone to Sorcerer's Stone, and limited it to the U.S. only. Rowling's insistence on British actors for the main roles resulted in Steven Spielberg passing on the opportunity to direct the series.

Rowling assists Steve Kloves in writing the scripts for the films, ensuring that his scripts do not contradict future books in the series. She says she has told him more about the later books than anybody else, but not everything. She has also said that she has told Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane certain secrets about their characters that are not yet revealed.

After Harry

In late 2003, she was approached by television producer Russell T. Davies to contribute an episode to the British television science-fiction series Doctor Who. Although she was amused by the suggestion, she turned the offer down, as she was busy working on the next novel in the Potter series. On 20 December 2004 she announced that the sixth Harry Potter book would be released on 16 July 2005.

Rowling has also made a guest appearance as herself on the American cartoon show The Simpsons, in a special British-themed episode entitled The Regina Monologues.

In a July 2005 interview with the Leaky Cauldron website, J. K. Rowling revealed that she is a great admirer of Aaron Sorkin's work on the American TV show The West Wing.

Family Life

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Dr. Neil Murray (an anaesthetist) in a private ceremony at her home in the Perthshire village of Aberfeldy. On 23 March 2003, Rowling gave birth to her second child, a boy called David Gordon Rowling Murray, at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health at the New Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. On 23 January 2005, Rowling's second child by Dr. Murray was born, fulfilling Rowling's lifelong wish to have three children. The baby girl was named Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

J.K. Rowling Facts

Birth NameJoanne Rowling
BirthdayJuly 31, 1965 (57)
BirthplaceYate, England, United Kingdom
Height5' 7" (1m70)  How tall is J.K. Rowling compared to you?

Selected Filmography

J.K. Rowling & The Birth of Harry Potter
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Magical World of Harry Potter: The Unauthorized Story of J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life
Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story DVD
Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story
The Magic of Harry Potter
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