J. K. Rowling

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Sometimes, an idea is all it takes to transform your life. What better example of this than Joanne Rowling who went from a struggling single mum to literary superstar on the strength of a moment of inspiration?

J. K. Rowling, as she is known worldwide, was born in Yate, England in 1965. After graduating in Classics and French from Exeter University, Jo worked in London. The magic moment arrived in 1990. While she was waiting for a delayed train from Manchester to London, the concept of a boy wizard entered her mind, “fully formed”.

That was Harry Potter.

Rowling relocated to Portugal as an English language teacher where she married Jorge Arantes, a local journalist. The marriage failed and Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her baby daughter. In 1995, she completed writing the first of the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Twelve publishers rejected her manuscript. Bloomsbury finally accepted it; reports say the company chairman’s 8-year-old daughter was enchanted by it and immediately wanted to read the next manuscript.

Jo adopted the name J. K. Rowling (“K” for her grandmother’s name, Kathleen) as her publishers felt a woman author may turn off the target readership of pre-adolescent boys.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published in 1998 and flew to No.1 position on the adult bestseller charts. Five more novels followed between 2000 and 2007: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

It was a dream run for Rowling, with each book setting new records in publishing history. To date, the Harry Potter series has sold 400 million books.

Warner Bros. bought the movie rights for the first two books for a seven-figure sum. The first Harry Potter film released was in 2001. The subsequent books were adapted and released on screen over the next ten years, with Rowling closely involved in the writing of the film scripts and production. Needless to say, the movie franchise totted up record-breaking box office figures.

From penury, Rowling entered the Forbes list of billionaires in 2004. She has been showered with awards. She received an OBE for her contribution to children’s literature, France’s Légion d'Honneur, honorary degrees from Harvard and several British universities, to name just a few.

Rowling’s latest venture is a book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, published in September 2012. Based on local elections in an idyllic English town, The Casual Vacancy has already soared up the bestseller lists despite mixed reviews. Magic, perhaps?


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