Study Guide

J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111227672-Rowling_JK.jpgJ. K. Rowling. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Joanne Kathleen Rowling (ROHL-ihng) spent her early years living in various locations near the city of Bristol, where her father, Peter, worked for Rolls-Royce as an engineer, before moving to the village of Tuthill in the Forest of Dean in 1974. She was head girl at Wyedean Comprehensive School before going on to study French and classics at Exeter University. She attended Moray House Teacher Training College in Manchester before working in London as a secretary and as a research assistant for Amnesty International. In 1991 she went to Oporto in Portugal to teach English as a second language; there she married television journalist Jorge Arantes in 1992 but divorced him in 1993, after which she returned to Britain with her daughter, Jessica.{$S[A]Scamander, Newt;Rowling, J. K.}{$S[A]Whisp, Kennilworthy;Rowling, J. K.}

The story of Rowling’s career has taken on a legendary quality akin to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Fairy-Tale of My Life (1855). She conceived the idea of the Harry Potter books on a train journey from Manchester to London in 1990 and worked on it throughout her Portuguese adventure. When she returned to Britain she settled in Edinburgh, where her younger sister Dianne was a law student. Depressed and caught in a “poverty trap” (because the cost of child care made it uneconomical for her to work), she took long walks through the city to tire out her daughter, then sat in coffee shops writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in longhand. She finished the novel in 1995 and then, while Jessica was in nursery school, worked as a French teacher until the manuscript was accepted for publication in 1997. After that, a grant from the Scottish Arts Council enabled her to buy a computer on which to write Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Having been rejected by the major commercial publishing houses, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was issued by Bloomsbury in June, 1997. It won the Smarties Book Prize Gold Medal and was short-listed for the Guardian Fiction Award and the Carnegie Medal. American rights were auctioned for $105,000, then a record for a children’s book, although it was soon surpassed as the commercial publishers hastened to jump on the bandwagon. After Warner bought the film rights to the first novel in 1999, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban carried its two predecessors aloft to occupy the top three slots in the U.S. best-seller lists. Rowling was able to obtain an unprecedented degree...

(The entire section is 1033 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The daughter of Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling (who met at King’s Cross railway station—a major location in the Potter series), Joanne Kathleen Rowling grew up in various Gloucester villages in England. Her best friend, Sean Harris, later served as one model for her character Ron Weasley. She studied classics at the University of Exeter and later became a researcher for Amnesty International, which pressures governments around the world to abandon the use of torture and other brutality.

In 1990, much of the characterization and plot of the Harry Potter series occurred to Rowling as she was traveling by train. After the death of her mother that year, she deepened her sense of Harry’s sorrow at his parents’ demise. In 1992 in Portugal, where she was teaching, she married a television journalist. The marriage ended in divorce but left her with a baby daughter. She was living in poverty when she finished the first volume of her series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in 1995. Rowling has stated that this was a period when she suffered from depression and even thought of suicide. Eventually, however, she found an agent and then a publisher for the book.

As late as 1997, Rowling was able to spend her time writing only because she had received a monetary grant from the Scottish Arts Council. The next year, the American publisher Scholastic bid $105,000 for the right to publish the American edition of the first Harry Potter book—this was the first financial record for children’s books that Rowling set. After that time, Rowling focused on completing the series, serving as an adviser on the very large-budgeted film adaptations that were made from the books, engaging in legal suits connected to the series, and raising funds for many charities.

J. K. Rowling Biography (Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Yate, South Gloucestershire, England, on a July 31, the same date on which her fictional Harry Potter was born. Her father, Peter Rowling, worked on airplane engines for Rolls Royce. Her mother, Ann, died in 1990 of multiple sclerosis.

From an early age, Rowling loved to write stories. When she was six, she wrote her first book, Rabbit, a story about a sick rabbit and the visitors who came to cheer him up. When her family moved to Tutshill in South Wales, she attended Wyedean School and College. She then attended the University of Exeter, where she studied French and the classics. She also spent a year studying in Paris. After graduating, she worked as a researcher and secretary for Amnesty International. During this period she commuted by train between Manchester and London and began formulating a story about a young boy who discovers that he has magical powers. When she was twenty-six, she quit her job and went to Portugal to teach English as a second language. In 1992, she married journalist Jorge Arantes; they had a daughter, Jessica, the following year. Their marriage was troubled and was dissolved that same year.

Rowling returned to Great Britain and settled near Edinburgh, Scotland. She completed her first Harry Potter book in 1994 while she was unemployed and living on welfare. She sent the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to several publishers, who rejected...

(The entire section is 526 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111227672-Rowling_JK.jpgJ. K. Rowling. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Joanne Kathleen Rowling (ROHL-ihng) was born in Chipping Sodbury, a small town in Gloucestershire, England, the daughter of an engineer working for Rolls-Royce. When she was nine the family moved to the small village of Tuthill, near the Welsh border in the Forest of Dean; she was educated thereafter at Wyedean Comprehensive and went on to study French and classics at Exeter University. She then went to Moray House Teacher Training College in Manchester but did not immediately seek work as a teacher; instead, she went to London to work as a secretary and as a research assistant for Amnesty International. It was while traveling between Manchester and London by train in 1990 that she was first struck by the idea of writing the Harry Potter series.

In 1991, Rowling went to Portugal in order to teach English as a foreign language in Oporto. Because she worked in the afternoons and evenings she was able to spend her mornings writing, but her progress was slow and her produce mostly consisted of voluminous notes and disconnected chapters. She married a television journalist named Jorge Arantes in 1992, but the marriage soon failed; following her divorce in 1993, Rowling returned to Great Britain with her infant daughter, Jessica, and took up residence in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her younger sister Dianne, who had formerly worked as a nurse but was now studying law.

The cost of child care made it uneconomical for Rowling to work, but she also found it difficult to continue writing while suffering from the emotional fallout of her failed marriage. She formed the habit of taking long walks, which put her daughter to sleep, and then working on the first volume of the projected series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997; published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1998), in coffee shops. It took her until 1995 to finish the book, and it was not accepted for publication until 1997. The initial advance was only £2,500, but she was able to obtain a grant from the Scottish Arts Council in order to buy a computer on which to write the second volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998).

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was carefully marketed by its initial publisher, Bloomsbury, which gave away most of the first edition to schools, hoping to obtain word-of-mouth publicity for the subsequent paperback. The ploy worked and ensured that most of the hardcover copies sustained sufficient wear and tear to make the remainder fabulously...

(The entire section is 1049 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

All children’s fiction consists, in essence, of parables of maturation, but the remarkable structure of the Harry Potter series enabled it to become the most elaborate and complex of all such parables. That, rather than its enormous sales, is the series and author J. K. Rowling’s most significant literary achievement.

(The entire section is 52 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

J. K. (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling was born in Gloucestershire, England on July 31, 1966. She attended Exeter University and worked as a teacher...

(The entire section is 328 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, in Gloucestershire, England. The daughter of Peter and Anne Rowling, an engineer and...

(The entire section is 120 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, in Gloucestershire, England. The daughter of Peter and Anne Rowling, an engineer and...

(The entire section is 1282 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Born on July 31, 1965, in Gloucestershire, England, Joanne Kathleen Rowling grew up in rural communities in the southwestern part of that...

(The entire section is 758 words.)

J. K. Rowling Biography (Literary Newsmakers for Students)

Beginning in 1998 with the publication of her first novel about a young wizard named Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling launched an internationally...

(The entire section is 385 words.)