J. K. Rowling Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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.)


(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’...

(The entire section is 297 words.)


(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.)