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...
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