J. K. Rowling

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J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling.jpg
Personal information
Birth Name

Joanne Rowling


31 July, 1965





  • Anne Rowling (née Volant) (mother) †
  • Peter James Rowling (father)
  • Dianne Rowling (sister)
  • Roger Moore (brother-in-law)
  • Neil Murray (husband)
  • Jessica Isabel Rowling-Arantes (daughter)
  • David Gordon Rowling-Murray (son)
  • Mackenzie Jean Rowling-Murray (daughter)
  • Jorge Arantes (ex-husband)
  • Ernest Rowling (paternal grandfather)
  • Kathleen Rowling (paternal grandmother) †
  • Stanley Volant (maternal grandfather)
  • Frieda Volant (maternal grandmother)
Also known as
  • Jo
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Joanne K. Rowling
  • Robert Galbraith
  • Writer
  • Film Producer
Physical information
Eye colour


Hair colour

Brunette (dyed blonde)

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped to change. We do not need magic to transform the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.

–J.K. Rowling on her Harvard Commencement Speech in June 5, 2008[1]

Joanne "Jo" Murray (née Rowling), OBE FRSL (born 31 July, 1965 in Yate), commonly known as J.K. Rowling (pronunciation: rolling) is an English fiction writer and film producer. Rowling is most famous for authoring the Harry Potter series, which have gained international attention and have 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. She is also the second richest female entertainer in the world, behind Oprah Winfrey.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Rowling was born in Yate, United Kingdom in 1965, to Peter and Anne Rowling. Together with her mother, father, and younger sister Dianne, 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. This affected her very much. Growing up, her relationship with her father was strained, and as a result she has not spoken to him in recent years. She has also said that because of her lack of a proper father there are many father figures for Harry in her books.

Rowling studied for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter, which she says was a "bit of a shock" as she "was expecting to be amongst lots of similar people– thinking radical thoughts." Once she made friends with "some like-minded people" she says she began to enjoy herself.[2] She wrote a short essay titled "What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled" and published it in the university journal Pegasus, which recounts her time at Exeter studying for her BA in Classics.[3] After a year of study in Paris, Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.[4] 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 in her head the characters and a good part of the plot for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which she began working on during her lunch hours.

Rowling then moved to Porto, 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 Isabel Rowling Arantes (born 27 July, 1993), before their divorce in 1995.

In December of 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 café. (There is a widely circulated rumour that she wrote in a local café to escape from her unheated flat — but according to the author this is false).

Harry Potter and beyond[edit | edit source]

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. Since Rowling didn't have a middle name she chose to adopt her paternal grandmother's name, Kathleen (full name: Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling), for the middle initial.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was a huge success, and she has thus far published six sequels. The sales made her a multi-millionaire, 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 runs seven volumes, one for each year Harry spends in school. The series is complete. 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 fifth book was released on 21 June 2003.

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 June 5, 2008, J.K. Rowling was the keynote speaker for Harvard University Commencement.[5]

The Harry Potter books[edit | edit source]

Harry Potter-related books and stories[edit | edit source]

The first two Harry Potter related books 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. By Rowling's own account, this death greatly affected her writing.

Harry Potter films[edit | edit source]

A film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in late 2001 and the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002. Both were directed by American film director Chris Columbus.

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.

Rowling resisted suggestions by the filmmakers that the movies should be filmed in the United States or cast with American actors (only two Americans appear in the first film).[6] 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 assisted Steve Kloves in writing the scripts for the films, ensuring that his scripts do not contradict future books in the series. She says she had told him more about the later books than anybody else, but not everything. She has also said that she had told Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane certain secrets about their characters that had not yet been revealed, in order to inform their performances and avoid later inconsistencies.

Kloves took time off from Harry Potter in 2007 to work on his own film; Michael Goldenberg was hired to adapt Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while Kloves returned for the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and parts 1 and 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

In 2013, Rowling announced that she had begun to write a screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which would take place seventy years before the events of the Harry Potter novels.[7]

Lawsuits[edit | edit source]

Rowling has been involved in a lawsuit over the Harry Potter series, and other litigation has been suggested or rumoured.

Nancy Stouffer[edit | edit source]

In the late 1990s Nancy Stouffer, an author of children's books published in the 1980s, began to charge publicly that Rowling's books were based on her books, including The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly.

In 2001, Rowling, Scholastic Press (the American publisher of her books), and Warner Bros. (the producer of the film adaptations) sued Stouffer, asking the court to judge that there was no infringement of Stouffer's trademarks or copyright. Stouffer, who had not previously sued, then filed counterclaims alleging such infringement.

Rowling and her colitigants argued that much of the evidence that Stouffer presented was fraudulent, and asked for sanctions and attorneys' fees as punishment. In September 2002 the court found in Rowling's favour, stating that Stouffer had lied to the court and falsified and forged documents to support her case. Stouffer was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay part (but not all) of the plaintiffs' costs.

In January 2004 it was reported that Stouffer's appeal against the judgment had been rejected. The appeals court agreed that Stouffer's claims were properly dismissed because "no reasonable juror could find a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the two parties' works". The Court explained:

Stouffer's and Plaintiffs' marks are used in two very different ways. Rowling's use of the term "Muggles" describes ordinary humans with no magical powers while Stouffer's "Muggles" are tiny, hairless creatures with elongated heads. Further, the Harry Potter books are novel-length works and whose primary customers are older children and adults whereas Stouffer's booklets appeal to young children. Accordingly, the District Court correctly dismissed Stouffer's trademark claims.

Stouffer was also ordered to pay the costs of the appeal. A report of the judgment can be found at Entertainment Law Digest, available via Web Archive. The 2002 judgment can be found here: ROWLING v. STOUFFER

Some sources, such as the TV Tropes Wiki, have pointed out that the word "muggle" (sometimes in its present meaning of "naïve/incompetent person") dates back at least to the 1920s.

New York Daily News[edit | edit source]

On 19 June 2003 Rowling and her American publisher Scholastic announced that they would sue the New York Daily News for $100 million because the newspaper had printed information on her work Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before the book's official release date. The novel was due for release on Saturday 21 June, but the newspaper published a plot summary and short quotes on Wednesday 18 June. An accompanying image even revealed two pages from the book with legible text. However, the story was complicated further when it was revealed that the paper had purchased the book from a health store whose owner received the novels wholesale and decided to place them in the window. The man claimed he was unaware he was supposed to wait until that Saturday.

Awards[edit | edit source]

J.K. Rowling has received numerous honours and awards:

  • Booksellers Association Author of the Year - 1998 and 1999[8]
  • Author of the Year - 1999[8]
  • Order of the British Empire (OBE) - 2001[8]
  • Prince of Asturias Award for Concord - 2003[8]
  • W.H. Smith Fiction Award - 2004[8]
  • Blue Peter Gold Badge - 2007[8]
  • James Joyce Award - University College Dublin, 2008[8]
  • The Edinburgh Award - 2008[8]
  • Outstanding Achievement Award - South Bank Show Awards, 2008[8]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - 2008[8]
  • Commencement Speaker - Harvard University, U.S.A., 2008[8]
  • The French Legion of Honour Award

On 3 February 2009, the French president awarded Rowling the insignia of Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour, France's highest honour. Rowling believed until recent years that her great-grandfather Louis Volant had also received the award for bravery during the war when she dicovered the recipient was a different man with the same name in the programme Who Do You Think You Are?. The awarding ceremony was held at Palace Elysee in Paris, France.[8][9][10]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Dr Neil Murray 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 named David Gordon Rowling Murray, at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health at the New Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. On 23 January 2005, Rowling's third child, also by Dr Murray, was born, fulfilling Rowling's lifelong wish to have three children. The baby girl was named Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray.

Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland, and has stated that she believes in God, although the Christian theme was not included in the books as it might have been easy to predict where the stories were going.[12]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

  • J.K. Rowling wrote her first book at six. It was about a rabbit called Rabbit!
  • In The Tales of Beedle the Bard (real), J.K. Rowling writes an in-universe introduction to the stories, which ostensibly have been translated by Hermione Granger. As such, she establishes that a J. K. Rowling exists in the Potter-universe.
  • In 2010, J. K. Rowling said that she can't guarantee she wouldn't return to the world of Harry Potter in the next 10 years or so, therefore she didn't want to say she never would; but she also said it was unlikely. However, during an interview with Oprah, she has given signs of an 8th book yet no official plans have been made.[13]
  • In June of 2011, Rowling announced Pottermore, an online interactive experience.
  • When J.K. Rowling received the Legion of Honour Award from Nicolas Sarkozy, she gave a speech in French in which she talks about her grandfather, Louis Volant.
  • In February 2012, Rowling announced the publication of an upcoming new book, targeted at adults, but no further information was given. The title was later revealed to be The Casual Vacancy. She also announced a complete revamp of her official website, slated to be launched sometime in the spring.
  • In April 2012, she reopened her official website and announced that her new novel was to be titled The Casual Vacancy and would be published on September 27. The tone of the novel is described as being "blackly comic."[14]
  • J. K. Rowling was sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore.[15] However, before that, she once took an online Sorting Hat Quiz which sorted her into Hufflepuff.
  • J. K. Rowling has stated that her Patronus would be a pine marten.[16]
  • In Harry Potter: Beyond the Page, Rowling revealed that she cannot remember a time when she wanted to be anything other than a writer.
  • In July 2013, the Sunday Times newspaper revealed that the "debut" novel, The Cuckoo's Calling by "Robert Galbraith" (published in April 2013), was actually written by Rowling under a pseudonym. She is planning to write a second novel about this book's protagonist, Cormoran Strike.[17]
  • Rowling said the Harry Potter Series might not have happened if her mother hadn't died. "The books are what they are because she died ... because I loved her and she died."

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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