Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two decades (literally), you know who and what Harry Potter is. But how much do you know about the woman who wrote the Boy Who Lived into being? If you look at J.K. Rowling now, you’d see a rich and successful woman, but that wasn’t always the case. Here are 25 Fantastic Facts About JK Rowling Every Harry Potter Fan Should Know.
J.K. Rowling was fired while working as a secretary for Amnesty International - because she was daydreaming, reading fantasy, and writing stories on her work computer instead of working.
J.K. Rowling's real name, by the way, is Joanne Rowling. Her publisher asked that she not publish under an obviously female name because it might not appeal to the target audience, which, at the time, was young boys. Just kidding Bloomsbury, Harry Potter's target audience is everyone, ever. The K is for her grandmother, Kathleen.
Jo (as many affectionately call her, and we here at List 25 are so very affectionate towards Joanne Rowling) had published a total of 17 books - including three under a pen name, Robert Galbraith. She wanted to start fresh in a new genre without her famous name following her. People figured her out, but she still writes under the pen name to keep a distinction from her other, more wizardly, works. To date, Harry Potter is not only her most popular work, but the best selling series in history, having sold more than 450 MILLION copies. That's more than the population of the United States, kids.
Before Harry Potter was published, Jo went through some bouts of depression, and she says that this was the inspiration for the Dementors in Harry Potter. She describes them as the “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad."
She's been quite poor. After her first marriage ended unpleasantly, Jo found herself with a young daughter just trying to scrape by. She sometimes even skipped meals to make sure her baby ate.
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However, after her books took off, she became the first person to become a billionaire from writing books. She then lost billionaire status because she gave so much to Charity. Specifically, the charity she founded, Lumos. In some countries, instead of welfare, children are taken from their families if their families are deemed too poor to care for them. They are put in state institutions in very poor conditions. Lumos works to replace those institutions with services that serve the community and allow families to stay together, while providing them what they need.
Learn more about what Lumos does here.
Jo's parents met at King's Cross station, and the idea for Harry Potter came to her while riding a train back to London, which is why King's Cross plays such a huge role in Harry Potter's life; it has in Jo's as well.
She has had a difficult relationship with her father. In 2003, he sold a set of Harry Potter first editions Jo had signed with "Happy Father's Day and Lots of Love." He claims he sold them because Jo refused to help him pay his debts. Sounds like a nice dude.
Jo has three children - Jessica (born in 1993, with her first husband), David (born in 2003, from her second and current marriage), and Mackenzie (born in 2005).
Jo married her second (and current) husband Dr. Neil Murray in 2001. He's an anesthesiologist (and is seriously cute if you're into the adorable nerd thing).
She was rejected by a dozen publishers before Harry Potter was picked up by Bloomsbury Publishing. If at first you don't succeed, try try try try try try try try try try try try again.
Rowling, by the way, should be pronounced so that it rhymes with "bowling," NOT howling. Apparently, people have gotten it wrong so much that Jo doesn't even mind anymore.
She has the same birthday as The Boy Who Lived: July 31st. That makes them Leos.
She was honored with the Order of the British Empire in 2001 for her services in children's literature. How many children's love of reading was sparked by Harry Potter? She's literally done a service to the children of the world, the full impact of which is yet to be seen.
The only time she's ever worn a disguise in public (that she admits to) is when she went to buy her wedding dress in 2001. She said, "I just wanted to be able to get married to Neil without any rubbish happening." We can't really blame her!
She finished the first draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (that's uh, Sorcerer's Stone in the US) on a manual typewriter.
Her favorite writer is Jane Austen, and she owns a First Edition of one of Austen's books. Jo has said, "I've read all her books so many times I've lost count."
She's a fan of the game Minecraft and plays it with her son, David.
She wrote her first story, about a Rabbit, cleverly titled "Rabbit," when she was just six years old.
The Simpson family visited the UK in a 2003 episode, and Jo had a cameo. You know you've "made it" when you're on The Simpsons.
Enjoy the Simpsons? So do we! Check out 25 Simpsons Facts You Probably Never Knew About.
Jo Graduated from the University of Exter in 1986, where she studied French, Greek, and German. She even spent a year living in Paris as part of her studies and has stated it's her favorite place on earth. She was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by Exter University in 2000.
Before attending University of Exeter, Jo took the entrance exams for Oxford University. They did not accept her. Their loss.
J.K. Rowling's Mother, Anne Rowling, died at the age of 45 from multiple sclerosis. On Jo's 45th Birthday, she donated enough to the University of Edinburgh to open the Anne Rowling Degenerative Neurology Clinic.
She has sworn to never read "50 Shades of Grey." Kids, be like Jo. Have standards for your literature, even romantic or erotic literature.
Jo first thought of Harry Potter in 1990, and her first ideas for The Boy Who Lived were scribbled on a napkin. Most of her ideas for Harry Potter were first scribbled out in longhand on random scraps of paper. They followed her to Portugal where she taught English, and then back to the UK and hung around for about five years before she sat down to write a single, cohesive draft.
Photo Credits: Feature Image: Daniel Ogren, J. K. Rowling 2010, CC BY 2.0, 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24. Matthew Bloomfield via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 23. Daniel Ogren, J. K. Rowling 2010, CC BY 2.0, 22. iKobe! via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 21. pexels (public domain), 20. wearelumos.org (logo under fair use for illustrative purposes only), 19. pixabay (public domain), 18. Barry Solow via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 17. pexels (public domain), 16. www.her.ie, (fair use, illustrative use only, no free images available), 15. Mo HH92 at English Wikipedia, Harry Potter british books, CC BY-SA 3.0, 14-13. pexels (public domain), 12. Robert Prummel, Ster Orde van het Britse Rijk, CC BY-SA 2.5, 11. max pixel (public domain), 10. pexels (public domain), 9. Wikimedia commons (public domain), 8. pixabay (public domain), 7. pexels (public domain), 6. Gauravjuvekar, The Simpsons Logo 2009 vector, CC BY-SA 3.0, 5. pexels (public domain), 4. pixabay (public domain), 3. Kim Traynor, Edinburgh Medical School building, Teviot Place, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2. Mike Mozart via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 1. pexels (public domain)