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J.K. Rowling is the adored British author of the Harry Potter series of books. Her rise to fame has a touch of magic to it, given that she composed much of her first work, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone in poverty, often planning out her chapters in cafés near her tiny apartment in Edinburgh, where she lived with her daughter, Jessica.
Prior to Rowling penning the Harry Potter books, her life was one of struggle and loss. Her mother died in 1990 after a prolonged battle with multiple sclerosis. Her first marriage, to Jorje Arrantes in 1992, ended just over a year later. She met Arrantes while teaching English in Portugal, but returned to Scotland following the divorce. Unable to find work, Rowling struggled to support herself and her daughter on State Aid assistance. Her financial circumstances would not change until the late 1990s, when the Harry Potter series exceeded all expectations for success.
Aided by a grant from the Scottish Arts Council, Rowling was able to complete her first novel, but initial encouragement from publishers was virtually non-existent. She was told to find a day job, and the UK publisher, Bloomsbury, only published an initial 1000 copies of the novel, titled in the UK as Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.
Within a half year of its publication in 1997, the novel achieved its first award, the Nestle Smarties Book Prize. A few months later, it received the British Book Award for Best Children’s Book of The Year. By 1998, Scholastic purchased publication rights, and Rowling, now on her third installment of the series, was enjoying great success.
The popularity of the series has made Rowling the most popular children’s author ever. The interest in the books from both adults and children created a resurgence in avid reading among younger children eager for the next installment of Harry’s adventures. Her estimated wealth from publication of the six books so far, as well as her work on the four Harry Potter films is approximately half a billion Great Britain pounds (GBP), or just over one billion US Dollars (USD).
The novels have grown progressively darker in tone as Harry has aged. The sixth novel, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, ends with the death of a beloved character. Younger readers were quite devastated by the ending, which is both disturbing and tragic. Though the books are considered children’s fare, parents should probably read them first to determine their suitability for their individual children.
Film adaptations have been reviewed positively, but frequently leave Harry Potter fans unhappy as important details are left out or changed. Rowling has been significantly involved in all aspects of the filming, approving adaptations, but serious fans often find the films a pale imitation of the novels. The films tend to sacrifice the humorous elements of the novels, focusing instead on the various mysteries Harry, Ron and Hermione must solve. The fourth film, which earned a PG-13 rating for violence, is considered to be the best film to date, because it deftly blends humor and suspense.
Rowling was encouraged to use her initials rather than her first name Joanne, because it was thought her books would primarily appeal to young boys who might not read the book if it was known to be written by a woman. To her close friends she is known as Jo. Her life since the success of her novels has a fairy tale quality, which she often claims she finds hard to believe.
Queen Elizabeth II honored Rowling in 2000, titling her as an Officer of the British Empire. She remarried in 2001, to Dr. Neil Murray, with whom she has two children, David and Mackenzie. In her public life, she devotes time to causes dear to her, including relieving world poverty, supporting Amnesty International, and funding research towards a cure for multiple sclerosis.
Rowling is currently at work on writing the seventh and last Harry Potter book, though she might publish an encyclopedia of Harry Potter terms at a later point. Millions of fans eagerly await the climax of this delightful series, though some fans mourn the fact that the end of Harry’s story is in sight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is J.K. Rowling and why is she famous?
J.K. Rowling is a British author best known for creating the Harry Potter series, which has become one of the most successful and beloved book franchises in history. The series has sold over 500 million copies worldwide, according to Scholastic and Bloomsbury, the publishers. Rowling's fame stems not only from the books' success but also from the subsequent film adaptations, merchandise, and theme park attractions that have turned Harry Potter into a cultural phenomenon.
What is the impact of the Harry Potter series on literature and popular culture?
The Harry Potter series has had a profound impact on literature and popular culture. It revitalized the fantasy genre for a new generation and contributed to the rise of young adult fiction as a powerful literary category. The series has been translated into over 80 languages, as noted by The New York Times, reflecting its global reach. Its influence extends to inspiring a vast fan community, academic studies, and even shaping social values and identity among readers.
How has J.K. Rowling's life influenced her writing?
J.K. Rowling's life experiences have significantly influenced her writing. Before her success, Rowling faced economic hardship and has described how her struggles with depression inspired the Dementors in Harry Potter. Her time as a teacher and knowledge of classical myths and literature have also shaped her storytelling. Rowling's own journey from a single mother on welfare to a multi-millionaire philanthropist is often seen as a reflection of the themes of adversity and resilience in her work.
What other works has J.K. Rowling published outside of the Harry Potter series?
Beyond the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has published several other works. Under her own name, she has written "The Casual Vacancy," a novel for adults, and under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, she has authored the Cormoran Strike series, a collection of crime fiction novels. These works have allowed Rowling to explore different genres and reach a broader audience, showcasing her versatility as a writer.
What philanthropic efforts is J.K. Rowling known for?
J.K. Rowling is known for her philanthropy, particularly in areas related to children's welfare and multiple sclerosis research, a disease that affected her mother. She founded the Volant Charitable Trust, which supports various charitable causes, and Lumos, an organization aimed at ending the institutionalization of children worldwide. Rowling has donated significant portions of her wealth to charity, and Forbes has reported on her fall from billionaire status due to her charitable giving.