Who Is J.K. Rowling?
Joanne Rowling, who goes by the pen name J.K. Rowling, is a British author and screenwriter best known for her seven-book Harry Potter children's book series. The series has sold more than 450 million copies and was adapted into a blockbuster film franchise.
Rowling was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and struggling to get by as a single mom before her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was published in 1997. The children's fantasy novel became an international hit and Rowling became an international literary sensation in 1999 when the first three installments of Harry Potter took over the top three slots of The New York Times best-seller list after achieving similar success in her native United Kingdom.
Rowling published the novel The Casual Vacancy in 2012, followed by the crime novel Cuckoo Calling under the pen name Robert Galbraith in 2013. In 2016, she released a play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In 2017, she released Harry Potter: A History of Magic for an exhibition at the British Library to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publishing of her first novel.
Rowling was born Joanne Rowling on July 31, 1965, in Yate, England. She adopted her pen name, J.K., incorporating her grandmother's name, Kathleen, for the latter initial (Rowling does not have a middle name).
A graduate of the University of Exeter, Rowling moved to Portugal in 1990 to teach English. There, she met and married the Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes. The couple's daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce, Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter to live near her younger sister, Di.
While struggling to support her daughter Jessica and herself on welfare, Rowling worked on her first book in the Harry Potter series. The idea for the book reportedly occurred to her while she was traveling on a train from Manchester to London in 1990.
J.K. Rowling's Books
'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone'
After a number of rejections, Rowling finally sold her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, for the equivalent of about $4,000; it hit shelves in June 1997. The word "Philosopher" in the book’s original title was changed to "Sorcerer" for its publication in America.
The book was the start of a seven-book series chronicling the life of the young wizard Harry Potter and his motley band of cohorts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'
The second book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, came out in July 1998.
'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'
The third book in Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, hit shelves in July 1999. By the following summer, the first three Harry Potter books had earned approximately $480 million in three years, with over 35 million copies in print in 35 languages.
'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'
The phenomenal response to Rowling's books culminated in July 2000, when the fourth volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, became the fastest-selling book in 24 hours ever. The book saw a first printing of 5.3 million copies and advance orders of over 1.8 million.
'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'
After a postponed release date, the fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hit bookstores in June 2003.
'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'
The sixth installment, released in July 2005, sold 6.9 million copies in the United States in its first 24 hours. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the biggest opening in publishing history.
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'
Prior to its July 2007 release, the seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the largest ever pre-ordered book at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores and at Amazon.com. Rowling does not plan to write any more books in the series, although she has not entirely ruled out the possibility.
'The Tales of Beedle the Bard'
This collection of five fables mentioned in the Harry Potter book series, The Tales of Beedle and the Bard, was released on November 4, 2008 at a tea party for 200 schoolchildren at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Rowling donated all royalties from the book to the Children's High Level Group (which has been renamed Lumos), a charity that she co-founded to support institutionalized children in Eastern Europe.
'The Casual Vacancy'
Rowling's first book aimed at adults, The Casual Vacancy, was published in September 2012. The novel, a dark comedy about a local election in the small English town of Pagford, received mixed reviews.
A book review in The New York Times called the novel "disappointing" and "dull." A review in The Telegraph, however, gave the book three out of five stars, stating that “Jane Austen herself would admire the way [Rowling] shows the news of Barry’s death spreading like a virus round Pagford."
'Cuckoo Calling,' 'The Silkworm,' 'Career of Evil,' and 'Lethal White'
In April 2013, Rowling broke into a new genre, crime fiction, with a novel she published under the pen name Robert Galbraith. In the first few months following the release of Cuckoo Calling, the novel had modest sales and received positive reviews. Sales for the work skyrocketed in July when its author's identity was discovered.
According to Bloomberg News, Rowling said that "I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name."
Rowling published two more books under the pen name Robert Galbraith: The Silkworm and Career of Evil, both released in June 2014 and released Lethal White in September 2018.
'Very Good Lives' (Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech)
In April 2015, Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech was published in book form as Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.
The self-improvement guide offers personal anecdotes and advice on how to embrace failure and use your imagination to succeed. Proceeds from the book benefit Lumos, Rowling’s non-profit children’s organization.
‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’
In 2017, Rowling announced on her website that she would publish two new books for an exhibition at the British Library that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The books, Harry Potter: A History of Magic (described as the adult version) and Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic (the kid-friendly version), were released on October 20th and feature manuscripts, original illustrations and an exploration of the Harry Potter characters and magic.
In May 2019, it was reported that Rowling would be publishing four more Harry Potter stories. However, the author cleared up the confusion on her website, explaining that the “bite-sized e-reads” contain no new material. The A Journey Through… e-books were adapted from a companion audiobook to History of Magic narrated by Natalie Dormer.
'Harry Potter' Movies
A film version of Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was released in November 2001 and was directed by Chris Columbus and starred Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
In its opening weekend in the U.S., the film debuted on a record 8,200 screens and smashed the previous box-office record, earning an estimated $93.5 million ($20 million more than the previous record-holder, 1999's The Lost World: Jurassic Park). It ended the year as the top-grossing movie of 2001.
The second and third films in the series — Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), directed by Columbus, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), directed by Alfonso Cuarón — each enjoyed similar record-breaking box-office success. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell, was released in 2005.
The fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, directed by David Yates, was released in 2007. The film featured a script by screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, who replaced Steve Kloves, scriptwriter of the first four films.
The film version of the sixth installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, directed by Yates, was released in July 2009. The final film for the seventh book in the series was released in two installments: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011), both directed by Yates.
'Fantastic Beasts' Film Series
In 2013, Rowling announced a new film series with Warner Bros. According to Entertainment Weekly, Rowling explained that the movies, based on her 2001 Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, would draw from "the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for 17 years," but "is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the 'Harry Potter' series, but an extension of the wizarding world."
Developed from a script by Rowling — her screenwriting debut — and starring Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them earned its release in November 2016. Following in the footsteps of Rowling's previous creations that made it to the big screen, Fantastic Beasts dazzled audiences with its depictions of sorcery and grossed more than $800 million worldwide.
The film's sequel generated controversy ahead of its planned November 2018 release date for the decision to include Johnny Depp in the cast. During a time when influential Hollywood actors and executives were coming under fire for past indiscretions, fans were troubled by the allegations of domestic abuse that contributed to Depp's divorce from Amber Heard.
However, in late 2017, both Rowling and Warner Bros. issued statements in support of Depp. “The filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies,” said Rowling.
J.K. Rowling’s Website
In 2014, Rowling published a short story about grown-up Harry Potter and a Hogwarts school reunion on her website Pottermore. Since the site launched, she’s added more stories and information about all things Harry Potter.
‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Play
In June 2016, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play written by Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany and based on Rowling’s story, debuted on the London stage to a sold-out audience.
Although she had originally stated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be the final book in the series, the play features an adult Harry Potter and has been officially touted as the eighth installment of the series.
The play’s cast differs from that of the original films. The next month, as with her previous books, fans lined up at bookstores pending the midnight release of Jack Thorne’s script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
J.K. Rowling’s Husband and Children
On December 26, 2001, Rowling married anesthetist Dr. Neil Murray at the couple's home in Scotland. They have two children together, David (born in 2003) and Mackenzie (born in 2005). Rowling has one child, Jessica (born 1993), from her previous marriage.
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