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J. K. Rowling is an internationally famous novelist, best known as the author of the Harry Potter children’s book series. She became a worldwide sensation after the first three books in the series took over the top three spots in the New York Times best sellers list. In the year two thousand, her book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became the fastest selling book in history. Her books about the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his friends at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry whose quest is to defeat the dark wizard Lord Voldermort who is on a quest to conquer the witchcraft and wizardry world, control people, destroy his opponents and become immortal. Over four hundred million copies are said to have been sold whilst the books have also been adapted for a popular series of films of the same name.
J. K. Rowling’s status as a pioneer owes less to her status as the first literary billionaire and more to firstly, the way in which she emerged on the global stage from an ordinary life to become an internationally acclaimed writer. Secondly, the nerve with which she has managed to balance her creativity as a writer, her talents as an entrepreneur and her conscience as a philanthropist. And, thirdly, the manner in which she has maintained overall creative control of her career – from her scripts, barring the American title of the first book, their adaptation for the big screen, to serving as a producer in the final episode of the film series.
She was born Joanne Rowling on the thirty first of July nineteen sixty five in Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, inEnglandand grew up in Chepstow, Gwent in Wales.
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It is reported that she was persuaded to change her name to J. K. Rowling by her publishers because they were worried that young boys, who were the target audience for the book, might not wish to read a book written by a woman. They wanted two initials presumably to masculinise her name. So, she adopted the K initial of grandmother’s name, Kathleen.
She studied French and Classics at Exeter University. After spending a year studying inParis, she moved toLondonto work for Amnesty International as a researcher and bilingual secretary. This was followed by a move toManchesterin nineteen ninety. It is reported that she had the idea for the Harry Potter series that same year whilst on a train fromManchestertoLondon. She started writing soon after.
She moved toPortugalin nineteen ninety one to teach English and met and married the father of her daughter in nineteen ninety two. After her divorce a year later, she moved toEdinburghto live close to her sister in nineteen ninety three.
It is believed that she started working earnestly on the books after moving to Edinburgh. Some accounts report that the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone inAmerica) was written in a café inEdinburghin between teaching French and looking after her daughter. Other accounts suggest that she wrote the book whilst struggling to support her daughter on social welfare.
She reportedly sold the book for four thousand dollars after a number of rejections in nineteen ninety six. Twelve publishing houses are reported to have rejected the manuscript beforeBloomsburyagreed to take it on, giving her a one thousand five hundred pound advance. Prior to publishing the book, she was advised by her book editor to find a day job given her chances of making money from writing children’s books. She even received a grant from the Scottish arts council to allow her to continue her writing.
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The first book was published in nineteen ninety seven and the rest as the saying goes is history. Within three years of publishing the first three books, she is said to have had thirty five million copies of her books in print in thirty five languages and earned four hundred and eighty million dollars. By the time the last book was published in two thousand and seven, it was the largest pre-ordered copies from Amazon.com. The films also mirrored the success of the books and enjoyed equally record breaking success.
J.K. Rowling’s journey to literary success was littered with a number of challenges. Seven years after graduating from university she had faced a number of life defining moments including the death of her mother, divorce, unemployment, single parenthood which culminated, it is reported, in clinical depression due to her sense at this time of being the biggest failure she knew. These experiences are believed to be reflected in her writings.
In her delivery of the Harvard commencement address in two thousand and eight, she describes the benefits of these experiences of failure: “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
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Initially, Harry Potter was received positively by literary critics. There were reviews and references that compared the series to the works of Roald Dahl, widely considered as a classic. The books were described as inventive and original and were given credit for improving the literacy of young people. By the time the fifth book was released the reviews became more negative and critical, as old fashioned, lacking serious literary merit, saleable, unethical and mean-spirited.
J. K. Rowling remarried and went on to have a son. She is reported to have returned to writing once more inEdinburghcafés, this time for an adult audience.
She is said to be very passionate about causes aimed at tackling poverty and social inequality with a particular focus on supporting children, one parent families and multiple sclerosis research, in honour of her mother. She personally invests millions of her wealth in philanthropic activities and regularly supports projects with her writings, and status, to raise funds for the causes she cares for.
In her Harvard commencement address, she explained how it was that she was able to transform herself from a struggling lone mother who she once considered a failure to become the trailblazer she is today: “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”