On July 31, 1965, Joanne Rowling was born in Yate, England. She grew up to be known by her pen name, J.K. Rowling, under which she wrote the “Harry Potter” books. Cumulatively selling 500 million copies to date, “Harry Potter” is the best-selling book series in history. Rowling went from being a struggling single mother to the world’s first billionaire author. Her books became the basis of one of the most successful film franchises in history, as well as the recent hit Broadway play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Additionally, Rowling’s rags-to-riches success story forever changed the way we look at women typing away on their laptops for hours at the local coffee shop. She captured the imagination of millions of people, young and old, making the wizarding world of Harry Potter an integral part of popular culture.
Trains play a key role in Rowling’s story. Her parents, Peter James and Anne Rowling, met on a London train in 1964. Rowling, who began writing fantasy stories at nine years old to entertain her younger sister, first came up with the idea for the Harry Potter story while delayed on a train, traveling from Manchester to London. When her train finally arrived at the station, she rushed home to start writing her tale about a young boy named Harry Potter who attends wizarding school.
It took seven years for Rowling to write and publish her first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (later published as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the United States). Over that period of time, she experienced more than her fair share of life-altering events: she lost her mother to multiple sclerosis, married her first husband, gave birth to her daughter, got divorced from her first husband, and became a single mother barely scraping by on state benefits. Trying to make ends meet, Rowling moved in with her friend in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 1995, Rowling completed her manuscript on an old manual typewriter. Although she found a literary agent to represent her, Rowling’s book was rejected by 12 publishing houses. Finally, in 1996, the publishing company Bloomsbury bought her book.
In 1998, Scholastic paid $105,000 to publish the U.S. version of the book. With that deal, Rowling’s writing career became her full-time job. She went on to write six more successful “Harry Potter” books.
Today, the global “Harry Potter” brand is worth a staggering $15 billion. The eight films, based on Rowling’s books, have all been commercial and critical successes. The “Harry Potter” franchise made Rowling the world’s first billionaire author.
Rowling has since moved on to writing books specifically for adult readers. Although she earned tremendous wealth from her “Harry Potter” series, she has donated a considerable amount of her money to charity. Among the many recipients of Rowling’s donations are Comic Relief and Reading is Fundamental. Additionally, Rowling founded Lumos, an international NGO dedicated to helping reunite millions of children in orphanages with their families.