J. K. Rowling
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|J. K. Rowling|
Rowling at the White House Easter Egg Roll, 2010
31 July 1965
Yate, South Gloucestershire, England
|Education||Bachelor of Arts|
|Alma mater||University of Exeter|
|Notable work(s)||Harry Potter series|
|Spouse(s)||Jorge Arantes (m. 1992–95)
Neil Murray (m. 2001–present)
|Children||2 daughters, 1 son|
Joanne "Jo" Rowling (pron.: / /), OBE FRSL (born 31 July 1965), pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British novelist, best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history, and been the basis for a series of films which has become the highest-grossing film series in history. Rowling had overall approval on the scripts as well as maintaining creative control by serving as a producer on the final instalment.
Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. The seven-year period that followed entailed the death of her mother, divorce from her first husband and poverty until Rowling finished the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997). Rowling subsequently published 6 sequels—the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)—as well as 3 supplements to the series. In 2012, Rowling parted with her agency and resumed writing in the form of a tragicomedy novel aimed at adult readership, entitled The Casual Vacancy. Rowling has said she is currently working on two books—one aimed for adults, the other for children younger than the Harry Potter audience, and she expects the latter to be published first.
Rowling has led a " rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. She is the United Kingdom's best-selling author since records began, with sales in excess of £238m. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in the United Kingdom. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and TIME magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans. In October 2010, Rowling was named the "Most Influential Woman in Britain" by leading magazine editors. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos (formerly the Children's High Level Group).
Although she writes under the pen name "J. K. Rowling", pronounced like rolling, her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply "Joanne Rowling". Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself "Jo" and has said, "No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry." Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murray when conducting personal business. During the Leveson Inquiry she gave evidence under the name of Joanne Kathleen Rowling. In a 2012 interview, Rowling noted that she no longer cared that people pronounced her name incorrectly.
Birth and family
Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol. Her mother Anne was half-French and half-Scottish. Her parents first met on a train departing from King's Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964. They married on 14 March 1965. Her mother's maternal grandfather, Dugald Campbell, was born in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. Her mother's paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during the First World War.
Childhood and education
Rowling's sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. Her headmaster at St Michael's, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls that "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." At the age of nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. When she was a young teenager, her great aunt, who Rowling said "taught classics and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind", gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.
Rowling has said of her teenage years, in an interview with The New Yorker, "I wasn’t particularly happy. I think it’s a dreadful time of life." She had a difficult homelife; her mother was ill and she had a difficult relationship with her father (she is no longer on speaking terms with him). She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother had worked as a technician in the science department. Rowling said of her adolescence, " Hermione [a bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Steve Eddy, who taught Rowling English when she first arrived, remembers her as "not exceptional" but "one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English". Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books. "Ron Weasley [Harry Potter's best friend] isn't a living portrait of Sean, but he really is very Sean-ish." Of her musical tastes of the time, she said "My favourite group in the world is The Smiths. And when I was going through a punky phase, it was The Clash." Rowling studied A Levels in English, French and German, achieving two A's and a B and was Head Girl.
In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted and read for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter, which she says was a "bit of a shock" as she "was expecting to be amongst lots of similar people – thinking radical thoughts." Once she made friends with "some like-minded people" she says she began to enjoy herself. Of her time at Exeter, Martin Sorrell, then a professor of French at the university, recalled "a quietly competent student, with a denim jacket and dark hair, who, in academic terms, gave the appearance of doing what was necessary." Although her own memory is of "doing no work whatsoever" and instead she "wore heavy eyeliner, listened to the Smiths, and read Dickens and Tolkien". After a year of study in Paris, Rowling graduated from Exeter in 1986 and moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. In 1998, Rowling wrote a short-essay about her time studying Classics entitled "What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled", it was published by the University of Exeter's journal Pegasus.
Inspiration and mother's death
After working at Amnesty International in London, Rowling and her then boyfriend decided to move to Manchester. In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry "came fully formed" into her mind. She told The Boston Globe that "I really don't know where the idea came from. It started with Harry, then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head."
Rowling described the conception of Harry Potter on her website:
I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head. I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn't have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one… I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me. Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write 'Philosopher's Stone' that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book
When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately. In December of that year, Rowling's mother died, after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis. Rowling commented, "I was writing Harry Potter at the moment my mother died. I had never told her about Harry Potter." Rowling said this death heavily affected her writing and that she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew about how it felt.
Marriage, divorce and single parenthood
An advert in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto in Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. She taught at night, and began writing in the day whilst listening to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. While there she met Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in a bar, after sharing a mutual interest in Jane Austen. They married on 16 October 1992 and their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal. Rowling had previously suffered a miscarriage. They separated on 17 November 1993, 13 months and one day after their marriage. Biographers have suggested that Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her marriage, although the full extent is unknown. In an interview with The Daily Express, Arantes said on their final night together he had dragged her out of their home at five in the morning and slapped her hard. In December 1993, Rowling and her daughter moved to be near Rowling's sister in Edinburgh, Scotland, with three chapters of Harry Potter in her suitcase.
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as "the biggest failure I knew." Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:
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.
– J. K. Rowling, "The fringe benefits of failure", 2008.
During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. It was the feeling of her illness which brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless."
Rowling was left in "despair" following the arrival of her estranged husband in search of herself and her daughter. She obtained an order of restraint and Arantes returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994. In order to teach in Scotland she would need a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE), requiring a full-time, year-long course of study. She began this course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University, after completing her first novel while having survived on state benefits. She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson's Café, and The Elephant House, (the former owned by her brother-in-law Roger Moore) wherever she could get Jessica to fall asleep. In a 2001 BBC interview, Rowling denied the rumour that she wrote in local cafés to escape from her unheated flat, remarking, "I am not stupid enough to rent an unheated flat in Edinburgh in midwinter. It had heating." Instead, as she stated on the American TV programme A&E Biography, one of the reasons she wrote in cafés was because taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter. Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book's first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London. The decision to publish Rowling's book apparently owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury's chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next. Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children's books. Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.
In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher's Stone with an initial print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. Five months later, the book won its first award, a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the prestigious British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year, and later, the Children's Book Award. In early 1998, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for $105,000. In Rowling's own words, she "nearly died" when she heard the news. In October 1998, Scholastic published Philosopher's Stone in the US under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: a change Rowling claims she now regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time. Rowling moved from her flat with the money from the Scholastic sale, into 19 Hazelbank Terrace in Edinburgh. Her neighbors were initially unaware that she was the author of the Harry Potter series, although according to biographer Connie Ann Kirk, "most treated her with respect and gave her the distance they would want themselves".
Its sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July 1998 and again Rowling won the Smarties Prize. In December 1999, the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, won the Smarties Prize, making Rowling the first person to win the award three times running. She later withdrew the fourth Harry Potter novel from contention to allow other books a fair chance. In January 2000, Prisoner of Azkaban won the inaugural Whitbread Children's Book of the Year award, though it lost the Book of the Year prize to Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf.
The fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released simultaneously in the UK and the US on 8 July 2000 and broke sales records in both countries. Some 372,775 copies of the book were sold in its first day in the UK, almost equalling the number Prisoner of Azkaban sold during its first year. In the US, the book sold three million copies in its first 48 hours, smashing all literary sales records. Rowling admitted that she had had a moment of crisis while writing the novel; "Halfway through writing Four, I realised there was a serious fault with the plot ... I've had some of my blackest moments with this book ... One chapter I rewrote 13 times, though no-one who has read it can spot which one or know the pain it caused me." Rowling was named author of the year in the 2000 British Book Awards.
A wait of three years occurred between the release of Goblet of Fire and the fifth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gap led to press speculation that Rowling had developed writer's block, speculations she fervently denied. Rowling later admitted that writing the book was a chore. "I think Phoenix could have been shorter", she told Lev Grossman, "I knew that, and I ran out of time and energy toward the end."
The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released on 16 July 2005. It too broke all sales records, selling nine million copies in its first 24 hours of release. While writing, she told a fan online, "Book six has been planned for years, but before I started writing seriously I spend two months re-visiting the plan and making absolutely sure I knew what I was doing." She noted on her website that the opening chapter of book six, which features a conversation between the Minister of Magic and the British Prime Minister, had been intended as the first chapter first for Philosopher's Stone, then Chamber of Secrets then Prisoner of Azkaban. In 2006, Half-Blood Prince received the Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards.
The title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book was revealed on 21 December 2006 to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In February 2007 it was reported that Rowling wrote on a bust in her hotel room at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh that she had finished the seventh book in that room on 11 January 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on 21 July 2007 (0:01 BST) and broke its predecessor's record as the fastest-selling book of all time. It sold 11 million copies in the first day of release in the United Kingdom and United States. She wrote the last chapter of the book "in something like 1990", as part of her earliest work on the entire series. During a year period when Rowling was completing the last book, she allowed herself to be filmed for a documentary which aired in Britain on ITV on 30 December 2007. It was entitled J K Rowling... A Year In The Life and showed her returning to her old Edinburgh tenement flat where she lived, and completed the first Harry Potter book. Re-visiting the flat for the first time reduced her to tears, saying it was "really where I turned my life around completely."
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Rowling gave credit to her mother for the success of the series saying that "the books are what they are because she died...because I loved her and she died."
Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated $15 billion, and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.
The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although it is reported that despite the huge uptake of the books, adolescent reading has continued to decline.
Harry Potter films
In October 1998, Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to the first two novels for a seven-figure sum. A film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released on 16 November 2001, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on 15 November 2002. Both films were directed by Chris Columbus. 4 June 2004 saw the release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was directed by another new director, Mike Newell, and released on 18 November 2005. The film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released on 11 July 2007. David Yates directed, and Michael Goldenberg wrote the screenplay, having taken over the position from Steve Kloves. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released on 15 July 2009. David Yates directed again, and Kloves returned to write the script. In March 2008, Warner Bros. announced that the final instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, would be filmed in two segments, with part one being released in November 2010 and part two being released in July 2011. Yates would again return to direct both films.
Warner Bros took considerable notice of Rowling's desires and thoughts when drafting her contract. One of her principal stipulations was the films be shot in Britain with an all-British cast, which has been generally adhered to, with the majority of the actors selected from Britain. In an unprecedented move, Rowling also demanded that Coca-Cola, the victor in the race to tie in their products to the film series, donate $18 million to the American charity Reading is Fundamental, as well as a number of community charity programs.
The first four, sixth and seventh films were scripted by Steve Kloves; Rowling assisted him in the writing process, ensuring that his scripts did not contradict future books in the series. She has said that she told him more about the later books than anybody else (prior to their release), but not everything. She also told Alan Rickman ( Severus Snape) and Robbie Coltrane ( Hagrid) certain secrets about their characters before they were revealed in the books. Daniel Radcliffe ( Harry Potter) asked her if Harry died at any point in the series; Rowling answered him by saying, "You have a death scene", thereby not explicitly answering the question. Director Steven Spielberg was approached to helm the first film, but dropped out. The press has repeatedly claimed that Rowling played a role in his departure, but Rowling stated that she has no say in who directs the films and would not have vetoed Spielberg if she had. Rowling's first choice for the director had been Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, as she is a fan of his work, but Warner Bros. wanted a more family-friendly film and chose Columbus.
Rowling had gained some creative control on the films, reviewing all the scripts as well as acting as a producer on the final two-part instalment, Deathly Hallows.
On her website, Rowling revealed that she was considered to have a cameo in the first film as Lily Potter in the Mirror of Erised scene. Rowling, however, turned down the role, stating that she was not cut out to be an actor and, "would have messed it up somehow". The role ultimately went to Geraldine Somerville.
Rowling, producers David Heyman and David Barron, along with directors David Yates, Mike Newell and Alfonso Cuarón collected the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at the 2011 British Academy Film Awards in honour of the Harry Potter film franchise.
In 2004, Forbes named Rowling as the first person to become a U.S.-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world. Rowling disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire. In addition, the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List named Rowling the 144th richest person in Britain. In 2012, Forbes removed Rowling from their rich list, claiming that her over $160 million in charitable donations and the high tax rate in the UK meant she was no longer a billionaire. In February 2013 she was assessed as the 13th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.
In 2001, Rowling purchased a 19th-century estate house, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Rowling also owns a £4.5 million ($7 million) Georgian house in Kensington, West London, on a street with 24-hour security. Rowling owned a house in the Merchiston area of Edinburgh between 1999 and 2012, selling the eight-bedroomed house for over £2.25 million. She currently lives in another property in Barnton, on the outskirts of the city.
Remarriage and family
On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Michael Murray (born 30 June 1971), an anaesthetist, in a private ceremony at her Aberfeldy home. This was a second marriage for both Rowling and Murray, as Murray had previously been married to Fiona Duncan in 1996. Murray and Duncan separated in 1999 and divorced in mid-2001. It was two years after her remarriage, in December 2003, that Rowling became estranged from her father Peter Rowling, with whom she already claimed to have a difficult relationship. In a 2012 interview with The New Yorker, stating they were still estranged, Rowling said it stemmed from her father's decision in 2003 to sell personalised copies of the Harry Potter series at Sotheby's auction house, including a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire inscribed with a Father's Day message "lots of love from your first-born" that sold for £50,000.
Rowling's and Murray's son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003. Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince she took a break from working on the novel to care for him in his early infancy. Rowling's youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.
Change of agency and The Casual Vacancy
In July 2011, Rowling parted company with her agent, Christopher Little, moving to a new agency founded by one of his staff, Neil Blair, commenting on the move Rowling said, "Neil and Christopher reached a point where it wasn’t working, the two of them together, and I had to make a decision. It was very, very difficult."
On 23 February 2012, Rowling's new agency, the Blair Partnership, announced on its website that Rowling was set to publish a new book targeted at adults. In a press release, Rowling noted the differences between her new project and the Potter series, saying "Although I've enjoyed writing it just as much, my next novel will be very different from the Harry Potter series." On 12 April 2012, Little, Brown and Company announced that the book was entitled The Casual Vacancy and would be released on 27 September 2012. Rowling gave several interviews and made appearances to promote The Casual Vacancy, including at the London Southbank Centre, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, The Charlie Rose Show and the Lennoxlove Book Festival. In its first three weeks of release, The Casual Vacancy sold over 1 million copies worldwide.
On 3 December 2012, it was announced that The Casual Vacancy will become a BBC television drama series expected to air in 2014 on BBC One. The series will be produced by Rowling's agent, Neil Blair, through his independent production company and with Rick Senat serving as executive producer. Rowling is collaborating closely on the adaptation. The number and length of episodes will be decided once the adaptation process has begun.
In an interview with Stephen Fry in 2005, Rowling claimed that she would much prefer to write any subsequent books under a pseudonym; however, she conceded to Jeremy Paxman in 2003 that if she did, the press would probably "find out in seconds." In 2006, Rowling revealed that she had finished writing a few short stories and another children's book (a "political fairy story") about a monster, aimed at a younger audience than Harry Potter readers. In July 2007, Rowling said that she wants to dedicate "lots" of her time to her family, but is currently "sort of writing two things", one for children and the other for adults. She did not give any details about the two projects but did state that she was excited because the two book situation reminded her of writing the Philosopher's Stone, explaining how she was then writing two books until Harry took over.
In November 2007, Rowling said that she was working on another book, a "half-finished book for children that I think will probably be the next thing I publish."
In March 2008, Rowling revealed in an interview that she had returned to writing in Edinburgh cafés, intent on composing a new novel for children. "I will continue writing for children because that's what I enjoy", she told The Daily Telegraph. "I am very good at finding a suitable café; I blend into the crowd and, of course, I don't sit in the middle of the bar staring all around me." Rowling also confirmed that her "political fairy tale" for children was nearing completion.
In September 2012, Rowling stated that she was currently working on two books for readership younger than Harry Potter, as well as her next adult novel — although she had written only "a couple of chapters," the story "is pretty well plotted". She maintained in an interview with The Guardian that one of the two books for much younger children is the "political fairy tale" she spoke of previously, although she expects to release the other book as her next project. At the Cheltenham Literature Festival on 6 October 2012 she said that she had a couple of things on her laptop aimed at a slightly younger age group than Harry Potter which are "nearly done".
Future of Harry Potter
As regards the possibility of an eighth Harry Potter book, she has said, "I can't say I'll never write another book about that world just because I think, what do I know, in ten years' time I might want to return to it but I think it's unlikely." In October 2007 she stated that her future work was unlikely to be in the fantasy genre, explaining, "I think probably I've done my fantasy ... it would be incredibly difficult to go out and create another world that didn't in some way overlap with Harry's or maybe borrow a little too much from Harry." However, on 1 October 2010, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Rowling stated a new book on the saga might happen.
In 2007, Rowling stated that she plans to write an encyclopedia of Harry Potter's wizarding world consisting of various unpublished material and notes. Any profits from such a book would be given to charity. During a news conference at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre in 2007, Rowling, when asked how the encyclopedia was coming along, said, "It's not coming along, and I haven't started writing it. I never said it was the next thing I'd do." At the end of 2007, Rowling said that the encyclopaedia could take up to ten years to complete, stating "There is no point in doing it unless it is amazing. The last thing I want to do is to rush something out".
In June 2011, Rowling announced that future Harry Potter projects, and all electronic downloads, would be concentrated in a new website, called Pottermore. The site includes 18,000 words of additional information on characters, places and objects in the Harry Potter universe. On 13 April 2012, following the website's release, Rowling confirmed that she had started work on the encyclopedia and would donate all royalties to charity as she had previously planned. In May 2012, however, she said, "I have been enjoying sharing information about Harry’s world on Pottermore for free, and don’t have any firm plans to publish it in book form."
In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. The fund also gives to organisations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. Rowling said, "I think you have a moral responsibility when you've been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently."
Anti-poverty and children's welfare
Rowling, once a single parent herself, is now president of the charity Gingerbread (originally One Parent Families), having already become their first Ambassador in 2000. Rowling collaborated with Sarah Brown to write a book of children's stories to aid One Parent Families.
In 2001, the UK anti-poverty fundraiser Comic Relief asked three best-selling British authors – cookery writer and TV presenter Delia Smith, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, and Rowling – to submit booklets related to their most famous works for publication. Rowling's two booklets, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, are ostensibly facsimiles of books found in the Hogwarts library. Since going on sale in March 2001, the books have raised £15.7 million ($30 million) for the fund. The £10.8 million ($20 million) they have raised outside the UK have been channelled into a newly created International Fund for Children and Young People in Crisis.
In 2005, Rowling and MEP Emma Nicholson founded the Children's High Level Group (now Lumos). In January 2006, Rowling went to Bucharest to highlight the use of caged beds in mental institutions for children. To further support the CHLG, Rowling auctioned one of seven handwritten and illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a series of fairy tales referred to in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book was purchased for £1.95 million by on-line bookseller Amazon.com on 13 December 2007, becoming the most expensive modern book ever sold at auction. Rowling commented, "This will mean so much to children in desperate need of help. It means Christmas has come early to me." Rowling gave away the remaining six copies to those who have a close connection with the Harry Potter books. In 2008, Rowling agreed to publish the book with the proceeds going to the Children's High Level Group. On 1 June 2010 ( International Children's Day), Lumos launched an annual initiative – Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos. To support the campaign on 1 June 2011, JK Rowling gave an interview to Redonline.co.uk
In July 2012, Rowling was featured at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London where she read a few lines from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan as part of a tribute to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. An inflatable representation of Lord Voldemort and other children's literary characters accompanied her reading.
Rowling has contributed money and support for research and treatment of multiple sclerosis, from which her mother suffered before her death in 1990. In 2006, Rowling contributed a substantial sum toward the creation of a new Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University, later named the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic. In 2010 she donated a further £10 million to the centre. For reasons unknown, Scotland, Rowling's country of adoption, has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. In 2003, Rowling took part in a campaign to establish a national standard of care for MS sufferers. In April 2009, she announced that she was withdrawing her support for Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland, citing her inability to resolve an ongoing feud between the organisation's northern and southern branches that had sapped morale and led to several resignations.
Other philanthropic work
In May 2008, bookseller Waterstones asked Rowling and 12 other writers ( Sebastian Faulks, Doris Lessing, Lisa Appignanesi, Margaret Atwood, Lauren Child, Richard Ford, Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, Michael Rosen, Axel Scheffler, Tom Stoppard and Irvine Welsh) to compose a short piece of their own choosing on a single A5 card, which would then be sold at auction in aid of the charities Dyslexia Action and English PEN. Rowling's contribution was an 800-word Harry Potter prequel that concerns Harry's father, James Potter, and godfather, Sirius Black, and takes place three years before Harry was born. The cards were collected together and sold for charity in book form in August 2008.
On 1 and 2 August 2006, she read alongside Stephen King and John Irving at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Profits from the event were donated to the Haven Foundation, a charity that aids artists and performers left uninsurable and unable to work, and the medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières. In May 2007, Rowling pledged a donation reported as over £250,000 or over $495,000 to a reward fund started by the tabloid News of the World for the safe return of a young British girl, Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal. Rowling, along with Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, and Alan Greenspan, wrote an introduction to a collection of Gordon Brown's speeches, the proceeds of which are donated to the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory.
Rowling is a supporter of The Shannon Trust, which runs the Toe by Toe Reading Plan and the Shannon Reading Plan in prisons across Britain, helping and giving tutoring to prisoners who cannot read.
Rowling has named Communist and civil rights activist Jessica Mitford as "[her] most influential writer" saying, "Jessica Mitford has been my heroine since I was 14 years old, when I overheard my formidable great-aunt discussing how Mitford had run away at the age of 19 to fight with the Reds in the Spanish Civil War", and claims what inspired her about Mitford was that she was "incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent, she liked nothing better than a good fight, preferably against a pompous and hypocritical target." Rowling has described Jane Austen as her favourite author, calling Emma her favourite book in O magazine. As a child, Rowling has said her early influences included The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, and Manxmouse by Paul Gallico.
In September 2008, on the eve of the Labour Party Conference, Rowling announced that she had donated £1 million to the Labour Party, and publicly endorsed Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown over Tory challenger David Cameron, saying in a statement:
I believe that poor and vulnerable families will fare much better under the Labour Party than they would under a Cameron-led Conservative Party. Gordon Brown has consistently prioritised and introduced measures that will save as many children as possible from a life lacking in opportunity or choice. The Labour government has reversed the long-term trend in child poverty, and is one of the leading EU countries in combating child poverty. David Cameron's promise of tax perks for the married, on the other hand, is reminiscent of the Conservative government I experienced as a lone parent. It sends the message that the Conservatives still believe a childless, dual-income, but married couple is more deserving of a financial pat on the head than those struggling, as I once was, to keep their families afloat in difficult times.
Rowling is a close friend of Sarah Brown, wife of Gordon Brown, whom she met when they collaborated on a charitable project (see above). When Brown's son Fraser was born in 2003, Rowling was one of the first to visit her in the hospital.
Rowling discussed the 2008 United States presidential election with the Spanish-language newspaper El País. She said she was obsessed with the United States elections because they would have a profound effect on the rest of the world. In February 2008, she said that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be "extraordinary" in the White House. In the same interview, she also said her hero was Robert F. Kennedy.
In April 2010, Rowling published an article in The Times in which she heavily criticised Cameron's plan to encourage married couples to stay together by offering them a £150 annual tax credit.
Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say "it's not the money, it's the message". When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron's only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is "get married, and we'll give you £150", he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation. How many prospective husbands did I ever meet, when I was the single mother of a baby, unable to work, stuck inside my flat, night after night, with barely enough money for life's necessities? Should I have proposed to the youth who broke in through my kitchen window at 3 am? Half a billion pounds, to send a message – would it not be more cost-effective, more personal, to send all the lower-income married people flowers?
As a resident of Scotland, Rowling is eligible to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and intends to vote in favour of the union.
Over the years, some religious people have decried Rowling's books for supposedly promoting witchcraft; however, Rowling identifies as a Christian. She attended a Church of Scotland congregation while writing Harry Potter and her eldest daughter, Jessica, was baptised there. "I go to church myself", she says, "I don't take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion." She once said, "I believe in God, not magic." Early on she felt that if readers knew of her Christian beliefs they would be able to "guess what is coming in the books."
In 2007, Rowling described her religious background in an interview with the Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant:
I was officially raised in the Church of England, but I was actually more of a freak in my family. We didn't talk about religion in our home. My father didn't believe in anything, neither did my sister. My mother would incidentally visit the church, but mostly during Christmas. And I was immensely curious. From when I was 13, 14 I went to church alone. I found it very interesting what was being said there, and I believed in it. When I went to university, I became more critical. I got more annoyed with the smugness of religious people and I went to church less and less. Now I'm at the point where I started: yes, I believe. And yes, I go to the church. A Protestant church here in Edinburgh. My husband is also raised Protestant, but he comes from a very strict Scottish group. One where they couldn't sing and talk.
Rowling has occasionally expressed ambivalence about her religious faith. In a 2006 interview with Tatler magazine, Rowling noted that, "like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return. It's important to me." In a British documentary, JK Rowling: A Year in the Life, when asked if she believed in God, she said, "Yes. I do struggle with it; I couldn't pretend that I'm not doubt-ridden about a lot of things and that would be one of them but I would say yes." When asked if she believed in an afterlife, she said, "Yes; I think I do." She further said, "It's something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that's very obvious within the books." In a 2008 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Rowling said, "I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty. I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul." In an interview with the Today Show in July 2007, she said, "...until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on... would give away a lot of what was coming. So... yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book." In a 2012 radio interview with Mark Lawson she said she was a member of the Episcopalian Church.
Rowling, her publishers, and Time Warner, the owner of the rights to the Harry Potter films, have taken numerous legal actions to protect their copyright. The worldwide popularity of the Harry Potter series has led to the appearance of a number of locally produced, unauthorised sequels and other derivative works, sparking efforts to ban or contain them.
Another area of legal dispute involves a series of injunctions obtained by Rowling and her publishers to prohibit anyone from reading her books before their official release date. The injunction drew fire from civil liberties and free speech campaigners and sparked debates over the "right to read".
Relationship with the press
Rowling has had a difficult relationship with the press. She admits to being "thin-skinned" and dislikes the fickle nature of reporting. "They went in one day from saying, 'She's got writer's block' to saying, 'She's been self-indulgent'", she told The Times in 2003, "And I thought, well, what a difference 24 hours makes." Rowling nonetheless disputes her reputation as a recluse who hates to be interviewed.
As of 2011, Rowling has taken more than 50 actions against the press. In 2001, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by Rowling over a series of unauthorised photographs of her with her daughter on the beach in Mauritius published in OK! Magazine. In 2007, Rowling's young son, David, assisted by Rowling and her husband, lost a court fight to ban publication of a photograph of him. The photo, taken by a photographer using a long-range lens, was subsequently published in a Sunday Express article featuring Rowling's family life and motherhood. The judgment was overturned in David's favour in May 2008.
Rowling has said she particularly dislikes the British tabloid the Daily Mail, which made references to a stalker Rowling insists does not exist, and conducted interviews with her estranged ex-husband. As one journalist noted, "Harry's Uncle Vernon is a grotesque philistine of violent tendencies and remarkably little brain. It is not difficult to guess which newspaper Rowling gives him to read [in Goblet of Fire]."
Some have speculated that Rowling's fraught relationship with the press was the inspiration behind the character Rita Skeeter, a gossipy celebrity journalist who first appears in Goblet of Fire, but Rowling noted in 2000 that the character actually predates her rise to fame: "People have asked me whether Rita Skeeter was invented [to reflect Harry Potter's popularity], but in fact she was always planned." "I tried to put Rita in Philosopher's Stone – you know when Harry walks into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time and everyone says, "Mr. Potter you're back!", I wanted to put a journalist in there. She wasn't called Rita then but she was a woman. And then I thought, as I looked at the plot overall, I thought, that's not really where she fits best, she fits best in Four when Harry's supposed to come to terms with his fame."
In September 2011, Rowling was named a "core participant" in the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, as one of dozens of celebrities who may have been the victim of phone hacking. On 24 November 2011, Rowling gave evidence before the inquiry; although she was not suspected to have been the victim of phone hacking (she "hardly used her phone in the 90s", she said), her testimony included accounts of photographers camping on her doorstep, her fiance being duped into giving his home address to a journalist masquerading as a tax official, her chasing a paparazzo a week after giving birth, a journalist leaving a note inside her then-five-year-old daughter's schoolbag, and an attempt by the Sun to "blackmail" her into a photo opportunity in exchange for the return of a stolen manuscript. Rowling claimed she had to leave her former home in Merchiston, Edinburgh because of press intrusion. In November 2012, Rowling wrote an article for The Guardian in reaction to David Cameron's decision to not implement the full recommendations of the Leveson inquiry, saying she felt "duped and angry".
Awards and honours
Rowling has received honorary degrees from St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, the University of Exeter, the University of Aberdeen and Harvard University, for whom she spoke at the 2008 commencement ceremony. In 2009 Rowling was awarded the Légion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Other awards include:
- 1997: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- 1998: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 1998: British Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- 1999: Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 1999: National Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 1999: Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, winner Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 2000: British Book Awards, Author of the Year
- 2000: Order of the British Empire, Officer (for services to Children's literature)
- 2000: Locus Award, winner Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 2001: Hugo Award for Best Novel, winner Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- 2003: Premio Príncipe de Asturias, Concord
- 2003: Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, winner Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- 2006: British Book of the Year, winner for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
- 2007: Blue Peter Badge, Gold
- 2008: British Book Awards, Outstanding Achievement
- 2010: Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, inaugural award winner
- 2011: British Academy Film Awards, Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema for the Harry Potter film series, shared with David Heyman, cast and crew
- 2012: Freedom of the City of London
Harry Potter series
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (26 June 1997)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2 July 1998)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (8 July 1999)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (8 July 2000)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (21 June 2003)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (16 July 2005)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (21 July 2007)
Other children's books
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (1 March 2001)
- Quidditch Through the Ages (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (1 March 2001)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (supplement to the Harry Potter series) (4 December 2008)
- The Casual Vacancy (27 September 2012)
- Harry Potter prequel (July 2008)
- Anelli, Melissa (2008). Foreword to Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon. Pocket Books.
- Brown, Gordon (2006). Introduction to "Ending Child Poverty" in Moving Britain Forward. Selected Speeches 1997–2006. Bloomsbury.
- McNeil, Gil and Brown, Sarah, editors (2002). Foreword to the anthology Magic. Bloomsbury.
- Rowling, J.K. (2008, 5 June). "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination". Harvard Magazine.
- Rowling, J.K. (2009, 30 April). "Gordon Brown – The 2009 Time 100". Time Magazine.
- Rowling, J.K. (2010, 14 April). "The Single Mother's Manifesto". The Times.
- Rowling, J.K. (2012, 30 November). "I feel duped and angry at David Cameron's reaction to Leveson". The Guardian.
- Sussman, Peter Y., editor (2006, 26 July). "The First It Girl: J.K. Rowling reviews Decca: the Letters of Jessica Mitford. The Daily Telegraph.