Nov 27, 2007
Born: July 31, 1965 in Yate, South Gloucestershire, England
Birth Name: Joanne “Jo” Rowling
Lives: Edinburgh, Scotland, with husband, anesthesiologist Neil Murray, and kids Jessica (b. July 1993), David (b. March 2003) and Mackenzie (b. January 2005).
Books: Ten to date – the seven Harry Potter books as well as Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the unpublished work The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Currently: After the release of Deathly Hallows, Jo has said that she plans on spending time with her family but is working on two projects, one for adults and one for children.
Contrary to what has become the preferred belief, J.K. Rowling did not write the first Harry Potter book on napkins, teabags, coffee filters, cigarette boxes, old receipts, price tags, muffin wrappers or even crumpled eviction notices. She wrote it on regular paper, with real writing utensils, often in cafes and coffee shops around Edinburgh. However, money was very tight, her first daughter was very young, and she has commented that writing at that time felt like an indulgence next to taking up another job to pay the bills.
Since then, Jo (as she likes to be called) has become one of the most successful writers in history. She has written ten books, of which there are 400 million in print in over 63 countries worldwide. Critics often credit her writing with the reinvigoration a generation of youth that had become obsessed with television and video games, by introducing literature that is just as fun and whimsical as it is good.
Jo’s books have brought her tremendous wealth; she is one of the richest women in Britain, with some analysts projecting she will become a billionaire by the time the Potter series has run its course. She gives large amounts of money to charity; some of the causes to which she has given include Amnesty International, One Parent Families, The MS Society Scotland and Book Aid International. Most recently, Jo used her influence to help Baroness Emma Nicholson launch the Children’s High Level Group, an organization in Romania to ensure and enforce children’s rights worldwide. Jo’s interest in the cause began when she read a disturbing newspaper article.
These actions have earned Jo the distinction of Scotland’s Most Powerful Woman (a title bestowed by The Scotsman), even though a little over 10 years ago, such a name couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Jo has been writing and spinning tales since early in life; as a child she would often tell stories to her sister. She attended school in Winterbourne, outside Bristol, until she moved to Tutshill, just outside Chepstow, in Wales. She studied French at the University of Exeter and spent a year in Paris before returning to work in London at Amnesty International, a human rights organization. She then moved to Manchester until late in 1991, when, nine months after her mother’s untimely death, she fled to Portugal for a change of scenery.
After a failed marriage, Jo returned to Britain for a new start with her new daughter, Jessica. She hurried to finish her draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone during whatever respite she could get as a single, working mother.
The idea for the book for which came to her in a now-fabled delayed train ride from Manchester to London. Jo had forgotten a pen, and so sat and pondered Harry, a scrawny and bespectacled newcomer to her mind, for about four hours. Jo often remarks that the idea simply “fell into my head” – that Harry arrived as a gift from the unknown.
Jo now lives in Edinburgh with her second husband, anesthesiologist Neil Murray, and three children: Jessica, David and baby Mackenzie. She doesn’t often engage in the publicity her fame has afforded her, and so has been called reclusive; she would more readily characterize herself as “secretive.”
Though Jo has said she will write a series encyclopedia (she calls it “The Scottish Book”) sometime down the road, The Deathly Hallows will be the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, as she has always planned.