“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place,” says
J.K. Rowling, the author of the best-selling children’s fantasy novel, Harry Potter.
Joanne Rowling was born in England in 1965. She grew up in Chepstow, Gwent with her family, who had average socio-economic means at that time. Despite this, they made sure that Rowling got proper education. She studied at Michael’s Primary School in Gloucestershire then moved to Chepstow at age nine. In school, Rowling grew enthusiastic towards English and Languages subjects.
At an early age, Rowling already showed interest in becoming a writer. She wrote a book about a rabbit with measles when she was six. But most importantly, she remembered giving great importance to the name Potter, not knowing that this very name will change her life completely.
Having instilled in her the value for education, she left Chepstow to enter Exeter University where she earned her degree in French and Classics, which was her parents’ course of choice. Upon graduating, Rowling went to London and took on various jobs. Her fondest experience was when she worked as a researcher for Amnesty International, an institution which campaigns against human rights abuses all over the world. Later on, this same organization was supported by Rowling after she had achieved massive wealth and success.
From Joanne Rowling, she decided to incorporate her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, in her pen name; hence, J.K. Rowling was born. This move was done in order to reach the target market of Harry Potter – young boys.
The idea of Harry Potter was conceived one fateful day in 1990. Rowling was on-board a train going from Manchester to London when suddenly the concept of the boy-who-lived hit her. Unfortunately, J.K. didn’t have a working pen during the entire trip but clearly remembered how ideas came pouring into her mind.
The plot for Harry Potter was simple, to create a place where a child could have power. At the onset, Rowling thought that it would be more interesting if the child was not aware that he was a wizard. From this, Harry’s story unfolded.
Although this marked the beginning of J.K.’s successful career, not everything was smooth-sailing. December of the same year, Joanne faced the greatest adversity of her life when her mother died due to Multiple Sclerosis.
Though she was still grieving over her mother’s passing, this did not stop her to continue writing the first installation of her novel – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. As a matter of fact, the death of Joanne’s mother was the main influence why Harry’s mom was also portrayed dead in the book. Through her ingenuity, Rowling turned reality into fiction where she holds control over everything.
Due to the failed marriage with her husband, Jorge Arantes, she went back to the U.K. with her daughter, Jessica, in 1993. Being a single mom, she struggled to support her daughter and complete the book at the same time. Nonetheless, Rowling’s passion and determination prevailed and she finally finished writing the first of her novel series.
The next phase was the hardest as Rowling needed to get her work published. J.K. sent her work to a number of publishing companies but was rejected twelve times. Thankfully, this adversity did not become reason enough for J.K. Rowling to give up on her dream for Potter.
In 1997, Bloomsbury Children’s Books bought her novel for $4,000. The book became an instant favorite and even won The British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year and the Smarties Prize, not to mention the excellent reviews the book got all around the world.
The Scottish Arts Council gave Rowling a grant which enabled her to write full-time. From there, things went well for her. Her second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published in 1998. And a year after, the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released. By summer of 2000, the three books earned $480 million in total.
Shortly after the success of the first three books, J.K. released the fourth installation – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – in July 2000. Three years after, the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hit the bookstores. But the milestone for Rowling’s career was when Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince, sixth installation, sold 6.9 million copies in the US in its first 24 hours of release, marking the most successful opening in publishing history. And just to add another cherry on top of Rowling’s career, her seventh and final installation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows became the largest pre-ordered book at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon.
Today, she is the 13th wealthiest woman in Britain. An accomplishment that not even Rowling ever imagined she would ever achieve.
The story of J.K. Rowling is an affirmation that dreams really do come true. Despite the various adversities that she had to overcome to be where she is now, she never lost hope. Her story reminds us that success is only secondary; the important thing is our attitude towards it. We must always keep our feet firmly on the ground and look back at the people who’ve helped us climb the ladder of success. Above all, believe. Believe in yourself that one day, your hard work will pay off. Believe that you are good enough to be someplace else.