From An Impoverished Single Mom To World's Richest Writer, A Look At JK Rowling's Incredible Journey
Creating Magic From Nothing
She birthed the best-selling book series of all time, a multi-billion dollar franchise, and gave the 90’s and 2000s kids their first-ever BFF, a bespectacled wizard boy named Harry Potter. However, before hitting big-time success, Joanne Kathleen Rowling lived a life fraught with financial struggles and one personal crisis after the other. On her 58th birthday, let’s look back at the extraordinary life of the literary legend.
Born To Write
In a 1998 interview, Rowling revealed that she aspired to be a writer from a very young age. She penned her first ever story, a tale about a rabbit, called ‘Rabbit’ at the age of 6. She used to regale her younger sister Dianne with stories. In a 2008 speech at Harvard University, Rowling revealed, all she ever wanted was to be a writer.
A Failed Stint At Amnesty International
After graduating in French & Classics from Exter University in 1986, Rowling worked for a while at Amnesty International, doing translation work. However, she found the job tedious and spent a lot of her time, writing stories on the computer “when no one was looking!”
In 1990, ‘Harry Potter’ Was Born
On a train from Manchester to London’s King’s Cross station, Rowling first envisaged the boy wizard. Over the next 5 years, she jotted down the plot of the seven books. She also accumulated notes on different pieces of paper. However, before her writing career could take off, Rowling lost her mother in 1991, at the age of 25.
A Failed First Marriage
Rowling moved to Porto, Portugal, where she took up a job as an English teacher. It was there, she met her first husband, TV journalist Jose Arantes. The couple had a child named Jessica in July, 1993. However, the marriage didn’t last long. They separated in November, of that year. Rowling returned to Britain with half a suitcase filled with papers about stories of Harry Potter. In 2000, Arantes admitted hitting Rowling and demanding access to their daughter.
Living On Welfare
Rowling faced tremendous poverty on her return to the UK. Jobless, she spent her days at different cafes, tagging along her baby daughter Jessica, and wrote her first novel on a typewriter. During that period, she lived off government welfare. In a 2012 interview with Wall Street Journal, Rowling said, “We were on welfare, what we call welfare, I would call benefits, for a couple of years.”
When Harry Potter Was Rejected By 12 Publishers
In 1995, she finally managed to finish her first draft of what would go on to become ‘Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone’. However, the book was rejected by no less than twelve publishers! It was finally accepted by Christopher Little, an obscure London literary agent. In 1996, Little agreed to publish 500 copies of the book. She got 2,500 pounds in advance.
The Turning Point
The novel went on to become a roaring success, selling 300K copies in 1999. This led to her bagging the Nestle Smarties Book Prize. She also managed to sell the book to US book distributor Scholastic for $100,000!
The First ‘Harry Potter’ Movie Earned $1 Billion
After the phenomenal success of the second book ‘Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets’, Warner Bros bought the film rights of the first two Potter books. The first ‘Harry Potter’ movie proved to be a blockbuster. Directed by Christopher Columbus, the book amassed $974.8 million worldwide. By 2011, ‘Harry Potter’ became the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time.
From Billionaire To Millionaire
In 2004, Forbes reported that Rowling had a fortune worth a staggering $1 billion. She was the first billionaire to have amassed her wealth solely through writing! However, in 2012, she was dropped off the billionaire list as she had given $160 million to charity.