Author Bio: J. K. Rowling

January 11, 2010

One of my all time favorite authors is J. K. Rowling. She opened up a new world, showing the rest of us what it’s like to use our imagination. This is her story:

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on July 31, 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England to a mother and father in the Royal Navy.

Later, both parents left the navy and moved to the outskirts of Bristol. A little over a year after Jo was born, her younger sister, Di, arrived in the world.

When Jo was four, the family picked up and moved again. This time, to a nearby village called Winterbourne. Jo and Di often played games together, and Jo would tell stories. Jo remembers a neighbor up the street had the surname of “Potter”, and she always thought it sounded better than “Rowling” (because she was teased so much).

Around Jo’s ninth birthday, they moved one last time to Tutshill in Wales. During the move, Jo’s favorite grandparent died, Kathleen. Later, Jo took the name when she needed an extra initial.

She left school in 1983 to study at the University of Exeter. She majored in French, which required her to spend a year in Paris. She returned to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.

In 1990, Jo and her then boyfriend had been flat-hunting. When they traveled back to London on a crowded train, the idea for Harry Potter fell into Jo’s head. She had said:

“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.”

Unfortunately, Jo didn’t have a pen with her, and therefore couldn’t scribble down her thoughts of the boy who didn’t know he was a wizard. She began to write that evening when she got home. The manuscript continued to grow with each new day.

Then, on December 30, 1990, Jo’s mother died after a ten-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Jo said her mother’s death heavily affected her writing, and she incorporated that element with Harry and his parents in the first book.

Jo moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. On October 16, 1992, she married Portuguese T.V. journalist, Jorge Arantes. Jo gave birth to Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes on July 27, 1993. Jo and her husband separated in November, 1993, and in December, 1993, Jo and Jessica moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. Jo was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. This feeling brought her the idea of Dementors—evil, soulless creatures who prey on your worst fears.

For Jo to be able to teach in Scotland, she needed a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE), requiring a full-time, year-long course of study. Jo hurried to finish the book. She knew there was no way she could study full-time, write and take care of her daughter. It is often a misconception that Jo would escape to cafés for warmth, but Jo stated once: “I am not stupid enough to rent an unheated flat in Edinburgh in midwinter. It had heating.” She stated the reason she wrote in cafés was because Jessica wouldn’t sleep unless they went for a walk.

Finally, the book was finished. After a brief stint with an agent who returned it as quickly as she had sent, she got a full request from a second agent. A year later, Jo and her agent found a publisher, Bloomsbury. Christopher, Jo’s agent, called to tell her they had made an offer. Jo says she remembers screaming and jumping into the air.

I’m sure you know how this story ends…




  1. I love J.K. and have read interviews and things before, but never knew about the depression. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Great post! I didn’t know about her depression either! I love how her ideas came from life, although the sad parts. Those turned out to be important parts of the series. And, don’t get me started on PGCEs!! I looked into doing that too!

  3. Awesome post, Becca! I think it’s amazing when writers are able to draw on their own experiences for their work. Makes it much more meaningful.

  4. Such an amazing post, Becca! Seriously, her, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis have changed my life as a writer. I only have more respect for her reading about what she has been through and overcome. Very inspirational!

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