With More Magical Stories on the Way, A Look Back on J.K. Rowling's Legendary Life
Now that Rowling is delving into the North American world of wizardry, we're looking back on the author's incredible journey from fantasy fan to beloved author
On Monday, J.K. Rowling dropped some big news for Harry Potter fans.
As People.com announced exclusively, the author is finally taking readers to the American world of magic with a series of four original stories called The History of Magic in North America. The new tales will be available exclusively on Pottermore.
The series covers previously untapped topics including Ilvermorny, the U.S. school of magic, the Salem witch trials, the Magical Congress of the United States of America and the Native American legend of skin-walkers.
As we count down the minutes until the new series goes live, we’re looking back at the incredible life of the always full of surprises author.
Born a storyteller
Born Joanne Rowling, the best-selling author had an affinity for fantasy literature from a very young age.
Her sister Diane, who is younger by 23 months, got the first glimpses of Rowling’s world-class writing talent. “She was the person who suffered my first efforts at story-telling (I was much bigger than her and could hold her down),” the author joked in a short 2007 autobiographical essay.
Rowling said that her childhood personality inspired one of Harry Potter’s most important characters: “Hermione is loosely based on me,” Rowling told the School Library Journal in 1999. “She’s a caricature of me when I was 11, which I’m not particularly proud of. She’s quite annoying in a lot of ways. I like her as a character, but I’m very aware that some people wouldn’t.”
Rowling recalls struggling during her teen years. “I wasn’t particularly happy. I think it’s a dreadful time of life,” she told The New Yorker. “I came from a difficult family. My mother was very ill [with multiple sclerosis], and it wasn’t the easiest.” Her relationship with her father was, and remained, strained as well. (“We’ve not had any communication for about nine years,” she shared in 2012.)
The author studied French at Exeter University, where, according to her interview with The New Yorker, she did “no work whatsoever,” instead spending her time listening to The Smiths and reading for pleasure.
A humbling experience
After college, Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and secretary at Amnesty International. She called working for the human rights organization “one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.”
On a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990, Rowling got the idea for a young boy named Harry who learns of his magical powers and attends a wizardry school.
In a tragic turn, Rowling’s mother Anne died when she was just a few months into writing the first book of the Harry Potter series.
Love found and lost
At 26 years old, Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English. Working during the afternoons and evenings, she spent her mornings writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
While in Portugal, Rowling met journalist Jorge Arantes, whom she married in 1992. In 1993, the author gave birth to daughter Jessica Arantes; however, Rowling and Arantes separated four months after Jessica’s birth.
Finding Potter a home
Now a single mother, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near her sister. Rowling has said that during this time she suffered from depression and sought treatment in therapy.
Rowling survived on welfare as she spent the following years finishing her first Harry Potter novel, completing it in 1995. Aftewards, Rowling began a teacher training course with the intention of working at a school. Meanwhile, Christopher Little Literary Agents had taken on the task of finding a publisher for Harry Potter.
The team submitted the book to 12 different publishers who rejected the manuscript before Bloomsbury finally gave it the green light. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit shelves in 1997.
An overwhelming success
Eight months after it was published, the novel won the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year.
The next three books in the series were published in 1998, 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Rowling told The New Yorker that a difficult period followed the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the series: “That was a really hard time for me. The pressure of it had become overwhelming, actually. I found it difficult to write, which had never happened to me before in my life. The intensity of the scrutiny was overwhelming. I had been utterly unprepared for that. And I needed to step back. Badly needed to step back.” It was three years before the next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released.
Movies and more kids
In 2001, the highly anticipated film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released. “At the moment they are giving me a huge amount of influence,” Rowling told The Times about her involvement with the movies in 2000. “It will be filmed in Britain, with an all-British cast.”
The same year the film debuted, Rowling married anesthetist Neil Michael Murray. The couple had two children together, son David, born in 2003, and daughter Mackenzie, born in 2005.
Rowling moved on to adult books with the 2012 drama The Casual Vacancy. Then in 2013, she released the first of her Cormoran Strike mystery novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Sales of the detective story skyrocketed when it was discovered that Rowling was the true author behind the pen name.
Potter lives on
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play centered around Harry Potter’s son Albus, is slated to debut in London in July 2016. Rowling co-authored the theater venture.
The film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling’s 2001 catalogue of magical creatures of the Potter universe, will also be released in 2016. It was announced in March 2016 that Beasts will be a trilogy.
The History of Magic in North America will be available on Pottermore March 8 at 9 a.m. EST.