Born Joanne Kathleen Rowling in 1965, J.K. Rowling spent several years after graduating from college in relative poverty; she worked briefly as a teacher, and, after her divorce, lived off the English public-assistance program while taking care of her baby daughter, Jessica. During her child's naps, Rowling frequented a small English café and penned, unbeknownst to her, what would become a literary and pop-culture phenomenon -- Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. After winning numerous awards and building up a bank account that would rival those of the world's richest individuals, Rowling allowed Warner Bros., screenwriter Steve Kloves, and director Chris Columbus to produce film adaptations of what fans have coined the "Potterverse." Like the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, whom Rowling lists as one of her inspirations, the Potter series has helped bring the fantasy genre back to mainstream film audiences, and raised the bar in terms of special effects, CGI, and even set and costume design. Though written for children, the books have attracted more than a few adult fans, including the films' star-studded casts -- Emma Thompson, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, and Robbie Coltrane all list the series as one of their favorites. As installments in the series hit theaters over the years, directors such as David Yates, Y Tu Mamá También director Alfonso Cuarón, and Mike Newell helmed the projects.
Biography by Tracie Cooper
- The idea for Harry Potter popped into her head while on a crowded, delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.
- Was advised by her publisher that boys would not read books by a woman, so she adopted her middle initial "K" from the name of her favorite grandparent, Kathleen.
- First daughter, Jessica, is named for Rowling's childhood heroine, the activist Jessica Mitford.
- Prefers to write in longhand.
- Awarded as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.
- In less than 10 years, went from a struggling writer to Forbes magazine's list of billionaires, a feat attained in 2004.
- Announced her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, in 2012.
- Very active in many charities, including research for multiple sclerosis, of which her mother died in 1990 at age 45.
- Named a Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the Queen's 2017 Birthday Honours.