Art & Culture
Writing Made Her Rich
Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, England
in 1965. She began writing at the age of 6 with a story called
Rabbit, which she never finished.
In high school her favorite subject was English. From High
School, Rowling went to Exeter University where she earned a
degree in French. After graduating, she spent a year studying
in Paris and then went back to London where she worked in a
number of jobs, including a year with Amnesty International
and a short time as secretary for a publishing company, where
she was responsible for sending out rejection slips.
In the summer of 1990, on a delayed train from Manchester to
London, she came up with the idea of a boy who discovers he
is a wizard. But it would be 7 years before the idea became
a book. In that same year her mother died of Multiple Sclerosis
and she left for Portugal to teach English, hoping to find a
way to deal with her grief. In October 1992 she married a Portuguese
television journalist, Jorge Arantes. But the marriage lasted
just eleven months.
In 1993 she left her husband and returned to England, with
the one legacy of her failed marriage - an infant daughter named
Jessica. Her life suddenly took a nose-dive. Fighting poverty
and depression, she lived in a mice-infested flat in Edinburgh
and struggled to raise her baby daughter on a welfare check
of £70 pounds ($100) a week.
Unable to heat her flat, she sat in cafés nursing an espresso
for 2 hours at a time and worked feverishly on the manuscript
of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone while her
baby daughter slept in a pram.
The manuscript is said to have been rejected by three British
publishers - Penguin, Transworld and HarperCollins. But Bloomsbury
Children's Books did sign her up, reportedly paying £10,000
($14,300) for the rights to Harry Potter and The Philosopher's
The Philosopher's Stone was published on June 30, 1997 and
was an instant success.
The book was published under her initials because her publisher
feared that boys would be less likely to read the book if they
knew it was written by a woman. At a book fair in Italy later
that year, Scholastic Books bought the American rights for $105,000,
an unheard of figure for a children's writer with only one book
to her name. It was published in the States in 1998 with the
title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
The sequel - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- was published in June of 1999 and later that same year, the
third book in the series was released, Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban. By the time her fourth book appeared
in 2000 - Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - the series
had become an international phenomenon: the initial print run
for her 4th book was 1.5 million copies in the UK and 3.8 million
in the US.
By 2000, JK Rowling had become the highest-earning woman in
Britain, with an income of more than £20.5 million ($29.3m)
in the previous year. In 2001 her annual earnings were estimated
at over £24m, ($34.3m) placing her between Madonna and Paul
McCartney in the ranks of high-earning celebrities. In October
1998 Warner Brothers bought the rights to Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer's Stone and its sequel (HarryPotter and
the Chamber Of Secrets), for the tidy sum of $700,000. With
the release of the first Harry Potter film, J.K.Rowling's total
earnings are estimated to have exceeded $100 million.
In March 2001, she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British
Empire) by the Queen, for services to children's literature.