“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
The author who gave us the Harry Potter universe and let our imaginations run wild. Here are some magical facts about the one and only J.K. Rowling.
J.K. Rowling Facts
1. Try, Try Again
Why is it that all the greats are rejected at first? J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by a whopping 12 publishing houses before being picked up by Bloomsbury. I bet those first dozen publishers are still kicking themselves over that one!
2. Call me Jo
The author’s name is Joanne Rowling, with friends just calling her “Jo.” The “K” in her professional name stands for Kathleen—in honor of her grandmother—but is not actually her middle name (she doesn’t have one). Everything I know is a lie!
3. Mr. Rowling?
If she doesn’t have a middle name, why didn’t we all read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Joanne Rowling? You can thank one of her publishers for that. They didn’t think that a book by a woman would appeal to the target audience of young boys, so he suggested she go by two initials to hide her gender.
4. Struggling Artist
While she was finishing up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling and her daughter Jessica were staying at her sister’s house in Edinburgh. The author did not have a proper income at the time and was living off of welfare benefits.
5. Harry Potter and the Philanthropist’s Stone
Rowling received the British Red Cross Humanity Award in 2015 for her advocacy and charity work.
6. A What-Writer?
Rowling completed the first draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1996 on a manual typewriter.
7. Harry and J0
The author and her iconic character share the same birthday, July 31.
8. From a Napkin to a Fortune
Rowling initially penned the ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin, while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.
9. Has She Built a Hogwarts?
It may surprise you (or maybe not so much), but Rowling is a big fan of the block-building game Minecraft and often plays it with her son David.
10. Steph Curry for Seeker?
The super awesome game of Quidditch was actually inspired by Rowling’s favorite sport—basketball.
11. Money Money
The advance payment for the first Harry Potter book was only £1,500. Fast-forward to today, Rowling’s net worth is estimated to be around $1 billion, making her the richest author in the world.
12. A Special Place
All Harry Potter fans know that King’s Cross Station is the magical entrance to the Wizarding World, but it also holds a personal significance for Rowling, since her parents met on a train going from the station.
13. Small Beginnings
The first print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was just 1,000 copies! Isn’t that difficult to even imagine?
14. Books on Books on Books
If you’d add up the numbers now, you’d find that the seven Harry Potter books have collectively sold about 500 million copies around the world. Just think! It all started with 1,000 units.
One sure sign that you’ve made it in this world is if you appear on The Simpsons. The author had a cameo in an episode of the show in 2003, when the family visited the U.K.
16. Buddy Books
J.K. Rowling penned two sidekick books to complement the Harry Potter series—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. The proceeds from both books were donated to Comic Relief (adding up to over £17 million).
Rowling took entrance exams at the University of Oxford but was not accepted. She ended up attending the University of Exeter, studying French. I only have one question: did they teach potions at Exeter?
18. Fifty Shades of No Thanks
The Harry Potter author promised her editor she would never read Fifty Shades of Grey and she has stayed true to her word.
19. Turning 45
When J.K. Rowling turned 45 years old—the age her mother died from multiple sclerosis—the author donated £10 million to the University of Edinburgh to open the Anne Rowling Degenerative Neurology Clinic, in honor of her mum.
20. Order of the British Empire
Rowling was awarded the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2000, which recognizes contributions in the field of arts, sciences, charity, and public service.
21. Losing out to Putin
Rowling was the runner-up for Time’s title of Person of the Year in 2007, losing to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
22. Home Sweet Home
Rowling and her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray, currently live in Edinburgh with their children.
23. Marriage in Disguise
Rowling has previously revealed that she wore a disguise when she bought her wedding dress for her second marriage because she didn’t want to be recognized.
24. I’ve Been Calling Her Crandle!
J.K. Rowling says she no longer minds if people mispronounce her name. But just to be clear, her name rhymes with “bowling” not “howling.” I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been getting it wrong this whole time.
25. The Kids
Rowling has three children: Jessica (from her first marriage), David, and Mackenzie.
26. Big-Shot Producer
Rowling was deeply involved in the making of the Harry Potter films, working first as a consultant and later as a producer.
27. Teaching English
Rowling spent some time teaching English in Portugal. While living in the city of Porto, she let her imagination off the leash. She spent much of her free time writing early drafts of the seven-volume global blockbuster that made her a literary legend.
28. Active Tweeter
Rowling has over five million followers on Twitter. She posts regularly and engages in discussions with her fans, sometimes she even argues with them over statements she disagrees with. She’s also become rather (in)famous for using Twitter to add the lore of the Wizarding World, and fans have had a mixed response to some of these impromptu alterations.
29. Literary Hero
When she was growing up, Rowling idolized Jo March from Little Women, who was also strong-minded and ambitious much like the author (not to mention, the two shared the same name!).
30. All Grown Up
Rowling’s first venture into the world of adult fiction was with The Casual Vacancy, published in 2012. The novel was later adapted into a three-part miniseries, aired on HBO and BBC in 2015.
31. Hagrid the Renegade
Robbie Coltrane, who portrayed Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, has stated that Rowling based the character on a Hell’s Angels biker she’s met.
32. Inspiring Stories
Rowling got started early: she wrote her first story when she was just six years old. It was a tale about a rabbit, fittingly called Rabbit. She kept writing as a young girl, and by age 11, she’d finished her first novel, about seven people who owned cursed diamonds.
33. First Love
Rowling’s first husband was a Portuguese man named Jorge Arantes. They married in 1992 and had a daughter together, Jessica. However, the marriage was strained from the start, and they separated just a year later, in 1993.
34. Joy in the Mail
After completing the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling tested the waters by sending out the first three chapters to various literary agents. One of those agents replied, asking to see the rest of the novel, and Rowling has since called it the best letter she received in her life. There was still a long road ahead, but this was the first step toward Rowling’s success.
35. A Light in the Darkness
Rowling released The Tales of Beedle the Bard, another companion to the Harry Potter series, in December of 2008, but she didn’t do so to add to her already fabulous wealth. The story was published to support her international children’s charity, fittingly called Lumos.
36. Robert Who?
From magical fantasy to hard-boiled crime novels? Evidently, Rowling thought that was too much of a jump, so when she started writing books about a private detective named Cormoran Strike, she decided to do so under a pseudonym. To this day, all four Cormoran Strike novels have been published under the name Robert Galbraith.
37. Not Just in the Movies
It seems everything Rowling touches turned to gold. The Cormoran Strike novels were so popular that they were adapted into a TV series on BBC One, under the name Strike. The first three books have been adapted thus far.
38. Speech! Speech!
In 2008, the graduating class at Harvard University was treated to a commencement speech by none other than Rowling herself. Later, in 2015, that same speech was adapted into an illustrated book, called Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. Once again, the story was released to support Rowling’s charity Lumos.
39. Personal Experience
If the Forest of Dean seemed like a particularly vivid setting in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that’s no coincidence: Rowling moved near the wood when she was nine years old and lived there for the remainder of her childhood.
40. Not Meant to Live at a Desk
Rowling worked a series of office jobs when she was younger, but by her own admission, she wasn’t very good at it: “I am one of the most disorganized people in the world and, as I later proved, the worst secretary ever.” She also said that the only thing she ever liked about working in an office was using the computer to type up her stories when nobody was looking.
Rowling named her first daughter after one of her favorite writers, Jessica Mitford. Mitford was famously a member of the American Communist Party and she was even called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee
42. Her Favorite
Rowling has stated in an interview that her own personal favorites are tied between Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Casual Vacancy.
43. Quidditch Today
Believe it or not, Quidditch has become an actual sport in the muggle world. There are teams at various universities and even a world cup tournament. There’s no flying involved though. Not yet, at least…
44. Last Words
For the longest time, Rowling wanted to end the Harry Potter series with the word “scar,” which has been so iconic throughout the books. In the end, she changed her mind and finished the final book with “All was well.”
45. Inspiring Stories
After graduating university, Rowling worked for a time as a researcher at Amnesty Internation. The experience was extremely moving, and her time spent working for some of the most oppressed people in the world forever shaped her beliefs.
46. In Solemn Memory
J.K. Rowling revealed that one of her deepest regrets is that her mother, who died from complications related to multiple sclerosis at the age of 45, never knew about Harry Potter. Rowling, who was a teen when her mother was diagnosed, said, “She was very fit, she was a non-smoker, non-drinker, and I say all of this because of course then for her to be diagnosed at 35 with an illness that would kill her was just the most enormous shock to us and everyone who knew her.”
Reflecting on her passing, Rowling said, “My mother was a passionate reader, and she would have been excited whatever I did, if I succeeded at anything, but particularly to be a writer, she would have considered to be a very valuable thing,” she said. But “she never knew about Harry Potter—I started writing it six months before she died, so that is painful. I wish she’d known.”
Rowling was an avid reader as a child and based the character of Hermione Granger on her 11-year-old self. Albeit, with a more unusual name.
48. Rock Bottom
The lowest point in Rowling’s life came in her mid-twenties. Struggling to make ends meet, Rowling became severely depressed—but it was even worse than most people realize. In 2008, she even admitted that things got so bad that she began to have suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, she sought professional help and managed to turn her life around.
49. Dark Origins
It’s terrible when anyone suffers from depression, but at least Rowling was able to create something out of it. She used this horrible experience as inspiration when creating the soul-sucking Dementors. Seeing as the chilling creatures are some of the most vivid and compelling monsters in all of the Wizarding World, I would say she did a good job!
When Alan Rickman first took the role of Snape, the ending of the book series had not yet been revealed. So, to make sure that he could best portray the complicated character, Rowling revealed a key piece of information about the character to him. Rickman died never revealing what that piece of information was, but Rowling eventually let fans in on the secret.
She told him what lies behind the word “Always.” That Snape would always love Lily Potter. That he would always protect Harry. That nothing in the world, no amount of torment or danger, could change that. So while audiences were left guessing as to Snape’s allegiances until the final film, the actor himself knew all along.
51. Trust Me, I Know
The fact that Rickman knew more about his character than anyone else made for an interesting dynamic between the actor and his directors. There would be times where a director would tell Rickman to do something, and he would respond by saying, “No, I can’t do that—I know what is going to happen and you don’t.”