It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
They say successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose. We often believe that luck plays a crucial role in the life of successful people around us. However only rarely will you ever meet someone who is successful only by chance. There are a lot of years of hard work, sweat and tears, perseverance, struggle and hardships that usually make them finally taste success.
One such example is of the now world famous celebrity writer, Joanne Rowling, more commonly known as J.K. Rowling. Born in Gloucestershire, England, on 31 July, 1965, Rowling’s early childhood was probably not as carefree as one would like to believe.
Birth and childhood
Rowling’s was born to Peter James Rowling, an aircraft engineer and Anne, who was a science technician.
Rowling’s inclination to writing fantasy stories has grown from her childhood. Rowling’s younger sister Dianne was born when Rowling herself was only 23 months old. It is known that Rowling often read her fantasy stories to her sister. When Rowling was a young teenager, she became an ardent fan of Jessica Mitford and her books. Mitford’s autobiography was gifted to Rowling by her great aunt.
Rowling has described her teenage years as unhappy. It was mainly because of her mother’s illness with multiple sclerosis and her tensed relationship with her father, with whom she alleged she was not on talking terms.
Real life Inspirations for Harry Potter Series
Ideally one should not identify a writer with the protagonist of the story, however stories are more or less influenced by the author’s biography. Rowling’s parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Stadion which was bound for Arbroath in 1964. It therefore does not come entirely as a surprise that Rowling used King’s Cross as the magical gateway to the Wizarding World-Hogwarts in her book series of Harry Potter later on in life. The King’s Cross Station has now therefore also become a popular tourist spot.
Rowling spent most of her teenage years from nine to eighteen precisely at Church Cottage Tutshill, Gloucestershire. Together with her parents, Rowling moved into the house with her parents and her younger sister in 1974. The house was sold to the Rowling family in 1995, and the house was then sold again in 2011. Talking about the house, Julian Mercer, the owner of the house had said, “J. K. Rowling would have been here in her formative years and could have taken inspiration from the cottage. The architecture is very Hogwarts-like. It has vaulted ceilings, stone windows and oozes gothic spirit.”
Furthermore, the house features an under-stairs cupboard which perhaps came into print as Harry Potter’s forced dwelling. Rowling allegedly slept inside the cupboard-like structure circa 1982.
Close to a house was a church graveyard. It is believed that the graveyard also became the source of inspiration for Rowling’s writing. Tutshill certainly was a significant source of inspiration for Rowling’s writing. Before moving to Wyedean secondary school, Rowling attended primary school in Tutshill, which later inspired the name for one of Hogwart’s Quidditch teams, “Tutshill Tornados” in Harry Potter.
The characters from Harry Potter have been praised for their ingenious scripting. Inspiration for which was etched into Rowling’s memory since early childhood. As a child, Rowling attended St Michael’s Primary School. Allegedly, the headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, later resembled the legendary character of Alfred Dumbledore from Harry Potter.
Remember the flying car in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? The idea for which came to Rowling from her friend Sean Harris’ turquoise Ford Anglia. Harris was Rowling’s friend in the Upper Sixth.
Reflecting a little on the trying years of home-life as a teenager, during which Rowling’s mother suffered multiple sclerosis, she said most of the character of Hermione Granger rooted from her own life when she was eleven years old.
Later on, while going through some of the darkest years of her life, Rowling carved one of her figures from Harry Potter, the Dementors. These resembled her illness during that period, which are also described as “soul-sucking creatures” in the book.
The idea of a young boy attending a school of wizardry took full shape into the artist’s mind during a four-hour-delayed trip which the writer took from Manchester to London in 1990. Rowling began to write the story as soon as she reached the Clapham Junction.
Harry’s regret of losing his mother even before getting to know her, also sprouts from Rowling’s own experience of losing her mother to ten-year-long battle of suffering to multiple sclerosis. Rowling had been writing Harry Potter at the time, but had never told her mother about it. The death of her mother is known to have affected Rowling’s writing deeply, the solemn feelings of which she expressed through Harry’s sufferings of similar nature.
Steve Eddy, Rowling’s first secondary school English teacher referred to her as “not exceptional” but “one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English.” Rowling moved to Porto in Portugal where she taught English as a foreign language.
During her years in Portugal, Rowling is known to have taught during the night and she used to write in the day. There, she also met the television journalist Jorge Arantes, whom she later married. The couple connected on their common interest in Jane Austen. After getting married on 16 October 1992, Rowling’s first child was born to her on 17 November 1993 in Portugal. The name for her daughter, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes came to Rowling from her love for Jessica Mitford.
Along with her infant daughter, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland in December 1993. According to biographers, Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her years of marriage. Rowling describes this period of her life as a failure. Her marriage had failed and she was jobless, living on breadline. As a result of which she had signed up for welfare benefits. Rowling had described her status as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”
To add to her miseries she had a dependent child. During this time of her life, Rowling suffered clinical depression and is known to have contemplated suicide. The then 28-year-old describes this time of her life as liberating which ultimately also allowed her to focus on her writing.
Rowling filed for divorce in August 1994, after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, allegedly looking for both Rowling and their daughter. Biographers state that Rowling had then obtained an Order of Restraint, due to which Arantes returned to Portugal.
Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light
Rowling was still living on state benefits, as she began a teachers’ training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education at the Edinburg University. By then, Rowling had finished writing her first novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Good Times
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript and was reviewed to be promising by Bryony Evens, who allegedly read the first three chapters of the book. Christopher Little Literary Agency represented Rowling to find a publisher. However Rowling was yet another hurdle way from her fortune. The manuscript was rejected by all twelve publishing houses, to whom the manuscript was submitted.
You sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve
A year later, Rowling finally hit jackpot as Editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury accepted Rowling’s manuscript and paid her an advance of £ 1,500. Rowling’s savior had been Cunningham’s eight-year old daughter, on reading the first chapter she had immediately wanted to read the next one. After accepting the manuscript, Cunningham had then advised Rowling to find a day job as he felt she had little luck with children’s books.
Cunningham was proved wrong, when in 1997, the Scottish Arts Council granted Rowling £8000 in order to enable her to keep writing. In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print run of 1000 copies. In October 1997, Rowling’s book earned its first award, Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. This marked to be a winning spree for Rowling as she was later awarded with British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year and later also with Children’s Book Award.
In early 1998, the United States, held an auction for purchasing rights to publish Philosopher’s Stone. The auction was won by Scholastic Inc. for US$ 105,000. Rowling said she had “nearly died” on hearing the news. Scholastic then published Rowling’s book under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With a considerable good fortune, Rowling then moved into Hazelbank Terrace in Edinburgh.
The Harry Potter Franchise
After having put the unfortunate years behind her, Rowling published Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in July 1998, followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in December 1999. Later the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released simultaneously in the UK and the US on July 8, 2000, which surpassed sales records, with 372,775 copies sold on day one in the UK. The fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published three years later in July 2003 and in July 2005 the sixth book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published with nine million copies sold within the first 24 hours. The seventh and final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2006, with a sale of 11 million copies on the first day.
In October 1998, Warner Bros purchased the film rights for the first two novels of Harry Potter. Harry Potter has now become a global brand, the worth of which is estimated to be around US$15 billion.
Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.
In 2004, Forbes named Rowling the first person to become a US-dollar billionaire through book-writing and the second richest female entertainer. Rowling’s was worth £650 million in 2017 and was named the most highly paid author in the world with an estimate of worth £ 72 million a year by Forbes in 2017.
Rowling’s quote sums up her own life: “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”
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