J.K. Rowling

The Woman Behind “The Boy Who Lived”

A single idea of a boy. It came into Jo’s mind while she sat on a train bound for London. As time passed, her idea grew; her single idea became a chain of ideas. Almost too quickly, the boy began to take form and his story began to unfold. Perhaps, the boy could go to a school, but not just any school — a wizarding school. And maybe there could be something peculiar about him. Maybe a scar, shaped like a lightning bolt. But how did he get it, exactly? She did not have a pen, but the ideas remained in her mind. In the moment, these ideas seemed to be merely ideas. However, they would be the key to a new life and a new identity. While her family and friends would always know her as Joanne, the world would come to know her by a different name: J.K. Rowling.

Born July 31, 1965, Rowling grew up as an imaginative child. Family and friends saw her gift for storytelling when she wrote and illustrated a book at the age of only six. From her late teens into her twenties, she would write compulsively, and at age 25, she would discover the idea for the Harry Potter books. Following troubling times, Rowling moved to start a new chapter in her life in Edinburgh, Scotland. With a pen and a notebook in her hand, she found a quiet corner in a coffee shop and began to write the first of seven Harry Potter novels. While many things had gone wrong in her life–her marriage, the estrangement of her father, her mother’s death–Rowling had followed her heart, and it would soon pay off.

“You’ve got to believe…in this one thing in my life, I believed. I felt that I could tell a story.” -J.K. Rowling

Rowling would finish the first installment a couple of months later and seek to publish it. Oddly, that was the most difficult part. She had faith in her story, but, despite the enthusiasm others showed for it, publishing companies stood in Rowling’s way. The first publishing company rejected the book. The second rejected it. The third rejected it. The fourth rejected it. The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth companies rejected it. The thirteenth company would give Rowling a chance. Breathing a sigh of relief, she would hear a still, quiet voice: The difficult part was getting it published. Once it is published, it will be huge.

…and it was huge. 400 million copies of the books were sold in 69 languages across 200 countries, developing global readership. Warner Bros Co. released 8 Harry Potter films across the span of ten years. Merchandise was sold in stores across the world. People would buy expensive replicas of their favorite characters’ wands and clothes with the names and crests of the Hogwarts houses. Harry Potter had become a phenomenon unlike any other, and it did not stop here. In 2010, Universal Studios cut the ribbon to welcome zealous fans into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now, fans could not only read the books, watch the movies and buy the merchandise, but they could also experience the world Rowling had created. This would be Rowling’s legacy. Pure fantasy and imagination brought to life.

Flash forward.

The day was July 11, 2011. It was a pleasant evening in London, England. Trafalgar Square was crowded as devout fans gathered in anticipation of the final Harry Potter movie. Jo found herself standing on the red carpet next to Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (Ronald Weasley). Rowling thought back to that moment on the train. A single idea of a boy. That is where it had all started. For years, her handwritten words had stayed on loose pages and she had pondered what the future held. She had thirsted for her words to be printed onto pages, for those pages to be bound into books, and for those books to be read around the world–and it had all happened. She had built an empire with her imagination. Gratitude and contentment was all she felt, surrounded by the cast and the crew that helped bring Harry Potter to the world. As the last sentence of the final Harry Potter novel reads, “all was well.”

J.K. Rowling with the cast and crew of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter had changed her life. Through writing, J.K. Rowling had pursued her true passion, finding fulfillment in discovering characters like Harry and in sharing their stories. The opposition she faced in the process and the fear of failure had never discouraged her. She had always epitomized strength, faith and passion. In her seventeen years of writing the Harry Potter series, Rowling had crafted an unforgettable tale about friendship, resilience and the triumph of good over evil. By writing about “the boy who lived,” J.K. Rowling crafted “the tale that will never die.”