That Potter Kid

Today is the birthday of J.K. Rowling, therefore it seemed like a good time to post some Harry Potter stuff.

From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of children’s fantasy writer J.K. Rowling, (books by this author) born Joanne Rowling in Yate, England, in 1965. She has written seven novels in the Harry Potter series, a series that has sold nearly 400 million copies.

Rowling grew up in rural England. She says that the character of Hermione in her series is “a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I’m not particularly proud of.” She studied French and Classics and went on to be a secretary for Amnesty International, but she didn’t like secretarial work. One day on a cross-country train trip, the idea of Harry Potter “came fully formed” into her mind. “It started with Harry,” she said, “then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head.” She was frustrated because she didn’t have a pen to write things down, so she just sat for four hours thinking and hoped she would remember, then started writing as soon as she got home.

In the next few years, she went to Portugal, got married, and then divorced. She moved to Scotland with her young daughter, where she started writing in cafés because taking her daughter for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep and give her a few hours to write.

It took J.K. Rowling a while to find a publisher for her novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published in the U.S. as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). In 1997, Bloomsbury published the first Harry Potter book with a print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which went to libraries. It has now sold about 120 million copies. Her publisher thought young boys were her target audience and was worried that they wouldn’t buy a novel by a woman, so they encouraged her to use initials instead. Joanne didn’t have a middle name, so she took her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, and made herself J.K. Rowling.

J.K. Rowling is now the highest-earning novelist in history.

J.K. Rowling has launched a new generation of readers (and some adult readers) into the world of fantasy, but it’s a genre that she doesn’t actually like much herself. She didn’t even realize that she was writing fantasy until after her first book was published. She says, “You know, the unicorns were in there. There was the castle, God knows. But I really had not thought that that’s what I was doing. And I think maybe the reason that it didn’t occur to me is that I’m not a huge fan of fantasy.” She has never managed to finish the Lord of the Rings series or the Narnia series, and her favorite authors are realists: Jane Austen, whom she calls “the pinnacle to which all other authors aspire,” and contemporary Irish novelist Roddy Doyle.

She planned out the entire Harry Potter series before she wrote the first book, and she says: “I wrote the story I meant to write. If I lost readers along the way, so be it, but I still told my story. The one I wanted. Without permitting it to sound too corny, that’s what I owe to my characters. That we won’t be deflected, either by adoration or by criticism.”

And she says, “You have to resign yourself to wasting lots of trees before you write anything really good.”

And, “What we forget is that kids lead this whole hidden life, however close they are to their parents. I’m aware of this with my seven-year-old daughter. I don’t find it constantly, but I know it’s the reality. It’s the slow process of separation—and slightly underground. I have to be aware that my daughter is leading this kid life I cannot share. And that’s part of the books.”

J.K. Rowling, who wrote, “If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.”

And, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

And, “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.”

Recently the trailer for the new Harry Potter movie was released. Have a look. Of course you will actually have to go to the website to view this video if you subscribe via RSS or email.


The last movie was kind of a disappointment, but this movie looks to be fantastic. I can hardly wait until November 21.