Joanne Kathleen Rowling (pronounced rolling) was born on July 31st, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England. Her sister, Di, was born a little under 2 years later. Rowling can remember telling stories from early on and writing down her first story when she was 5 or 6 years old - about a rabbit called Rabbit who got the measles and was visited by friends including a giant bee called Miss Bee.
She moved house twice while growing up. The first was from Yate, just outside Bristol, to Winterbourne - also close to Bristol. In Winterbourne she was friends with a brother and sister whose surname was Potter. She says she always liked the name, and preferred it to her own because the children always made annoying jokes about rolling pins!
Her family moved again when she was nine years old - to Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest of Dean. After attending Tutshill Primary School she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. She describes herself as having been quite, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports. Her favorite subject was English followed by languages. She used to tell stories to her friends - usually involving them all doing heroic and daring deeds that they wouldn't dare to do in real life.
She went to Exeter University straight after school and studied French, having been encouraged by her parents who said that this could lead to a great career as a bilingual secretary. On graduating from Exeter she spent a few years as 'the worst secretary ever'.
In 1990, at the age of 26, she moved to Portugal to teach English. She says that she loved teaching English. She taught in the afternoons and evenings, leaving the mornings free for writing. At this time she was starting work on her third novel (the first two having been abandoned as being 'very bad'). The new book was about a boy who found out he was a wizard and was sent off to wizard school.
While in Portugal she met and married a Portuguese journalist. Their daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce, Rowling and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be close to her younger sister, Di. Rowling set herself a deadline - to finish the Harry novel before starting work as a French teacher - and, of course, to try and get it published. She wrote at a café table while Jessica was napping.
The Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book and, after a number of rejections, she eventually sold Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone for the equivalent of about USA $4,000 to Bloomsbury (UK).
By this time Rowling was working as a French teacher (being serenaded down the corridors with the first line of the theme from Rawhide "Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep those wagons rolling...')
A few months later Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press bought the American rights for enough money that she was able to give up teaching.
The book was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children's Books in June 1997 (at the time of writing 1st editions of this book are on the market for upwards of 12,000 UK pounds/ USA $20,000!). Thereafter the accolades began to pile up. Harry Potter won The British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, and the Smarties Prize.
Renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the book was published in the USA in September 1998 by Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press, with illustrations by Mary Grandpre.
The sequel, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was published in the UK in July 1998 and in the USA in June 1999. The third book, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, was published in the UK in July 1999 and in the USA in September 1999.
In 1999 Rowling became an international literary sensation when the first three installments of the Harry Potter series took over the top 3 slots in the New York Times bestsellers list - after achieving similar success in the UK. This resulted in the New York Times introducing a bestseller list for children's literature - a relief to many adult authors vying for the top slots on the list and an honor for Rowling!
By Summer 2000, the first three books had sold over 35 million copies in 35 languages and earned approximately $480 million.
In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had a first printing of 5.3 million copies with advance orders of over 1.8 million.
By 2000, Ms. Rowling had sold at least 30 million copies of the first three books which had been printed in 35 languages, earning approximately $400 million.
The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix was published in 2003 with a first print run of 8.5 million copies (USA). 5 million copies were recorded sold in the USA on the first Saturday after it was published. Barnes and Noble reported selling 286,000 copies in just one hour.
By 2003 at least 192 million copies had been sold in over 200 countries, and the books have been translated into at least 55 languages, including Latin. In 2003 she was estimated to be the richest woman in England - a position previously held by the Queen.
The sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was published simultaneously in multiple countries on July 16th 2005. The seventh, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in July 2007.
The first two movies were directed by Chris Columbus who also directed Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire. The third movie was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The fourth movie, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell, was released in 2005. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix followed in 2007. Movies based on the final two books are currently in production - Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince is scheduled for release in November 2008.
The Harry Potter series has sparked new enthusiasm amongst children for books. Having said that, Rowling's books are not free from criticism - some Christian fundamentalists, express concern that the books promote and encourage satanic practices. On the other hand, other Christians applaud the books for the themes of courage, loyalty, justice, honesty and fairness that they portray and compare them to books such as The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.
Rowling says she wrote Harry Potter when "I was very low, and I had to achieve something. Without the challenge, I would have gone stark raving mad."
Will there be another Harry Potter book? For sometime Rowling has insisted that she will not write another Harry Potter book, but in an article in Time Magazine in January 2008 she confessed to "weak moments" when she feels like succumbing to the pressure from her many fans, including her her 14-year-old daughter Jessica. Rowling says, "If - and it's a big if - I ever write an eighth book, I doubt that Harry would be the central character. I feel I've already told his story. "But these are big ifs. Let's give it ten years."