Today's Birthdays: July 31
J. K. Rowling
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter series of books, was born in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, in southwest England. Her birthday, as all true Harry Potter fans know, is July 31, the same as her famous boy-wizard hero.
The family, including her parents and younger sister Di, lived in Yate and then Winterbourne, also near Bristol. Her father worked on airplane engines for Rolls Royce. When Joanne was nine, the Rowlings moved to Tutshill, near Chepstow, England, close to the border of Wales.
At school, Rowling's favorite subjects were English and foreign languages. She particularly enjoyed reading books such as Manxmouse by Paul Gallico, about a creature with a mouse's body, rabbit's ears, and monkey's paws, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and other books in C. S. Lewis's Narnia series.
What she really wanted to do, however, was write. Rowling wrote her first story, Rabbit, about a rabbit with measles, at age five or six. Later, she tried her hand at writing novels, for adults. But she never finished writing any novel before she wrote the Harry Potter books.
Rowling returned to Britain in 1993, settling in Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near her sister. Divorced after a brief marriage in Portugal and now with a baby, she suffered through a period of poverty and depression while she struggled to earn a living and take care of her daughter, Jessica. It was during this difficult time that she finally completed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the U.S. edition.
Rowling's road to fame and fortune may have been a bit rocky at times, but her success has been sure. In 2000, the 35-year-old author became the highest-earning woman in Britain, netting more than £20.5 million (about $30 million) over the previous year. She received an OBE (Order of the British Empire), a medal of achievement awarded by the queen, in March 2001. At the end of that same year, she married her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray. On March 23, 2003, Rowling's second child, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born.
In February 2004, Forbes magazine estimated that Rowling had £576 million, or more than a billion dollars. This would make her the first person ever to become a billionaire from writing books. While raising her children has cut into the time she has for writing books, the sixth, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released in July, 2005.
Rowling gave birth to a baby girl, Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, on January 25, 2005.
J. K. Rowling
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