Sorting Out J.K. Rowling

Did you know?

 — She's known as Jo to her friends. No one's called her Joanne since she was a child, and only then if she was being naughty.

 — Rowling is pronounced "rolling."

 — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first published in England as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

 — Hermoine IS based on a real person — J.K. Rowling!

 — The fantastic Ford Anglia featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is similar to one owned by Sean Harris, her best friend at Wyedean School.

She was born in Chipping Sodbury, England on July 31, 1965. She loved to tell stories about rabbits to her younger sister, Di. When she was still young, she and her family moved to Winterbourne where two of her good friends were named Potter. A little later on, they moved out to the countryside, to the Forest of Dean. Her London-born parents had always wanted to move to the country, and Di and Jo (Jo is short for Joanne) enjoyed roaming the fields and riversides there.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

She didn't care for her new teacher at Tutshill Primary, who believed in seating people according to ability. When she realized Jo wasn't quite up on math, she was seated in the less-than-bright section. By the end of the year, Jo was moved to choicer seating, but she never forgot how it felt to be humiliated by a teacher.

Jo moved on to Wyedean Comprehensive where she describes herself as a pudding-faced child with glasses. The bookish Hermoine was based on Jo during these years. She matured (and got contact lenses!) into a girl who loved telling stories on her lunch breaks and was a huge fan of Jane Austen. Her best "foul weather" friend was named Sean Harris, and he would serve as the basis for Ron Weasley. In time, Jo became head girl at her school.

She went on to study French at the University of Exeter. After graduating, she worked for Amnesty International and later did secretarial work, which she loathed. It was while she was teaching English as a second language in Portugal that she met her husband. They were married for a short time and had a child named Jessica. She went to Edinburgh to live with her sister Di, packing along with her lots of notes for her Harry Potter stories, which entranced her sister.

Jo was encouraged to write the books, which she did while spending the days in coffee shops with baby Jessica while looking for work and living in a mouse-infested apartment. This was a depressing time for her, and she remembered those feelings while creating the Dementors, who suck happy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowlingmemories from mortals and drive them to despair.

By the time her first manuscript was at the publishers, things had begun to look up. She had found a job teaching French, and in time an agent was able to place her manuscript with a publisher. In 1997, the Scottish Arts Council, now known as Creative Scotland, gave her a very large grant to help her finish her second Harry Potter book.

The Harry Potter books became a publishing phenomenon. Soon she had no money worries, and the series ultimately spanned seven full books, a play, a prequel short story featuring James Potter and Sirus Black, as well as The Tales of Beedle the Bard and  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which are also set in Harry's world. The money from those and the major motion pictures have turned Jo into one of the richest people in England. She's so popular she can't possibly answer all her fan mail, but she has created a Web site so she can keep everyone up to date at

We've collected a list of books for Potter fans who would like to discover other fantastic worlds, too. Try If You Like Harry Potter series for more magical mayhem.