By Nehru Odeh
J.K Rowling, writer, philanthropist and author of the Harry Porter fantasy novel series was severely attacked on social media recently. She was the object of scurrilous attacks, with many using the #RIPRowling, for days on end for her comments on transgender issues.
Trouble started when the bestselling writer, responding to an online article discussing people who menstruate tweeted, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
That drew the ire of many, which made them accuse her of being transphobic. Defending herself, Rowling said she stood by her comments. “Isn’t hate to speak the truth,” she maintained.
She also said: “My life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.
“I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives,”
Rowling revealed for the first time that her personal experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault made her speak out about transgender issues.
Here are 40 facts about the bestselling author and her incredible rags-to-riches story.
- J.K Rowling was born on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire,
- She is the daughter of science technician Anne (née Volant) and Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer Peter James Rowling.
- Her parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964.
- As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister.
- When she was a young teenager, her great-aunt gave her a copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling’s heroine, and Rowling read all of her books.
- Her teenage years were unhappy. Her home life was complicated by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and a strained relationship with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.
- In 1982, she took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted. She later earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter.
- Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure. Her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child. However, she described her failure as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing.
- Her maiden name was Joanne Rowlings but was forced to write under the pen name J. K. Rowling, before her remarriage because her publishers asked that she use two initials rather than her full name, anticipating the possibility of the target audience of young boys not wanting to read a book written by a woman.
- She conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a four-hour delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. It was there that the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind.
- She began to write immediately when she had reached her Clapham Junction flat.
- The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband, and relative poverty until the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.
- Rowling was left in despair after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, seeking both her and their daughter. She obtained an Order of Restraint, and her husband returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994.
- Rowling was writing Harry Potter when her mother died after suffering from multiple sclerosis for ten years. She never told her mother she was writing a novel
- She channeled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.
- She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (owned by her brother-in-law) and the Elephant House, wherever she could get her daughter, Jessica, to fall asleep.
- She began a teacher training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University.
- She taught English as a foreign language in Porto, Portugal at night and wrote the novel in the day while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
- Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.
- Rowling was once diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in her third book.
- Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her first marriage. Her ex , in an article for The Sun in June 2020, said he had slapped her and did not regret it.
- In 1995, she finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was typed on an old manual typewriter while living on state benefits.
- The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.
- A year later, she was finally given the green light (and a £1,500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London.
- The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.
- Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.
- Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.
- She has lived a “rags-to- riches” life in which she progressed from living on benefits to being named the world’s first billionaire author by Forbes.
- Her UK sales total in excess of £238 million, making her the best-selling living author in Britain.
- The 2020 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £795 million, ranking her as the 178th richest person in the UK. Time named her a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans.
- Rowling was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) at the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to literature and philanthropy.
- She was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors IN October 2010.
- She has supported multiple charities, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, as well as launching her own charity, Lumos.
- In 2004, Forbes named Rowling as the first person to become a US-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world; though she disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire.
- The 2020 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £795 million, ranking her as the 178th richest person in the UK.
- In 2012, Forbes removed Rowling from their rich list, claiming that her US$160 million in charitable donations and the high tax rate in the UK meant she was no longer a billionaire.
- In February 2013, she was assessed as the 13th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.
- Rowling acquired the courtesy title of Laird of Killiechassie in 2001 when she purchased the historic Killiechassie House, and its surrounding estate situated on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross.
- She also also owns a £4.5 million Georgian house in Kensington, west London, on a street with 24-hour security.
- In 2017, Forbes named Rowling the most highly paid author in the world with earnings of £72 million ($95 million) a year.
- These facts were compiled from Wikipedia.