“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the lights.” –J K Rowling
People across the world know the story of Harry Potter, the boy who lived, the boy who fought bravely for himself and his friends and ultimately defeated his demons. But very few know about the hardships, the difficulties, the battles fought by the creator of such a world-shattering series.
Born in Yate, England, Joanne Kathleen Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life story, progressing from living on state benefits to becoming the world’s first billionaire author. She is United Kingdom’s bestselling living author, with sales excess of £238M.
As a child, Rowling wrote fantasy novels, which she often read to her sister. But her teenage years were very unhappy. Her mother, suffering from multiple sclerosis (a disease which greatly affects communication) and a stranded relationship with her father made her home life rather complicated. In 1982, she took an entrance exam for Oxford University but was not accepted. She then earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. On a four-hour delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea of a young boy attending a school of wizardry came fully formed in her head. In December 1990, Rowling’s mother died after ten years of suffering. This affected her writing deeply and she channeled her feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail.
She then moved to Porto, Portugal, where she taught English as a foreign language by day and worked on her novel by night. She married a TV journalist in 1992, but unfortunately suffered a miscarriage soon after. She was blessed with a daughter in 1993. But due to domestic abuse, the extent of which is unknown, she decided to separate from her husband. She then moved to Scotland with her then infant daughter to stay with her sister.
Seven years after graduating, Rowling saw herself as a failure. Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child and during this period, she was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. But she described this failure as liberating, allowing her to focus on writing which helped her greatly. She signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain”. She had to obtain a restraining order against her husband as he came seeking for her, and in 1994, she filed for a divorce. At that time, she wrote in many cafes day and night just to make her daughter fall asleep.
In 1995, she completed her first manuscript of Harry Potter on an old typewriter. Even then, her struggle was not over. She started her quest to search for a publishing house. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year of struggle later, she was shown green light by the editor of Bloomsbury Publishing house in London. Even then she was told to expect little money from children’s books. But her destiny changed and she was offered £8000 grant to continue writing.
In June 1997, an initial print run of 1000 copies was made. Today, such copies are valued between £16000 and £25000. In 1998, an auction was held in US for the rights to publish the novel which was won by Scholastics Inc., for a whopping $105,000. Rowling “nearly died” when she heard this news. Her first three books in the series won the Smarties Prize back to back, after which she withdrew her fourth book so as to allow other books a fair chance. She said she had to rewrite one chapter many times to fix a problem with the plot. Her sixth and seventh book broke all records as the fastest selling book of all time.
Rowling’s struggle, her bravery, her inner strength and her courage makes her an inspiration for the world and especially for all the women out there who are struggling to get past the sexism faced on a daily basis, an inspiration to fight for what they truly deserve and making a name of their own in this world.
As beautifully said in her own words, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power within ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”