J.K. Rowling - The biography of the British writer who has revolutionized children's literature


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LEGAL WARNING ‘’J.K. Rowling - The biography of the British writer who has revolutionized children's literature” is an e-book of non-commercial character, in any way approved by Joanne Rowling or publishers. © J.K.R Harry Potter characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Brothers Entertainment. Information here divulgated are not exclusive, but revealed in interviews, testimonies or any other ways and media. The author is responsible for any doubtful information. Written by: Hiago Freitas. Translation by: Daniela Pereira. Contact us: hiago_opd@hotmail.com.


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Family and Childhood Joanne Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, near Bistrol, England. Jo – as she likes to be called – is daughter of Peter James Rowling (employee of a factory named Rolls Royce) and Anne Volant Rowling (laboratory technique). Louis Volant is grandfather on his mother’s side. Married to an English woman called Lizzie Smith – however, their relationship didn’t work out. Louis was involved in the First World War by a call from the French army. Received, for his bravery defending the French trenches from Germans, the Croix de Guerre medal. He had four children with Lizzie: Marcel Volant, Ivy Volant, Gladys and Stanley Volant. Stanley had two daughters: Anne (Jo’s mother) and Marian Fox. Lois, French as his mother, Salomé Schuch, born in July 31th 1877, at Paris’ 10th district. Around 1890, Louis went to England to work as a waiter. At work, he met Lizzie, nurse of a family from Marble Arch. Used to write a lot of letters to your girlfriend, therefore, he worked for National Service, couldn’t always stay at England. In one of those letters, in 1896, cited: “Now, dear, just be a little more patient. Maybe this is the last time I write to you, so, all my love and kisses to my dear Lizzie. From your everlasting Louis. PS: I will write soon, Liz, time will fly now. Ta-ta, my love.” Louis worked on Savoy during the years 1919 and 1927, after the War. He was the leader of vines and received, for that, the French’s award Chevalier Du Merite Agricole , in 1922. Before that, 1899, worked as a junior waiter in an elegant restaurant named Princes, administered by French people and localized after the “Picadilly”. When he got married, he was twenty-two years old and Lizzie, was twenty-five. Around 1911, both of them were apart, fact for which there is no reason.


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Louis Volant, retired, died in September 17th 1949 (when he was seventy-two years old), at the French city of Maisons-Laffitte, without having contact to Lizzie and his children. At the beginning of the 60th decade, Anne, Louis’ granddaughter, in a train travel from King’s Cross Station – at London – to Scotland, she met Peter John Rowling. The nine hours of travel that used to last at that time were enough for both of them to meet each other and relate. Both of them served to the marine. On March 14th, 1965, Jo’s parents were born at the All Saints Parish Church. Anne was already pregnant, in her fifth month of pregnancy. Jo’s pregnancy made their parents abandon the marine and Peter started to work at the Rolls Royce Factory. In June 28th 1967, Dianne Rowling, Jo’s sister, was born. To pass the time, Joanne used to tell histories to her two years young sister. Jo grew the habit of reading when she was little. She left in her headboard the book “The White Horse”, from Elizabeth Goudge and remembered that the first book she read was “The Wind in the Willows”, read by her dad when he was measles sick. When she was six years old, in 1971, she met her neighbors Ian and Vikki Potter, also children. Jo, Di and Potter didn’t have a lot of things to do, so they went to a trunk kept by Anne and put on clothes that made them look like witches and magicians (brooms weren’t left out of their fun). The oldest of Rowling’s was always leading, commanding the entertaining fantasies, shared by all of them. Later, the last name of your childhood friends would be the third name of the principal character in your literary works. Also in 1971, Jo writes, very influenced by a real story written by Richard Scarrym your first book. It was a history about a rabbit called Rabbit that gets measles and is visited by Miss Bee. At this time, Joanne joined on your first school, St. Michael’s Church of England, near her house, located at Nicholls Lane Street, in the vicinity of Bristol. Your mom and sister were the most patient ones to read her histories. Anne, also was proud of Jo, who were addicted to literature and writing, a


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thing that can make any parent jealous in the days in 70th decade and (why not?) now a days. There were a lot of children in the street Jo used to live; between them, Ian and Vikki Potter, who lived four houses from Rowling's. Their last name inspired her history, but Jo denied - at the biography on her old site - the information that she used to play with the Potter pretending they were wizards, dressing as such. The unique remarkable memory of Joanne is that Ian once threw a stone at Di. Jo didn't hesitated and threw a plastic sword at the attacker (she manifested saying that only her could throw things at Di. Jo clearly preferred her paternal grandfathers, Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling and Ernest Arthur Rowling, owners of a grocery store where the granddaughters used to play, than her maternal grandparents, Stanley George Volant and Freda Volant. Kathleen died when Joanne was nine years old. In 1974, Rowling and family moved to Tutshill. They settled in a house named Church Cottage and Jo studied in Tutshill School. The new home had a floor slab and an open well. Curiously, the town was on the outskirts of Dean Forest, which is the origin of the writer Dennis Potter. From the house, it was possible to see an wonderful viewing, the most amazing of the Wye River, from the top of a steep cliff. The Wye River ran around Lancourt Church’s ruins. Jo and your colleagues used to make picnics on hot summer afternoons, watching crows and hawks flying in circles through the sky. On Tutshill School, Sylvia Morgan, a rigid and unpleasant woman, used to teach. At that time, Joanne’s intelligence began to stand out. As she said in an interview, Dianne’s beauty, the youngest sister, made her parents wish she was the “intelligent daughter”. After completing eleven years old, she went to Wyedean School, around Sedbury. Leaving dear Sylvia behind, the new school was brought with the chemist John Nettleship, who inspired Jo in the character Severus Snape, ultimately important on the sequence developed years later. Like Anne – Dianne and Jo’s mother – dealt with


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laboratories, she started to work at the school in chemical area, subordinated by John. Em Wyedean, Jo’s writing gained more strength. English teacher and even her colleagues were impressed with her texts. In that school, Jo met her favorite teacher: Lucy Shepherd, a twenty-year-old woman that had a strong enthusiasm for woman who develops their potential. Lucy was helpful and made her classes a serious study, where the students worked without being afraid of showing their texts. With no doubts, the teacher had an enormous influence about Jo. The period in Wyedean not only was marked and decisive in positive factors: it was at that time when Anne Rowling was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Another marking factor was when Joanne met Sean Harris, the inspiration to Ron Weasley. Sean was Jo’s first friend to have a car – at the time, a Ford Anglia.


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Adulthood: Harry Potter After graduating, in 1983, she joined at Exeter University to learn French and Classic Languages influenced by her parents – because, actually, she wanted to learn English. Let her showy clothing style and resigned the “intelligent one”, becoming popular in the male sex. In 1985, Jo decides to go to Paris, on France, during your studies, to give English classes. After four years of study, she graduated. To financially support herself, Jo worked temporarily as a bilingual secretary and at International Anistia (on the last one, at the FrenchAfrican department). At that time, she wrote a romance that was never published, wrote in note pads and bars, a thing that would continue later. Rowling’s boyfriend moved after concluding the course at Exeter, to Manchester, what made the writer look after a flat in that region. As she said, it was a wrong choice – but, if she could, she wouldn’t come back. Failing at the tentative of finding a house in Manchester, Joanne returned to the English capital in June of 1990. The train she would take had technical problems and stopped. During that time, surged in her mind the Harry Potter series, whose characters just appear prepared, as she said. No other idea had made Joanne so excited. As time goes by, the Harry Potter characters were developed on shoes cases. At the end of the year, on December 30th, Anne Volant passed away due to multiple sclerosis, which one she had been struggling. About that, Jo said “it was an terrible moment”, because not even her or her sister or her dad expect it to happen, whereas Anne was only forty-five years old. Rowling said that her biggest regret was not talking too much longer with her mother on the phone for the last time. So she went to the town where she lived with her parents for the last time and went away, alone, to life her life. Back to Manchester, she faced more difficulties. She found out her flat was stolen; furthermore, she used to argued with her boyfriend until


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decide living at the Bournville Hotels, located at the outskirts of Manchester. Continuing the writing of Harry Potter, it became, on this hotel room, the Quidditch, wizards’ favorite sports which she devoted her writing. Her journey in Manchester, didn’t make sense anymore, finished in 1991, when Jo went to Portugal, persuaded by an ad that looked for an English teacher; already hired by an language school Encounter English (the ad’s one), she went to Cidade do Porto, where she shared a flat with two other teacher (the English Jill Preweet and the Irish Aine Kiely). Jo established a friendship with the two women. Young and without commitment, they frequented bars and discos on the Porto night. Swing was their favorite clubs – although, when they wanted to change the place, they used to go to Meia Cave. Both places don’t exist anymore. In a 1991 night, Joanne goes to Meia Cave bar. Although, it wouldn’t be a normal night; the dim light made her entrance be not perceived, even if British foreigners didn’t used to frequent that place. A Portuguese started looking to Jo in a fixe way. Both fell in love that moment. Jorge Arantes – your newest romance until then – invites Jo to live in his mother’s house and she doesn’t say no. Between all that, she gets pregnant, but she loses her baby after a spontaneous abort later then. In August 28th 1992, Jorge asks her in marriage, motivated by the incident happened before. She accepted and they got married two months later in a discreet ceremony, for a few who could watch: fiancé’s mom, Dianne, the newest sister of Joanne and her boyfriend, the Scottish Roger Moore, as testimonies. In a black suit, hair pulled back, pearls’ necklace and rings in pearls, Jo hold a bunch of red carnations in company of her fiancé. Married and with a new life, Jo continued in her work as a teacher and also writing Harry Potter. Rowling recognizes that on that time, in Portugal, she wrote one of her favorite chapters, the “The Mirror of Erised.”


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Sharing a united life, Jorge accompanies Jo’s writing, even if she searched for bars and cafés in town to write peacefully. Between a few points where it’s known, Joanne used to write in Majestic Café, at Santa Catarina St., in Café Estrela d’Ouro, at Fábrica St., or even in gardens at the Cristal Palace. In July 27th 1993, four days before her mother’s birthday, was born the first daughter of Jo: Jessica Isabel Arantes Rowling. As time passed by, the relationship of Joanne and Jorge got more and more conflicted. Fights happened anywhere: at street; in front of her place of work; during the night, in the house where they used to live. In November 17th 1993, the final break-up happened. Around five in the morning, between a rough fight, Jorge expelled her wife from home. Just with the clothes on her body, Joanne sees herself lost; a legit foreigner. In spite of, the absence of her daughter, Jessica, was the most painful ache. She recurs to her friends at work, Aine and Jill, and Maria Inês, director of Encounter English. This last one helped Jo to recover her daughter. Jorge denied to justice – and to everyone – that he hit Joanne on that night, even though he admitted pushing her with strength. Two weeks later, Jo returned to United Kingdom. Her father, Peter, got married for the second time. Then, she went to Edinburg, in Scotland, living at her sister’s house. The depression came over Joanne. Depending from third hands to survive – the state who humiliated her –, she went to a flat in the neighborhood of Leith, still in Scotland’s capital, because she didn’t want to be a burden for her sister, who already had built her own family. With sixty-nine pounds per week – sent by the government after Jo signed lots of paper about her poor state –, Jo couldn’t maintain, with dignity, her daughter and herself. A lot of rats were running through her flat; it was almost impossible to live there with a baby. Swallowing her pride, she recurred to Sean Harris, her school friend. He lend her the amount of 190 pounds, money that served to rent another flat. Even though, difficulties didn’t stop on Jo’s life. The state agencies didn’t want to tend clients who needed help from the government and,


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consequently, she had to move again, this time to the number 7 of South Lane Place, still in Leith. Living in a not nice state, Joanne’s life was far away from being easy. At that time, she received a very bad news: Jorge, who fought with her intensely, a year before, was at Scotland. He was on drugs later that tempestuous night. On March, Jo filed a lawsuit to make him, in any manner, rape her. Not having another option, her ex-husband returned to Cidade do Porto. The deep depression lived by Jo inspired the Dementors, characters created by her and that appeared on her third book. One day, she went to a friend’s house and got absolutely sad, seeing that her friend’s child had a lot of toys when Jessica’s could fit inside a shoes box. The bad days were passing by and Jessica grew in a low standard’s structure in a country as Scotland. Jo, even having so many problems, didn’t left aside the writing of Harry Potter, which was, above all that, an activity for her, even if it was done in a rhythm less frenetic way than before.


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Mischance in love, lucky on destiny A year later the born of Jessica was decisive for Jo, bringing good news and changes in her life that would be better to your future. In summer at the north hemisphere of 1994, Jo’s life had the first effects. In August 10th, she finally asked for the divorce. The most wellknown moments of her life arrived: the writing at the bars, now retaken at Nicholson’s (administered by her brother-in-law and his business partner) and, also, at The Elephant House Café. Jo used to stroll with her daughter until she felt asleep and, peacefully, wrote. In a place much better furnished and more equipped than her apartment, Dementors stayed behind. There was no need to express her depression in her writing. Even if one of the bars was from her brother-in-law, they treated her as a normal client – but they knew that she was writing: she read, erased, rewrote, just using pen and paper, without digital equipment. She wrote with one hand and with the other, shook Jessica’s trolley. At the end of the year, Rowling got a job as a secretary and renewed the document that kept Jorge away from her and Jessica. Her magisterial, made in Portugal, didn’t let her teach on Scottish schools without passing through a course which she would be able of teaching, the General Teaching Council. Registered for a language course, she achieved a desire place after many evaluation processes. She chose to study French. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was concluded, but, otherwise, not in a bar. At the table of the kitchen of her flat, Jo finished writing the manuscript of the book who would take more than a decade of work. In a winter morning of February 1996, Bryony Evens opened the mails to firm’s office. She was a trainee, formed in English, promoted to gerent and personal assistance of her boss in eighteen months after she took the job. She was twenty-four years old – the same age as Joanne when she created Harry Potter –, Evens loved to read, yet children classics. Lord of the Rings’ fan, she barely knew that she


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would be the first external fan of a worldwide success programmed to pop soon. The agency didn’t deal with children books and poetry, so they were separated from other amounts of books received: those who would be evaluated and the others who wouldn’t. As Bryony loved to read, she looked the amount that wouldn’t have Chris’ attention anyway. Joanne sent a review and the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – four requirements of the agency. The material was in a black briefcase, very different from other, awaking the curiosity of the stagier. Then, the first chapter has been read by her, leaving the others to ready later. At that time, the agency had contracted a freelancer, who read the manuscripts sent to the agency and worked with the readers who liked the material, until they go to the editors. Fleur Howle joined the agency just after Bryony. The friend didn’t hesitate and passed Jo’s manuscript for her, saying it was really great. Fleur read the second and third chapters. At the end of the day, Evens read the two last chapters. Both loved Jo’s history. The author had already sent her manuscript to other literature agent, but received a short letter of refusal – and they didn’t send back the briefcase, what made Jo upset. Looking for a new agent, in the Writers' and Artists' Year Book, she found Chris. The guide was at the Central Bibliotheca of Edinburg, and Jo was persuaded by the name. In name of her boss, Bryony wrote Jo, asking her to send the rest of the manuscript. It was a magical moment for her. The message was read eight times. Jo danced around the table of the kitchen reading: “Thank you. We would love to receive the rest of your book, with exclusivity.” Fearful that Christopher Little changed his idea, Rowling sent the manuscript readily, making it arrive in the agency in less than a week. However, Chris hadn’t read one line of her work. Bryony read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone very quickly; the book, as she said, it was very good, so she didn’t have reasons for


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interrupting it. After, Christopher took it home, reading it in the same night. During the morning, the book has been commented. Bryony wanted a little more about Neville, finding him enchanting. And Chris felt in love with Quidditch, but he wanted rules to be well explained, with all the details; on the other hand, it wouldn’t attract boy’s attention. Jo otherwise wrote this rules; answered “very well” and included them in the book. And she added an illustration of a match, showing the wizards on their broomsticks playing. After a interaction of three letters, Bryony, who’s sent the messages, was satisfied and went to talk with Patrick Walsh, Christopher Little’s business partner. In 1996, it was firmed the partnership of Chris and Patrick. Both had very different personality; Walsh was a literature lover; but Christopher was, before anything, a business’ man, with a view turned to rent. Even with all those divergences, both completed the agency; they could discuss opinions and give ideas to each other. Patrick wasn’t organized, while his business partner was very organized. Chris, just for his very professional side, took his part of handled the marketing. Around March 1996, Chris (now that Patrick also had read the book and also loved it) finally sent a contract for Jo, showing himself in disposition to represent and help her at the printing business 15% of the home market in United Kingdom and 20% on the U.S. market, movies and translations. A model contract, repressed and that would make Joanne be connected with the agency for five years. Then, the contract would be renewed yearly, with an advice sent three months before to the possibility of cancelling. At the first paragraph, it was affirmed: “The writer designs to your agency the unique and exclusive represent in all literary spheres covered by the author, including romances, tales, theater adaptations, poems, films’ routers, televisions’ routers, songs’ lyrics and promotional material, as in exploration of the called ‘copyrights’, derivate by those activities.”


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Nobody inside the agency suspected about Jo’s poorness. She was the poorest client they ever had. The time to look over an editor arrived. This part was Bryony’s responsibility, whose prepared three versions, and added a new cover and stamped “Christopher Little Literary Agents” on it. In the line where it was shown the book’s author, it read “by Joanne Rowling”. The editor Penguin was the first (unlucky) one to refuse. As for Transworld, the person responsible for the selection and reading of the sent books was sick. Twelve editors refused, the total, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Bryony, after all this tentative, sent an original for Bloomsbury at Soho Square. The editor was founded in September 1986, by Nigel Newton. Recently, Bloomsbury had opened an area just for child’s books, directed by Barry Cunningham, whose had the same trail of Chris to find big literary successes. “It was emotional. What impressed me straight away was that the book already came with a complete imaginary world. It was perceived that Jo knew her characters and she knew what would happen with them. Even tough, it was a very long book for children at that time.” Only four people worked at the children’s department in Bloomsbury. All of them were vital for the success of Harry Potter. Barry, Eleanor Bagenal, Janet Hogarth and the publicist, Rosamund de la Hey. But calling the attention of the others names of the editor wasn’t so easy for the childhood division. So Rosamund had the idea of putting chocolate Smarties with the book when it was sent to the other editors. The Smarties’ company sponsors a very important award for children books in England, having the peculiarity of letting kids decide the votes, making the award more “realistic”. After a month, 1500 thousand pounds were offered from the editor. Bryony, after the offer, called the editor Harper Collins, who’s sent the original manuscript. Chris’ personal assistant asked if they wanted to make an counter, saying about Bloomsbury, but they said they wouldn’t have time and that it would be better if they accepted the already done one. Christopher, as a good professional, read attentively the contract and said to Jo that she could take it. With that, Bloomsbury secured a resounding series, which would rent millions and millions of pounds.


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The money to Joanne would be paid in two parcels: one immediately and the other on the launch of the book, who was combined to be in June 1997. Bloomsbury asked that Joanne would be presented in a lunch at London. The trip was a challenge for a single mom. Because of Jessica, Jo decided to go and come back at the same day, resulting in a travel of ten hours sit in a train. Joanne was very nervous: it was her debut in the business’ literature world and she didn’t even know Christopher, not even Barry, Bryony couldn’t go; she needed to stay to take care of the office, what made Jo sad, because she wanted to thank her in person for all the help. Probably, they wouldn’t be reunited in that lunch if it wasn’t for her insistence, if she hadn’t “break the rules” of the agency. Barry Cunningham liked the lunch and, about that, commented: “Even though she was shy about herself, Joanne seemed very secure and decided about the book. The most important thing is that she really believed that children would like Harry. I knew she had passed for a hard time after she came back from Portugal and I was really impressed with her dedication to the history. She had a big comprehension about this growing-up phase of children.” The lunch was finished. “You will never make money writing children books, Jo”. That was the phrase Barry said when he shook hands with her newest client, as they said goodbye. He didn’t have the idea of how wrong he was.



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