Joanne Rowling OBE (born July 31, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire), commonly known as J.K. Rowling (pronunciation: roll-ing; her former students used to joke with her name calling her the Rolling Stone), is a British fiction writer. Rowling is most famous for being the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Rowling's books have gained international attention and have won multiple awards. In February 2004, Forbes magazine estimated her fortune as £576 million, making her the first person to become a billionaire (in terms of U.S. dollars) by writing books. Rowling is also the wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom, well ahead of even Queen Elizabeth II.
As her publisher, Bloomsbury, wanted to use initials on the cover of the Harry Potter books (suggesting that if they put an obviously female name on the cover, the target group of young boys might be reluctant to buy them), Rowling chose to adopt her grandmother's middle name, Kathleen.
Rowling wrote two novels for adults (neither of which she tried to publish) before she had the idea for Harry Potter during a four-hour train trip. According to her, by the time she reached her destination she had the characters and a good part of the plot for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in her head. She started writing during her lunch hours, and continued working on the manuscript throughout a stint in Oporto, Portugal teaching English as a second language in the Encounter English School.
After a first unsuccessful marriage, she returned to the United Kingdom with her infant daughter and completed the book in Edinburgh, Scotland. At that time, she was unemployed, living on welfare benefits. The book was a huge success, and she has so far had four sequels published. The sales made her a multi-millionaire, and in 2001 she used the proceeds to buy a luxurious 19th century mansion on the banks of the River Tay in Perthshire, Scotland, where she married her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray, on December 26th, 2001.
Soon after the fourth book was published, she published two booklets for Comic Relief, supposedly Harry Potter's school-books, whose royalties go to charity. She has contributed an uncountable amount of money and support to many charitable causes over the world, especially research and treatment of multiple sclerosis, from which her mother died in 1990. This death above all has affected the book, according to Rowling.
The Harry Potter series is expected to run to seven volumes, one for each year Harry spends in school. Five of these have already been published. The fifth book, titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was delayed by an unsuccessful plagiarism suit directed towards her by rival author Nancy Stouffer. Rowling took some time off writing at this point because, while in the process of writing the fourth book, she felt her workload was too heavy. She said that at one point she had considered breaking her arm to get out of writing, because the pressure on her was too much. After forcing her publishers to drop her deadline, she enjoyed three years of quiet writing and has commented she had some work done on something else she might return to when she is finished with the series. The fifth book was released on June 21, 2003.
In late 2003 she was approached by the television producer Russell T. Davies to contribute an episode to the famous British television science-fiction series Doctor Who. Although she was "amused by the suggestion", she turned the offer down as she was busy working on the next novel in the Potter series. On December 20, 2004, she announced that the sixth Harry Potter book would be released on July 16, 2005.
Rowling has also made a guest appearance as herself on American cartoon The Simpsons. She was in a special British episode entitled The Regina Monologues.
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