The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






J. K. Rowling

Joanne Rowling OBE (born July 31, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire), commonly known as J.K. Rowling (pronunciation: roll-ing), 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 ninth richest woman in the UK.



Rowling's 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 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 (see below). 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 .

The Harry Potter books

Harry Potter-related books:

The last two purport to be facsimiles of books mentioned in the novels. Fantastic Beasts is a textbook, while Quidditch is probably the most popular book in the Hogwarts library. They are complete with handwritten annotations and scribblings in the margins, and include introductions by Albus Dumbledore. All proceeds from them go to the UK Comic Relief charity.

Harry Potter movies

A film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone only in the U.S.A.), directed by Chris Columbus, was released in late 2001. Each scene with a mention of the title stone was filmed twice, once for the U.S.A. release with sorcerer and once for world release with philosopher. Historically, the magical stone that will change lead to gold was always called the philosopher's stone.

The film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, also directed by Chris Columbus, was released in 2002, and starred largely the same set of actors.

A darker atmosphere was adopted in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which many critics applauded and attributed to the new director, Alfonso Cuarón. Rowling, who was a fan of Cuarón's work prior to the third film, has stated the third film is her personal favorite.

Rowling resisted suggestions by the filmmakers that the movies should be filmed in the United States or cast with American actors (only one American appears in the first film). She only reluctantly went along with the change from Philosopher's Stone to Sorcerer's Stone, and limited it to the U.S. only. Rowling's insistence on British actors for the main roles resulted in Steven Spielberg passing on the director role for the series.

Rowling assists Steve Kloves in writing the scripts for the films, ensuring that his scripts do not contradict future books in the series. She says she has told him more about the later books than anybody else, but not everything. She has also said that she has told Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane secrets about their characters that have not yet been revealed in the books.


Rowling has been involved in a lawsuit over the Harry Potter series, and other litigation has been suggested or rumoured.

Nancy Stouffer

In the late 1990s, Nancy Stouffer, an author of children's books published in the 1980s, began to publicly charge that Rowling's book were based on her books, including The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly. In 2001, Rowling, Scholastic Press (the American publisher of her books), and Warner Bros. (the producer of the film adaptations) sued Stouffer, asking the court to judge that there was no infringement of Stouffer's trademarks or copyright. Stouffer, who had not previously sued, then filed counterclaims alleging such infringement.

Rowling and her colitigants argued that much of the evidence that Stouffer presented was fraudulent and asked for sanctions and attorneys' fees as punishment. When the case finally came to court in September 2002, the court found in Rowling's favour, stating that Stouffer had lied to the court and falsified and forged documents to support her case. Stouffer was fined US$50,000 and ordered to pay part (but not all) of the plaintiffs' costs.

In January 2004 it was reported that Stouffer's appeal against the judgement had been rejected. The appeals court agreed that Stouffer's claims were properly dismissed because "no reasonable juror could find a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the two parties' works". The Court explained:

Stouffer's and Plaintiffs' marks are used in two very different ways. Rowling's use of the term "Muggles" describes ordinary humans with no magical powers while Stouffer's "Muggles" are tiny, hairless creatures with elongated heads. Further, the Harry Potter books are novel-length works and whose primary customers are older children and adults whereas Stouffer's booklets appeal to young children. Accordingly, the District Court correctly dismissed Stouffer's trademark claims.

Stouffer was also ordered to pay the costs of the appeal. A report of the judgement can be found at Entertainment Law Digest. The 2002 judgement can be found here: ROWLING v. STOUFFER

New York Daily News

In June of 2003, Rowling announced that she would sue the New York Daily News for $100 million because the newspaper had printed excerpts from her work Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before the book's official release date.

Similar works

Comic book fans have noted that an earlier comic book series by Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic, contains many similarities to Harry Potter, but Gaiman has written on his blog that he does not personally accuse Rowling of plagiarism, nor does he have any intention of pressing charges against her, despite one journalist's attempt to weave a story around this matter. Another rumour has circulated that Jill Murphy , author of The Worst Witch books, had sued Rowling, but this too was a false rumour and it seems unlikely that Murphy will do so in future, judging by statements she has given in interview. Other authors whose earlier work bears some resemblance to Rowling's Harry Potter universe include Eva Ibbotson, author of The Secret of Platform 13 , and Diana Wynne Jones, author of Charmed Life. So far no author other than Stouffer has shown any intention of taking legal action against Rowling.


Joanne married Jorge Arantes on October 16, 1992. At the time of their wedding, he was in the army (later he became an obscure TV journalist), while she was teacher of English as foreign language in Oporto, Portugal. They had one child, a daughter named Jessica Rowling Arantes (born July 27, 1993), before their divorce in 1995.

On December 26, 2001, Rowling married Dr. Neil Murray (an anaesthetist) in a private ceremony at her home in the Perthshire village of Aberfeldy. On March 23, 2003, Rowling gave birth to her second child, a boy called David Gordon Rowling Murray, at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health at the New Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. On January 23, 2005, Rowling's second child with Dr. Murray was born, fulfilling Rowling's lifelong wish to have three children. The baby girl was named Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray.

External links

Last updated: 08-25-2005 17:08:52
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