Twenty years ago, no one had ever heard of Joanne Rowling, let alone her pen name, J.K. These days, however, you can’t get folks to STOP talking about her. Hey, we’re not complaining. Here are some of the best biological tidbits we’ve been able to mine from the life of the lady with the quill.
- It All Began at King’s Cross Station
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Harry’s introduction to his promised life comes at London’s hectic King’s Cross Station—and in a way, so did Rowling’s. Her parents, James and Annie, met there when they were both 18; they married a year later. “King’s Cross Station is a very, very romantic place, probably the most romantic station, purely because my parents met here. So, that’s always been part of my childhood folklore,” Rowling said.
- The “K.” In Her Name Wasn’t There Originally
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Rowling’s birth name was Joanne Rowling, only gaining that middle initial when her published suggested she go by her initials to attract male readers. She chose “K” in order of her grandmother Kathleen. Rowling: “It was the publisher’s idea, they could have called me Enid Snodgrass. I just wanted it [the book] published.” We’re kind of disappointed they didn’t, to be honest.
- She loves…Minecraft
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Rowling enjoys playing the online world-building game with her adolescent son, calling it one of several favorite distractions (along with research books and 24-hour news).
- She’s Committed to the Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis
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Upon turning 45—the same age her mother, Anne, died of Multiple Sclerosis—Rowling donated 10 million pounds to set up a regenerative neurology clinic at the University of Edinburgh. “I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too, and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far too short life,” she stated.
- She Was Head Girl During Her School Years
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Despite her “not exceptional” grades, Rowling was Head Girl at secondary school, overseeing the other prefects. Later on, Rowling would make Lily Potter Head Girl in her seventh year at Hogwarts.
- She Never Did A Final Edit On ‘Order of the Phoenix’
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The longest book in the series famed for its lengthy passages of unadulterated teen-wizard angst, ‘Order of the Phoenix’ was–according to Rowling–never really finished. “It definitely shows,” she said.
- Lifetime Made An Unauthorized Movie About Her Life
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‘Magic Beyond Years’ spans nearly all of Rowling’s life, from a happy childhood and difficult young adulthood to her eventual triumph as the world’s biggest author. Rowling: “the thought of watching it makes me curl up like a pretzel.”
- She’s The First-Ever Billionaire Writer…
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A mere seven years after the publication of her first book, Forbes announced that Rowling was the first billionaire author and one of only 5 self-made female billionaires ever.
- But She Lost Her Billionaire Title By Donating To Charity
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Rowling bested that very impressive accomplishment in 2012, when Forbes announced that she had dropped off the billionare list due in part to the nearly $160 million she donated to charity—roughly 16% of her fortune. If only all rich people could be like her…
- The Hogwarts Houses Were First Written On A Barf Bag
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The story of Rowling writing the first words of Harry Potter on a train napkin is now legendary, but you may not have heard that the names of the four beloved Hogwarts houses entered the world on the back of an airplane sick bag.
- Her Classics Background Inspired Potter’s Latin Spells
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Rowling was a Classics minor at the University of Exeter and studied Latin, a skill that came in handy when crafting spells like “Lumos” and “Expecto Patronum.” Apparently there’s no such thing as a “dead language”.
- She Made Graffiti to Commemorate A Huge Accomplishment
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Potter diehards can visit a hotel in her now-home city of Edinburgh to find the following inscription behind a marble bust: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this hotel room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”.
- She Could Have Played Harry’s Mom
Image courtesy of The Year of Writing Dangerously
Rowling was offered the role of Harry’s mum Lily in the achingly sad “Mirror of Erised” scene, but she turned it down. Probably for the best—we wouldn’t have been able to handle any more feels.
Featured image courtesy of The Verge.