Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, England. A single mother living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Rowling became an international literary sensation in 1999, when the first three installments of her Harry Potter children’s book series took over the top three slots of The New York Times
best-seller list after achieving similar success in her native United Kingdom. The phenomenal response to Rowling’s books culminated in July 2000, when the fourth volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
, became the fastest-selling book in history.
A graduate of Exeter University, Rowling moved to Portugal in 1990 to teach English. There, she met and married the Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes. The couple’s daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce, Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter to live near her younger sister, Di. While struggling to support Jessica and herself on welfare, Rowling worked on a book, the idea for which had reportedly occurred to her while she was traveling on a train from Manchester to London in 1990. After a number of rejections, she finally sold the book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
(the word "Philosopher" was changed to "Sorcerer" for its publication in America), for the equivalent of about $4,000. The book, and its subseqent series, chronicled the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his motley band of cohorts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
By the summer of 2000, the first three Harry Potter books - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- earned approximately $480 million in three years, with over 35 million copies in print in 35 languages. In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
saw a first printing of 5.3 million copies and advance orders of over 1.8 million. After a postponed release date, the fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
, hit book stores in June 2003. The release date for the next installment, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,
, will be July 16, 2005 and will undoubtedly be a huge success. Rowling, now one of Britain’s richest women, plans a total of seven books in the series.
A film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
, directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire
) was released in November 2001. In its opening weekend in the U.S., the film debuted on a record 8,200 screens and smashed the previous box office record, earning an estimated $93.5 million ($20 million more than the previous recordholder, 1999's The Lost World: Jurassic Park
). It ended the year as the top-grossing movie of 2001. The second and third films in the series opened in November 2002 and and June 2004 respectively, each enjoying similar record-breaking box office success.
In late December 2001, Rowling married the anesthetist Dr. Neil Murray at the couple's home in Scotland. Their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born in March 2003. Shortly after announcing the completion of the sixth Harry Potter book, Rowling gave birth to her second child with Dr. Neil Murray, on January 23, 2005, a daughter named Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray.
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