Rags To Riches Series: JK Rowling

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, England in 1965. Her interest in writing began early and at the age of 6 she wrote a story called ‘Rabbit’, which she never finished.

After graduating, Rowling worked several jobs including a short stint as secretary for a publishing company, where she was responsible for sending out rejection slips. Rowling married a man in Portugal and together they had a child. Soon after however, the marriage turned sour and she moved back to the UK, living in Edinburgh.

It was here that her life began to deteriorate into new levels of sadness. Rowling found herself fighting both depression and poverty as she tried to support her daughter in a mice infested flat, living on welfare. As a single mother she struggled to find work and didn’t trust leaving her daughter with state-run childcare.

“Anyone who has ever seen what state-run child care is like will understand why I couldn’t put my daughter in their hands during the day.”

On a train ride from Manchester to London, Rowling had a spark of inspiration that would go on to change both her life, and the lives of millions of others. It was here that she first came up with the story of Harry Potter.

“I saw Harry! I could see him very clearly – this scrawny little boy. And it was the most physical rush of excitement…It was the same feeling that you get when you meet someone new and feel as if you have found the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with.”

During that train journey, the entire world of witches and wizards began to take shape as she created characters and plot features such as Hogwarts and Azkaban.


Returning to Edinburgh, Rowling continued to write the story while living in the tough conditions of poverty. She was exhausted and as a first time author, wasn’t even sure if she would be published or not. However, she mastered through it and her determination saw her complete the book. Now only did she finish the book, Rowlings dedication was so high that she had created entire backstories for all characters featured in the book including school houses, family trees and much more! There was nothing about the world of magic that she did not know.

“I had to fight my realistic side. I was a first time author, so of course I was going to struggle to get published. And just because I thought the story was great, didn’t mean anyone else would. To muster the willpower to keep writing, I had to truly believe in Harry. I knew he was bigger than me. I knew I had to do right by this book.”

With the book finished she went about trying to get it published. She was turned down by 12 of the biggest names in publishing until she eventually sold the rights to Bloomsbury, who paid only $4,000. But it didn’t matter, her hard work had paid off and she had been published!

“My only lifetime ambition had just been fulfilled. I could not believe that I was actually going to be in print.”

As soon as Harry Potter hit the shelves it became a smash hit!

It was such a success that U.S. publishers started a bidding war for the book. This ended in Scholastic buying the rights for $105,000 – more than they have ever paid any author, never mind one who had never been published before.

The Harry Potter series continues to expand and it is the most successful book and movie series of all time.

JK Rowlings determination in the face of deep struggle is incredibly motivating for anyone who is trying to make their own success. A particular favourite speech of mine is from JK Rowling where she talks about the value of failure. Watch it below and be inspired!






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