Joanne Rowling was born near Bristol, England, on July 31, 1965. She studied French at the University of Exeter, on the south coast of England and spent a year living in Paris as part of her course. After leaving university she worked in London; including a stint with Amnesty International. In 1990, and and her boyfriend moved to Manchester together. After spending a weekend searching for an apartment, the idea of Harry Potter popped into her head when she was traveling back to London on the train.
Not having a pen on her, she spent four hours on the train conjuring up ideas surrounding a scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard. That very evening, she began to write the first book, although Rowling admits those first few pages didn't resemble anything that wound up in the published book. However, the book was put on hold when on December 30, 1990, her mother, who'd been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when J.K. was 15, died. She was only 45 years old.
Nine months later, still grieving for her mother, Rowling left for Portugal, where she had a job teaching English in a language institute. She took the Harry Potter manuscript with her. It had undergone a number of changes since her mother died. Though she didn't finish her book in Portugal as she'd hoped, she met and married a Portuguese man and gave birth to a daughter, Jessica.
The marriage lasted a year, and in December 1993, the divorced mom moved to Edinburgh, where her sister Di was living. Knowing that she needed to get a full time job to support herself and her daughter, she was determined to finish the book soon, before she became too busy. Whenever her daughter fell asleep, she would put her in a stroller and go to the local cafe and write.
When it was done, she sent the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to an agent, who sent back a polite refusal. The second agent she tried asked to see the rest of the manuscript, then took her on as a client. After the book was turned down by nine publishers, her agent, Christopher, finally found a publisher in August 1996.
The book was an immediate success and has been published in many languages. Rowling went on to write a total of seven books about Harry, and each one has been made into a movie, with the final book split into two movies because of its length.
She was awarded the O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2000 Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors List for her services to literature. In 2004, she received an honorary degree from Edinburgh University in recognition of the Potter books and her outstanding contribution to children's literature. She now owns two properties in Scotland, including a castle where she lives with her family. She is the best selling author in the history of literature and the first to become a billionaire. In 2007, Forbes magazine estimated her earnings for the year to be $32 million.
Rowling married again in December 2001 and has two children, David and Mackenzie, with her current husband, Neil Murray.