J. K. Rowling: Before Harry Potter

Discover the extraordinary, tumultuous story of J. K. Rowling, before she became the world-famous author of the spellbinding Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling's books have inspired children for over 20 years to unleash their imagination and be brave, wise, loyal and ambitious in all things, but it may just be that it's the story behind the books that's even more inspiring after all...

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The childhood years

Joanne Rowling was born to a former soldier and a former WREN, Pete and Anne Rowling, who had met on a train travelling from King's Cross to Arbroath and swiftly fallen in love on the journey. They set up home in Yate, near Bristol, four months before Joanne was born. Her sister Dianne followed two years later. In 1968, the family moved to a larger house at Winterbourne, where Joanne discovered the wonders of books and conjured up her own adventures in the garden.

At four years old, Joanne suffered a bout of measles, and her father would try to cheer her up by reading aloud the adventures of Toad of Toad Hall from The Wind in the Willows. Books were crammed in every room of the house, and Joanne was inspired to write her first story at the age of 6: Rabbit, which was - you guessed it - about a rabbit.

By the age of ten, Joanne was a keen Brownie, an avid reader and industrious student. At secondary school, she was a bright student, but experienced a brief period of bullying, and a larger girl in her year picked a fight with her. She was famous for a few days for not being flattened!

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The teen years

Throughout her teenage years, Joanne honed her taste in reading, and was greatly influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Jane Austen's works. She also became more and more interested in pop music, and by university had adopted the look of Siouxsie Sioux, sporting back-combed hair and heavy black eyeliner.

Home life was very pleasant at this stage, until, in 1978, Anne Rowling began to notice her hand would tremble when she poured tea. Over the next two years, her loss of physical control intensified, and she would often break down in tears of exasperation. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Joanne was 15, and had to give up her lab technician job.

Home life then became difficult, and Joanne sought escape with a new pupil at her school, Sean Harris. In 1982, he drew up to the house in his blue Ford Anglia - the inspiration for Ron Weasley's flying car - and whisked her away to the excitement of the concerts and bars of Bristol.

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University, work and a life-changing train journey

Joanne became Head Girl at her comprehensive school and dreamed of studying in Oxford. However, despite getting the grades, she was not accepted, and instead went to study French and Classics at Exeter University. She was not exactly a diligent student, however, and abandoned Classics after failing to register properly for an exam, graduating with a 2.2 in French, with her mother watching with pride from her wheelchair.

The young J. K. Rowling spent the next four years toiling through temporary jobs, including a post with Amnesty International. She began to write at this point, too, and developed a passion for classical music. In summer 1990, after a week flat-hunting with her boyfriend in Manchester, she found herself on a delayed train returning to London. Suddenly, an idea took shape: a boy who didn't truly know who he was until he received an invitation to attend a magical school.

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A series of traumatic events

Six months later, J. K. Rowling's mother passed away. Within months, Joanne's relationship ended, too, and she would soon travel to Portugal for a fresh start, teaching English in the city of Porto. 18 months later, J. K. Rowling found love with a handsome journalism student, Jorge Arantes, and a few months later, she fell pregnant.

The pregnancy sadly ended in miscarriage, but this disappointment only brought the couple closer together, and Arantes proposed in 1992. The marriage lasted 13 months; Arantes has previously described his disgraceful, violent behaviour towards Joanne. Their daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993, but Joanne ended up fleeing the country with Jessica and living in an unheated, mouse-infested flat in Britain. She endured a period of depression, ashamed that she couldn't give her daughter a better life, and only started writing again after a period of counselling.

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Harry Potter is finally discovered

Joanne regularly visited cafes to write, including The Elephant House in Edinburgh, but the writing of the first Harry Potter book was slow. She typed up her writing onto a manual typewriter and took on secretarial work for a few hours each week. When the first draft was finally finished, she was taken on by Christopher Little Literary Agents in Fulham, and the manuscript of Harry Potter was sent to 12 publishers - all of whom turned it down. Finally, it was picked up by Bloomsbury for an advance of 1,500 pounds, and there began J. K. Rowling's unprecedented success story.

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Information from www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/culture/books/the-jk-rowling-story-1-652114

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