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J. K. Rowling : Author of Harry Potter BooksJoanne Rowling was born in South Gloucestershire, England in 1965. There is some confusion as to exactly where; Rowling has said she was born in Chipping Sodbury, whereas her birth certificate apparently claims she was born in the Cottage Hospital at Yate. These two towns are, however, almost contiguous. Together with her mother, father, and younger sister, Dianne ("Di"), she moved to Winterbourne, Bristol and then to Tutshill near Chepstow. She attended secondary school at Wyedean Comprehensive, where she told stories to her fellow students. In 1990, her 45-year-old mother succumbed to a decade-long battle with multiple sclerosis.
After studying French and Classics at the University of Exeter, with a year of study in Paris, she moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. During this period she had the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry while she was on a four-hour, delayed train trip between Manchester and London. When she had reached her destination, she already had the characters and a good part of the plot for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in her head; she began working on the story during her lunch hours.
Rowling then moved to Oporto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language. While there, she married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes on 16 October 1992. They had one child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (born 27 July 1993), before their divorce in 1995. Their daughter was named after Rowling's heroine, Jessica Mitford.
In December, 1994, she and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh. Unemployed and living on state benefits, she completed her first novel, doing some of the work in an Edinburgh cafe — Nicolson's Cafe on Nicolson Street (now a Chinese restaurant), owned by her brother-in-law (there is a widely circulated rumour that she wrote in a local café in order to escape from her unheated flat, but in a 2001 BBC interview Rowling remarked, "I am not stupid enough to rent an unheated flat, in Edinburgh, in mid-winter; it had heating"). Rowling spent a year studying for a PGCE in modern languages at Moray House (now part of the University of Edinburgh), graduating in 1996.
In 1995, Rowling completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. After several rejections, a year later she was finally given the greenlight from the small publisher Bloomsbury. She then received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing. The following spring, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc, who paid Rowling more than $100,000. Rowling has said she "nearly died" when she heard the news.  Philosopher's Stone was published in July, 1997 and was an instant hit. Only four months later, Rowling won her first award; the Nestlé Smarties Prize (a children's novel award voted by children). In July, 1998, Rowling won the British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year. In September 1998, Scholastic published Philosopher's Stone in the States under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a change Rowling now claims she regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time. The book was an even bigger hit in the States than it was in the UK and Rowling subsequently went on a multi-city tour of the US to publicise the novel.
In 1999, Rowling won the inaugural Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award (it was accepted in her stead by Stephen Fry), and narrowly avoided stealing the Book of the Year from Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. In June 2000, Rowling recieved an OBE from the Queen.
As of January, 2006, six of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter series, one for each of Harry's school years, have already been published and they have all been bestsellers. By the time of the fourth book's publication, Joanne Rowling had become a billionaire, officially richer than the Queen.
The fifth book, titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was delayed by an unsuccessful plagiarism suit directed towards her by Nancy Stouffer (see below). Rowling took some time off from writing at this point, because during the process of writing the fifth book she felt her workload was too heavy. She said that at one point she had joked about breaking her arm to get out of writing, because the pressure on her was too much. After forcing her publishers to drop her deadline, she enjoyed three years of quiet writing, commenting that she spent some time working on something else that she might return to when she is finished with the Harry Potter series.
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