To say that Harry Potter is popular would be an understatement. Anyone with access to pop culture in the last two decades has seen a Harry Potter movie or at the very least, heard of the name.
In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million copies in the first 24 hours, breaking all records in American publishing history. The most pre-ordered book since then is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Apart from its record-breaking sales, it’s more than just a children’s book. Over the years, the novel has spawned a blockbuster movie franchise, merchandise, and theme parks that millions of children and adults can’t seem to get enough of.
From being turned down by publishing companies to becoming a household name and the centerpiece of every millennial’s nostalgic past, Harry Potter is now a bonafide empire. And it’s all thanks to one extraordinary woman who built it from the ground up, J.K. Rowling.
The world’s first-ever billionaire author has amassed millions of followers and readers in just a span of six years, and has become one of the most influential authors of the 21st century. But like every powerful figure, she had to start somewhere.
When Rowling was writing the first Harry Potter book, she was jobless and a struggling lone parent. According to her, the idea for the book struck her during a four-hour train delay, which she described as ‘the most physical rush of excitement she had ever experienced.’
After six tedious months, she had written the first chapter hundreds of times, during which she had to see her mother pass away after a long battle with sclerosis. Rowling was 25.
She then moved to Portugal to have a fresh start, where she met and married her now ex-husband. They had a child together, and after 13 months of an unhappy marriage, she moved back to the UK with her daughter Elizabeth.
Her writing routine would consist of putting her daughter to sleep, sneaking off to a cafe, and writing there. It would take her five years to finish the first book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
She sent the book to different publishing companies and got rejected each time. Undeterred, she persevered and kept pitching her ideas, until eventually, it got picked up by Bloomsbury.
And the rest, they say, is history.
Her seven-book series has since sold more than 450 million copies, won countless awards, and led to one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.
Rowling’s rags-to-riches story is a hallmark example of how one’s incredible talent, sheer will, and determination can take her to unthinkable places.
In her words, ‘rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.’ With enough self-awareness and will to change one’s circumstances, it’s not crazy to envision a better life and work towards it.
Harry Potter, now a multi-million industry, was conceptualized by Rowling when things were hard, and wrote it when things got harder. But that was only half of the battle. Getting it published was another hill she had to surmount. And through it all, she never thought of giving up once. Today, she’s one of the wealthiest and most powerful women alive.
We may not all be J.K. Rowling’s and everyone’s experiences are nuanced, but the next time we stumble into a seemingly insurmountable hurdle, it helps to know that one person was able to overcome theirs.