Top 13 Fun Facts about J.K. Rowling


Originally published by Natalie on June 2021, updated by Charity K on August 2022

J.K. Rowling is the UK’s national treasure. Her rags to riches story following her creation of the Harry Potter book series changed the world for the better; she gave us magic.

J.K. Rowling was born in the small town of Yate, about two hours directly west of London’s city center. The author now lives in Scotland where she is working on new novels and personal projects.

Rowling’s Harry Potter series is set between a mystical land and London central. If you visit London today you’ll find many different attractions centered around the books, such as the photo booth at platform nine and three quarters at Kings Cross Station; a guided walking tour will be able to show you each of the different spots.

King’s Cross – by Sarah Ehlers – Unsplash

Bonus fun fact: Kings Cross was where J.K. Rowling’s parents first met when they were 18 years old. They married a year later and were together until her mother’s passing at age 45.

Here are five more fun things you likely to have yet learnt about this incredible author and her journey though the United Kingdom.

1. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Manuscript was Rejected 12 Times

The first manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was produced by Rowling while sitting in small cafes around Edinburgh. She lived here with her daughter, and they survived off of government benefits.

Excited about the work, Rowling bound it up into a folder and sent it off to a publishing agent whom she believed could bring it to the rest of the world. Rowling tells of how she was sent back nothing but a slip that read that the agent’s list was full and they were not interested in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

by Rae Tian – Unsplash

To make things worse, the agent didn’t return the binding folder to Rowling. She recalls being almost distraught about this as she had little to no money to buy new folders to send out to other agents.

The manuscript would go one to be rejected a total of 12 times by different publishing houses. It was eventually Bloomsbury who saw the magic that the novel held and agreed to move forward with publication.

2. J.K. Rowling Suffered Clinical Depression Which Lead to Dementors

Rowling became a mother at the age of 25 whilst involved in a very short-lived and unhappy marriage; or in her words, “catastrophic”.

Her circumstances plunged her into deep clinical depression for a few years, while she fought for her daughter’s survival, obtaining only the bare minimum from government benefits.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Rowling always found it difficult to put her depression into words. She argues that depression and sadness are very different experiences; while sadness involves feeling, depression does not.

Her creation of the dementors later in the book series is her putting depression onto paper. The dementos were the creatures that fed off of the happiness of the living; hollow, torturous beings that suck life out rather than create.

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3. J.K. Rowling is Obsessed with Charm Bracelets

To her, there is no greater treasure than a charm bracelet holding memories from district times in one’s life. She believes they are one of the most personal and profound collections a person can gather during their lives, and she herself had one for many years that she built up over time.

One night while living in Manchester in northwestern England, her home was broken into and the thief took her beloved charm bracelet along with him. She regards it as one of the most signifiant losses of her life; in no way on par with the loss of a human being, but significant enough to feel devastation at the loss of great parts of her past.

by Mabsal – Wikimedia Commons

The struggling author never did get another bracelet to restart her lost collection. But on the day of the release of her seventh Harry Potter Book the head of Bloomsbury publishers gifted Rowling with a charm bracelet from her dreams. The bracelet was covered in gold and silver charms featuring iconic subjects from her books: a golden snitch, broomsticks, cauldrons, a Patronus stag and a tiny version of the flying Ford car.

4. J.K. Rowling’s Name is an Ode to her Grandmother

J.K. Rowling’s actual name is Joanne Rowling. Using initials instead of her full name was a strategic decision on part of the publishers; they believed that a gender neutral name would make male readers more inclined to pick up the books.

They also believed she needed more than one initial, not just ‘J’ for Joanne. Rowling agreed, and went ahead to add the letter ‘K’ as a tribute to her grandmother, Kathleen.

Edinburgh – by SylviaStanley – Wikimedia Commons

Rowling laughs when she looks back at this time in her journey. She recalls being so desperate to have her book published there was little she would not have agreed to: “…they could have called me Enid Snodgrass. I just wanted it [the book] published.”

5. J.K. Rowling is Both an Author and Philanthropist

Rowling’s career didn’t stop with the final Harry Potter book. She has just released her latest work: Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.

When she’s not writing, Rowling is avidly involved in charity work around the world. She single handedly created two philanthropic initiatives that seek to improve the lives of thousands of people.

J.K. Rowling – by Executive Office of the President – Wikimedia Commons

Her first charity was Volant. Her second was Lumos, which is a non-profit organization that works to ensure children around the world can grow up in a safe and caring environment. In addition to her own charities she also financially supports a large number of other organizations around the world.

Rowling is famously known as the billionaire who gave away all of her money. In 2011 she is documented to have given away close to 70% of her net worth, taking her from billionaire status to just, well, wealthy.

In 2015 she was given the British Red Cross Humanity Award for all of her charitable efforts.

6. J.K. Rowling Was Never a “Good” Student

Despite finishing school and making her way into college, J.K Rowling was never considered a ‘stand out’ or ‘remarkable’ student amongst her professors or peers. There was no inkling amongst anyone that she would go on to change to course of fantasy literature as we know it. 

One of her professors remarked in recent years that Rowling was the sort of student who simply gave as much as was necessary to get by. This is likely because Rowling preferred to immerse herself in the writing works of Dickens and Tolkein, and didn’t have much time to spare to bother with university expectations. 

J.K. Rowling in 1999 – by Kingkongphoto & – Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps it was all this time spent decluttering the mind that eventually allowed for the magic of the wizarding world to flow through her?

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7. J.K. Rowling was the First Female Billionaire Novelist 

This title was given to her in 2011 by Forbes magazine, when Rowling officially hit billionaire status thanks to her empire of magical works. She was the first ever female writer to claim this status, and it was a big deal for the feminist movement worldwide. 

Due to her incredibly generous nature, however, Rowling quickly handed over an astounding £100 million to charity, causing an immediate loss of billionaire status (by technicality). 

J.K. Rowling at the White House – by Executive Office of the President – Wikimedia Commons

Forbes removed her from their list, due to this, though many still argue that she remains the official holder of this title as she did, at one stage, hold this money as her own. 

Rowling is no stranger to philanthropic gestures, as we know. This was but one example of her generous spirit, and not the only time she relinquished exceptionally large sums of money to charities of her choosing. 

8. J.K. Rowling’s Most Prized Possession is…

A set of first edition Jane Austen novels that she keeps near and dear at all times. 

Rowling has been an avid reader since before she could talk. She grew up losing herself in the worlds created by exceptional novelists, such as Austen and the likes. 

Emma by Jane Austen – by AgustinaCC – Wikimedia Commons

It was no doubt these sensational works that would later both inspire and equip Rowling with the mind necessary of cultivating the wizarding world that she did. It is also widely known that Rowling suffered from clinical depression throughout most of her life. Reading became her chosen therapy, and offered a much needed escape from the daunting nature of the regular world. 

When asked for book recommendation for her fans, Rowling gave the following:

  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Story of the Treasure Seekers, by Edith Nesbitt
  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger 
  • Hons and Rebels, by Jessica Mitford
  • Manxmouse: The Mouse Who Knew No Fear, by Paul Gallico
  • A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

9. Rowling struggled in Life before her work picked up

Photo by Wikimedia Commons – Wikimedia 

While she was finishing up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling and her daughter Jessica were staying at her sister’s house in Edinburgh. The author did not have a proper income at the time and was living off of welfare benefits.

Rowling initially penned the ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin, while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. This was later to develop into a mega project.

10. Her First book has a return of only £1,500

Photo by Wikimedia commons – Wikimedia 

The advance payment for the first Harry Potter book was only £1,500. Fast-forward to today, Rowling’s net worth is estimated to be around $1 billion, making her the richest author in the world.

11. Train holds a special place in Rowling’s heart

All Harry Potter fans know that King’s Cross Station is the magical entrance to the Wizarding World, but it also holds a personal significance for Rowling, since her parents met on a train going from the station.

12. She Donated millions to Comic Relief

J.K. Rowling penned two sidekick books to complement the Harry Potter series—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. The proceeds from both books were donated to Comic Relief (adding up to over £17 million).

13. Shopping for her second wedding dress was a secret

Photo by Wikimedia Commons – Wikimedia 

Rowling revealed that she wore camouflage when she bought her wedding dress for her second marriage because she didn’t want to be recognized.