Everyone knows about Harry Potter. Now, you may have read the books, watched the movies, or even ignored the entire franchise over the past decade or so, but the fact remains - you know about Harry Potter.
Author JK Rowling is a beautiful example of rags to riches. Her personal tale is fuelled by sheer determination and pure willpower and much less about magic. It all started on a train from London to Manchester back in 1990...
For most passengers that day, the journey was a run of the mill commuter trip, but not for Joanne Rowling, as she was then known.
As the train passed through urban settlements and pockets of rolling countryside, she saw a vision of a scrawny young wizard, and suddenly a whole world manifested itself before her eyes:
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I saw Harry! I could see him very clearly – this scrawny little boy. And it was the most physical rush of excitement...It was the same feeling that you get when you meet someone new and feel as if you have found the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with.
Soon after that train ride, Rowling took refuge in her Manchester home and began to scribe a story that would change the literary world forever, but it would be a while before the likes of Hogwarts, Azkaban, and the full cast of characters became available on bookshelves.
Rowling married a man in Portugal who would become the father of her daughter, Jessica. Sadly, the marriage turned sour fast, and Rowling returned to the United Kingdom to live in Edinburgh.
Times were tough, and the budding author barely had two pennies to rub together; she couldn't find a job, and she struggled as a single mother so continued to write her book while on welfare. She didn't give up on her vision and took each day as it came, refusing to put her child in the hands of the state:
Anyone who has ever seen what state-run child care is like will understand why I couldn’t put my daughter in their hands during the day.
Emotionally battered and broken; Rowling had no motivation for anything but caring for her daughter and writing Harry Potter. She would scribe text in between looking after Jessica, caring little about her own well-being. Soon, she had another battle to fight: depression. She wondered if Potter was even worth it:
I had to fight my realistic side. I was a first-time author, so of course, I was going to struggle to get published. And just because I thought the story was great, didn’t mean anyone else would. To muster the willpower to keep writing, I had to truly believe in Harry. I knew he was bigger than me. I knew I had to do right by this book.
After an epic five-year struggle, Rowling finally finished the book. But the next hurdle was getting it published.
After being turned down by 12 of the biggest names in publishing, Rowling finally found one that was willing to give Harry a chance. For a mere $4,000, Bloomsbury publishing bought the rights to Harry Potter.
Rowling was delighted. It was one of the happiest days of her life.
My only lifetime ambition had just been fulfilled. I could not believe that I was actually going to be in print.
Of course, the book became an instant hit. Eventually, Scholastic Publishing bought its rights for $105,000 – more than they have ever paid any author in their history. And the rest, as they say, is history. Oh, Rowling is worth almost $1 billion these days.