Before they were famous
J. K. Rowling, secretary
In this article

J. K. Rowling, secretary

Before J.K. Rowling was famous

After graduating from the University of Essex with a degree in French and Classics, Joanne Rowling studied for a year in Paris before moving to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary at Amnesty International. She then took on a secretarial role at a publishing firm where she sent out rejection letters to prospective authors.

But writing was what Joanne really wanted to do. She began writing at the age of 6 with a story called Rabbit, and her love of making up stories never went away. While working as a secretary, Joanne would often scribble down ideas for stories when she was supposed to be taking minutes of meetings!

Her career change

In 1990, whilst stuck on a delayed train from Manchester to London, the idea of writing a story about a young boy attending a school of wizadry came to her... and so the character of Harry Potter was born.

But it took 7 years before the idea became a book. Divorced and a single mother, she fought depression and poverty but it was during this difficult period that she completed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

The manuscript was reportedly rejected by three publishers before she was signed up and went on to become the highest-earning woman in Britain. Following the success of the eight Harry Potter books and films, she has amassed an estimated fortune of £530 million.

© Paul Grover / Rex Featu/REX/SIPA

Women in Focus Editor
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Article Plan Before they were famous
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