Full of wizards, muggles, spells and Quidditch, the Harry Potter franchise is a global phenomenon that still garners the support of loyal fans to this day. The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is the first person to become a billionaire from being a novelist. In 2011, the movie series was the highest-grossing film franchise ever. Her swift rise to fame has caused some to question how that would even be possible for one person to achieve, sparking the conspiracy that Rowling didn’t write the series.
J.K. Rowling was a poor and struggling single mother when she planned outlines for the books on napkins. Her rags-to-riches story inspires her readers and staunch supporters. Yet, some people find her story hard to believe. She wrote six hefty books that grossed a staggering 250 million in copies sold in the short span of 10 years. Through her success, Rowling became a household name in just a few years, even though she started without any notoriety. While her story may seem impossible, luck and timing can likely be attributed to her massive success.
Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 when she was waiting on a delayed train to London’s King’s Cross Station. While living in Portugal, she continued writing stories about the boy who went to wizarding school. Rowling found herself living in Edinburgh, unemployed and on welfare. She brought her daughter Jessica to coffee shops where she began writing the books on a typewriter. The first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was picked up by a small publisher in 1995 after a round of rejections. The book appeared in print two years later with 500 copies released.
The book experienced great success – it sold 300,000 copies in two years in the U.K. and earned honors and recognition. Rowling then sold the book to Scholastic in the U.S. From there, her success gained speed as she accepted a seven-figure movie deal with Warner Bros. by 1998. Her fame spiked again in 2000 with the worldwide premiere of the fourth book. She wrote the 636 pages in just one year.
Her fast rise to success and quick pace of churning out books caught the attention of Norweigan film director Nina Grünfeld. Grünfeld sparked controversy by questioning whether Rowling truly wrote Harry Potter. She believed Rowling’s hopeful story was no more than a fabrication by major corporations looking to profit off the rags-to-riches story. She argued that there was no way Rowling could’ve experienced this amount of success by coincidence, as the publishing and media industries had a rigid power structure that would make it impossible for Rowling to reach that level of fame. Her conspiracy theory claimed that a team of writers collaborated on the series and that Rowling herself is just an actress.
Other Norweigan publishers have refuted Grünfeld’s claims, pointing out that there are flaws in Rowling’s writing that prove she wrote the novels in a short period of time. While major corporations could probably pull off the elaborate lie, the history behind Rowling’s story is too convincing. There are numerous cafes in Edinburgh that publicize that Rowling worked on Harry Potter in their facilities, which would be hard to orchestrate among that many business owners. The complexity of Rowling’s novels also may make it seem like multiple writers collaborated on the series, as the details of spells and rules to Quidditch are impressive and imaginative. Yet, readers can’t underestimate Rowling’s capabilities, as she did graduate from the University of Exeter, a prestigious and high-ranking university.
The one aspect of Rowling’s story that seems far-fetched is the publishing of her first book. It’s difficult to get published as an unknown author. While Rowling faced rejection before she got an offer, she still published her first book fairly quickly after she wrote it. In addition, she was published under a small publisher, so it seems unusual that she would’ve been able to get the exposure for her series to gain speed.
While Rowling’s small, humble beginning turned to international recognition may seem impossible, her big break can likely be attributed to her uniqueness in the publishing industry. Rowling created a series so beloved because of its originality. The conspiracy that she didn’t write Harry Potter is compelling, but her history was too specific to be a fabrication.
Diana Witt is a sophomore theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org.