Featured Author: J.K. Rowling – Writer for All Ages
What makes J.K Rowling so special? She’s not the best writer in the world (she’s not), and the idea for Harry Potter is hardly original (Anthony Horowitz covered magical school in Groosham Grange in 1988). The thing that makes her so special is her ability to tell a ripping story. Storytelling is a gift, and Rowling has it in spades.
In the few years since Harry Potter first made his appearance in the muggle world, Rowling has cracked all sorts of records. For example, according to Wikipedia, it’s the best-selling book series ever, and the last four books each set records for the fastest-selling books ever. Rowling is at #11 on Wikipedia’s list of best-selling fiction authors, with estimated sales of between 350 million and 450 million copies. Agatha Christie is second on the list (behind Shakespeare) with estimated sales of between 2 billion and 4 billion. But, Rowling only has 11 books to Christie’s 85, which means that it’s entirely possible that Rowling could unseat the mystery maven.
Rags to riches
Rowling’s rags to riches story is well-known and doesn’t bear repeating. Suffice to say that she went from breadline to gold mine in record time. The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. By 2004 she was a billionaire (in dollars). In 2008, she was the 144th richest person in Britain. She’s one of the top 15 earning authors of 2013 with $13 million as of August.
Money does not make her world go round, however, as she consistently gives away large chunks of her fortune to good causes, including children’s welfare, anti-poverty, and multiple sclerosis.
Children to adults … to children again
Not many writers can successfully transition between children’s fiction and adult fiction (Neil Gaiman is one notable exception), so people were naturally very curious to see if Rowling could manage the change. Her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, was highly anticipated. It was so highly anticipated that it sold over 1 million copies in its first three weeks. It wasn’t well received critically, but that hasn’t stopped plans for a TV show.
She’s also tried to do what many successful writers have done before, and has written under a pseudonym. In April 2013, Robert Galbraith published his debut novel, a crime drama called The Cuckoo’s Calling. It was critically well-received, but it sold only about 500 copies. Then someone leaked the news that Galbraith was actually Rowling and, according to Wikipedia, sales skyrocketed by 4000%! A sequel is on the way, so, Agatha Christie watch out.
She has no intentions of leaving children’s writing behind her. In an article on the Guardian, she announced that a book for children younger than the Harry Potter readership was on the cards.
On a personal note
I love the Harry Potter books, but I didn’t love them straight away. It was only when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out that I was completely won over. I am, however, skeptical about her adult work, and so I haven’t given it a go. I have to admit to a growing curiosity about The Cuckoo’s Calling, so that might have to go on my Christmas wish list.
Should you read her?
Considering her sales, you probably have already. But if you haven’t, get over the hype and get your hands on a copy of The Philosopher’s Stone, then persevere. If you aren’t hooked by the fourth book, you aren’t human.
Written by Sandy Cosser
Image credit: Daniel Ogren, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr