She may not be an Edinburgh native, but J.K. Rowling has become one of its most popular writers since she first arrived and chose to stay. She is most famous for the Harry Potter series of novels but she has written adult fiction since then and even taken on a pseudonym for a new direction with her writing.
Joanne Rowling was born in 1965 and grew up near Chepstow. She went onto study at Exeter University before working for Amnesty International in London and then moving to Manchester. It was in 1990 on a train between Manchester and London where the “fully formed” idea for Harry Potter came to her and back in London she began to write. Her career then took her to Portugal where she taught English as a foreign language and her daughter was born. It was then, in 1993, after the breakdown of her marriage, Rowling first moved to Edinburgh.
Whilst managing her new life with her young daughter Rowling continued to write, reportedly around many of Edinburgh’s cafes including The Elephant House and Nicolson’s Café and there Harry Potter came to life.
In June 1997 the first Harry Potter novel was published by Bloomsbury and it soon began to win awards and the sequel was expected. Rowling won the Smarties Prize with both her first novel and its sequel and the third novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, also picked up the Smarties Prize, making Rowling a record breaker. In total Rowling’s Harry Potter series reached seven titles and each of them picked up at least one award and became amongst the most popular books in the world. Harry Potter is now a global brand with a value of billions of pounds and the last four books are famous for consecutively breaking their own records as the fastest-selling books in history.
After the success of Harry Potter, Rowling waited until 2012 to write a different kind of novel and her first novel actually written for adults rather than just loved by them, The Casual Vacancy, was a 1 million copies best seller. She also writes under the pen name Robert Galbraith with the detective stories The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil all gaining great critical responses.
J.K. Rowling is probably the most famous writer in the world so it is fitting that she called Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, her home and it was where her most famous characters were brought to life.