Joanne Kathleen Rowling
Joanne Rowling (1965), pen name J.K. Rowling, is a British novelist, best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 500 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history, and the basis for a series of films which has become the highest-grossing film series in history.
Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen.
‘Rowling’ pronounced ‘rolling’, is often miss-pronounced in the United States as ‘railing’. In a 2012 interview, Rowling noted that she no longer cared that people pronounced her name incorrectly.
In daily life she calls herself ‘Jo’ and has said, ‘No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry.’ Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murray when conducting personal business. During the Leveson Inquiry, (a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, following the News International phone hacking scandal), Rowling gave evidence under the name of Joanne Kathleen Rowling.
Outside of the Harry Potter story arc, but set in the same universe, Rowling wrote three books of which two are under pen names; ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ under the pen name Newt Scamander and ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ under the pen name Kennilworthy Whisp. A small biography of Kennilworthy Whisp: ‘Kennilworthy Whisp is a recognised Quidditch expert, who even calls himself a true fanatic. He lives in Nottinghamshire, but divides his time between his home in Nottinghamshire and the place where the Wigtown Wanderers play that week. Whisp is also a successful writer. He has written many books about Quidditch. His most famous book is ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’, a book about the past, the origin, formation and building of modern Quidditch. He has written a book about the Wigtown Wanderers, his favourite Quidditch team. And a biography of Dai Llewellyn. He has also written a study on defensive Quidditch tactics. He is a celebrated author in the wizarding world. His hobbies are backgammon, vegetarian cooking and collecting classic broom steal.’
Over the years, Rowling often spoke of writing a crime novel. In 2007, during the Edinburgh Book Festival, author Ian Rankin claimed that his wife spotted Rowling ‘scribbling away’ at a detective novel in a café. Rankin later retracted the story, claiming it was a joke, but the rumour persisted, with a report in 2012 in The Guardian speculating that Rowling's next book would be a crime novel. In an interview with Stephen Fry in 2005, Rowling claimed that she would much prefer to write any subsequent books under a pseudonym, but she conceded to Jeremy Paxman in 2003 that if she did, the press would probably ‘find out in seconds’.
In April 2013, Little Brown published ‘The Cuckoo's Calling’, the purported début novel of author Robert Galbraith, who the publisher described as ‘a former plainclothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry’. The novel, a detective story about the suicide of a supermodel, sold 1500 copies in hardback, and received acclaim from other crime writers and critics—a Publisher's Weekly review called the book a ‘stellar debut’, while the Library Journal's mystery section pronounced the novel ‘the debut of the month’.
India Knight, a novelist and columnist for the Sunday Times, tweeted on 9 July 2013 that she had been reading ‘The Cuckoo's Calling’ and thought it was good for a debut novel. In response, a tweeter with the name Jude Callegari said that the author was ‘Rowling’. Knight responded ‘EH?’ but got no further reply. Knight notified Richard Brooks, arts editor of the Sunday Times, who began his own investigation. After discovering that Rowling and Galbraith had the same agent and editor, he sent the books for linguistic analysis, which found similarities, and subsequently contacted Rowling's agent who confirmed it was Rowling's pseudonym. Within days of Rowling being revealed as the true author, sales of the book rose by 4000 percent.
Soon after the revelation, Brooks pondered whether Jude Callegari could have been Rowling herself as part of wider speculation that the entire affair had been a publicity stunt. Some also noted that many of the writers who had initially praised the book (before Rowling was unmasked as its author.), such as Alex Bray or Val McDermid, were within Rowling's circle of acquaintances; however, both vociferously denied any knowledge of Rowling's authorship. Judith ‘Jude’ Callegari was revealed to be the best-friend of the wife of Chris Gossage, a partner within Russell’s Solicitors, Rowling's legal representatives. Rowling released a statement saying, ‘To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russell’s, a reputable professional firm, and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced’; Russell’s apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the leak, confirming it was not part of a marketing stunt and revealed that ‘the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly’. Rowling has accepted a charitable donation from Russell’s, which includes reimbursement of her legal costs and a payment to the Soldiers’ Charity.
Writing on website Robert-Galbraith.com Rowling explained her decision to publish under a pseudonym: ‘I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.’ and confirmed that she ‘fully intends to keep writing the series’ and will do so under the pseudonym. Rowling also explained on the website that she took the name from one of her personal heroes, Robert Kennedy, and a childhood fantasy name she had invented for herself, Ella Galbraith for her pseudonym.
Bury, L. (2013). ‘JK Rowling tells story of alter ego Robert Galbraith’, Guardian News Service, retrieved 25 July 2013
‘JK Rowling’, Television Tropes & Idioms, retrieved 1 August 2013
‘J. K. Rowling’, Wikipedia, retrieved 1 August 2013
‘Leveson Inquiry’, Wikipedia, retrieved 10 October 2013
previous A–Z next