The creator of the Harry Potter series found success despite serious challenges in her life. J.K. Rowling’s story is truly a rags-to-riches tale. She came up with very little and has become the UK’s best-selling author and one of the wealthiest women in the world.

1. Small Town Girl

J.K. Rowling grew up on the border of England and Wales. She always knew she wanted to be an author, and wrote her first book when she was six years old. The book told a story about a rabbit named Rabbit. Her mother loved and praised the work, which lead 6-year-old Rowling to consider publishing it, even at such a young age.

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Ian Gavan/Getty Images (via IMDb)

However, Rowling’s teenage years were rough and filled with family difficulties, stemming from her mother’s 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis. When Rowling’s mother passed away, Rowling was only 25 years old. She had been working on the Harry Potter series for six months, but her mother never knew about the work.

2. Turning Pain into Art

Rowling has been open about using painful experiences in her life as fuel for her work. She said that loss in her own life reflects in the Harry Potter world:

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The Independent

“My books are largely about death,” she told the Telegraph in 2006, referencing not only the death of Harry’s parents but also the villain Voldemort’s obsession with immortality. “I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We’re all frightened of it.”

3. Life-Inspired Characters

Rowling has admitted that the character Hermoine reflects a young version of herself. Like the character Hermione, Rowling was studious, obsessed with books, and very driven to succeed.

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Gareth Davies/Getty Images (via IMDb)

Some of the other character influences include an old, mischievous neighbor boy (Harry), a feared teacher (Snape), and even a Hell’s Angel she once met (Hagrid).

4. Battling Depression

Only two years after her mother passed away, Rowling gave birth to her daughter, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes. Soon after Jessica was born, Rowling divorced her husband, who sometimes became violent.

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Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo (via ABC News)

Following the divorce, Rowling struggled to get by as an unemployed single mother. Plus, she was dealing with clinical depression. She said that her mental illness inspired the Dementors in the story:

“I know sadness,” she told Oprah Winfrey. “Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling—that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what Dementors are.”

5. She Never Quits

Despite all her hardships, Rowling kept writing. When she was ready to publish her work, Rowling had to deal with even more rejection. Many publishing companies passed on her work. Finally, a London-based publisher called Bloomsbury said yes. This was also when she added the “K” to her pen name. Bloomsbury suggested the change to make her name appear more masculine, which is more appealing to an audience of young male readers.

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Getty Images

Soon, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became a bestseller. Children and adults all over the world were fascinated with this world of wizards, which sold more than 450 million copies of the books. The popularity of her work made Rowling one of the wealthiest women in the world, with Forbes estimating her worth at nearly $1 billion. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for creating such a wonderful story that we can all share.

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