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J K Rowling - author of Harry Potter

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The author of the Harry Potter books was born in Yate, Gloucestershire on 31 July 1965, and then moved to nearby Winterbourne. She wrote her first book at the age of six and called it 'Rabbit'.

Exeter University

After Rowling left school, she attended Exeter University to study French with Greek and German, initially living in the Duryard hall of residence and then in Pennsylvania. Some think that Harry Potter's suburban home was based on the private estates in Pennsylvania. She spent a year studying in Paris as part of her course. Upon her return to Exeter she continued to make notes in her spare time for possible novels, re-reading The Lord of the Rings, a major influence on her writing; she managed to run up a £50 overdue fine at the University library. She was involved in university drama and helped in staging the Agricultural Cosmonaut by Obaldia, designing the costumes for the cast and attending many rehearsals.

Rowlings parents hoped that in studying languages, she would enjoy a career as a bilingual secretary. But Rowling remembers that she was very disorganised, which is not a good attribute for a secretary.

After completing her 3,000 word final essay in French, she graduated in January 1987 with a 2.2 and her father and mother who was in a wheelchair, in attendance. Glenda Jackson received an Honorary degree at the same ceremony.

First job

Rowling took her first job as a postgraduate with Amnesty International before moving to Portugal to teach English. In her spare mornings, she started writing about a boy wizard called Harry Potter, developing her ideas for her first book.

Rowling wrote most of the first Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone in a café in Edinburgh when she wasn't teaching French and looking after her young daughter. In 1996 the book was accepted by Bloomsbury and published to international acclaim in 1997. She was inspired by places in and around Exeter, including the Black Horse Inn in Longbrook Street and Gandy Street which was transformed into Diagon Alley in her novels.

Rowling was described as a day-dreaming student while at Exeter when she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters at the University in 2000, by Professor Peter Wiseman.

J K Rowling© Richard Young

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