Joanne Kathleen Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling and the author of the Harry Potter series of fantasy books, believes that she's successful as a writer for children largely because she remembers what it's like to be a kid.
"I just wrote what I thought I would have liked to read when I was a kid," Rowling said recently during an interview in Chicago.
"I'm not a kid now (she's 34), but I sure remember what it was like."
So what was the author of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone like when she was 11 years old?
"I was a lot like Hermione," said Rowling (whose name rhymes with bowling.)
"But I wasn't that clever. I didn't love school . . . I was terrible at sports. I broke my arm when I was 12 playing netball. That's like basketball only it's more boring."
Rowling said she knew from the time she was 6 years old that she wanted to be a writer.
"I kept a journal in fits and starts," she said. "This is rather morbid, but I always thought that I might get hit by a bus and die and someone would find my journal and there'd be all these nasty things about people in there, so I would stop writing in my journals because I didn't want that to happen. Then I'd start again."
Rowling was born near Bristol, England. Her father was a manager at an automobile plant and her mother was a technician in a laboratory. Unlike Harry, Rowling did not attend a British boarding school, but a public school.
Her parents wanted her to become a translator or perhaps an interpreter at the United Nations, so Rowling studied French in college. But she really wanted to be a writer.
Much of her interest in writing came about because she dearly loved to read. Some of her favorite books as a child included those by Judy Blume, Louisa May Alcott and C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series. She also likes the writing of Roald Dahl, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which she considers "his masterpiece."
"And I suppose the one book that very much influenced Harry Potter was Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge . . . I liked all the food descriptions and I try to put lots of descriptions about meals into all the Harry books."
Rowling has a daughter, Jesse, who is 6. Jesse has begged to hear the Harry Potter books so Rowling has started to read them to her.
The family has two pets. "One is a vicious rabbit named Jemimah. Jesse named him. And the other is a male guinea pig whose name is Jasmine."
While Rowling was on tour in the United States, appearing at book stores and meeting children, she carried with her the manuscript for the fourth Harry Potter book.
"Not that I'm planning on getting very much done," she said, "but I don't like to be away from him."
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