By Rachel Kuipers
Joanne Rowling, more commonly known as J.K. Rowling, is widely celebrated for creating the fictitious world of the wizard Harry Potter; but there’s more to the story than that.
Rowling’s relationship with her parents as well as her depression influenced her writing according to A Year in the Life, a 2007 documentary directed by James Runcie that tells Rowling’s history over a one year period of filming.
Her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before Rowling was a teenager and she died when Rowling was six months into writing Harry Potter.
“The weird thing is, the essential plot didn’t change after my mother died, but everything deepened and darkened,” Rowling told Runcie. She said her strained relationship with her father inspired the many father figures present in the series.
Though Harry’s story is essentially over – the final movie was released in 2011 – Rowling continues to carry on both his legacy and her fame.
In the days leading up to Christmas of 2014, she released revealing short stories through Pottermore, her interactive website.
Pottermore allows fans to become involved in the wizarding world. Based on two sets of questions, players are sorted into houses and assigned a personalized wand. The site takes players through all seven books, revealing “secret” information set-by-step. Participants can play games and complete challenges to win points for their houses.
“I think it’s impressive how she’s still staying in it; it shows how much those books actually meant to people even though they’re fiction,” said sophomore kinesiology major Matthew Bower.
“I’ve been to where she wrote and … there’s small little awkward, abnormal cafes, and for some reason when I saw it I was like, ‘to sit here for hours, that’s passion’ …,” Bower said. “And that just shows that she’s not in it just for the riches, she’s in it for the enjoyment of what she does.”
People Magazine recently wrote about a letter Rowling sent to a fan who told her he experienced bullying and that she changed his life. In it she said, “that you have turned out to be a compassionate, moral, highly motivated person is high testimony to your courage. Gryffindor for you, my lad… .”
The consideration she shows her fans depicted in letters such as that isn’t the only reason she remains popular.
“Her writing ability got her so far in terms of a fan base alone, but when the movies were made, her books sales went out of control again,” said sophomore landscape architecture major Ryan Brown. “Most authors don’t have movie opportunities, and her great writing definitely helped her in that department.”