J.K. Rowling’s Literary Double-life

J.K. Rowling Literary double lifeReaders select books for a number of reasons. As they scroll through an e-Reader or browse shelves perhaps a title or cover captures their attention. Many want only those fiction novels listed as best-sellers, but a few scroll lower for titles written by unknowns hoping to find a different reading experience. Robert Galbraith’s crime fiction The Cuckoo’s Calling published in 2013 gained a respectable amount of attention and sales for a first time writer, but the book was far from a best-seller until it was revealed the author himself mysteriously didn’t exist. Instead the name Galbraith was as fictional as the contents of the book, and the true name behind the work was J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series.

After the initial surprise Rowling’s fans were eager to read the novel penned by their favorite author. The book sky rocketed in a day into the fiction sales stratosphere as Rowling’s devoted readers placed their orders for a copy. For her part Rowling informed journalists who inquired that she published under the pseudonym in order to defy just such fanfare regarding her latest effort.

J.K. Rowling started her career in writing working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. The idea for the young wizard Harry Potter occurred to her while she waited for a delayed train on the way to work in 1990, but it wasn’t until the death or her mother, and the divorce from her husband that Rowling felt compelled to begin writing the first book of the series Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. At the time of the book’s publishing in 1997 Rowling was raising her young son, and the pair were struggling financially, but as this reading public discovered the “wizarding” world of young Harry Potter her life changed dramatically. By the time the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in 2007 Rowling was among the wealthiest writers in the western world.

In a canny move for a relatively young author Rowling kept overall approval on scripts for the movies based on her series, and maintained creative control even serving as a producer on the final movie.  With the series over fans continue to long for more work in the same vein, but Rowling commented publicly as early as 2008 of her hope to pen adult fiction.

For her pseudonym Rowling states on her website she wanted to “take my writing persona as far away as possible from me”. She imbued her pen name with a history that included military and national security experience as this gave her fictional creation a reason to avoid making personal appearance, or having his picture taken for the back cover of the novel.

The title The Cuckoo’s Calling she attributes to a poem by Christina Rossetti. The poem A Dirge laments the tragedy of a life taken too young.  On her site Rowling explains her determination to write under another name. She was she writes “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.”

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