“The Casual Vacancy,” Rowling’s much-anticipated departure from the genre of children’s fantasy, is a sprawling homage to the Victorian protest novel as typified by Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy. Like them, Rowling wishes to engage and enrage her readers, inspiring them to take socially conscious action.
In 2005, after seeing an article in the Sunday Times about children being kept in caged beds in institutions, J.K. Rowling felt compelled to address this terrible problem. As a result she founded the charity that became Lumos. She said, "I looked at that photograph of the boy in his cage bed and felt he has absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else has because I can think of nobody more powerless than a child, perhaps with a mental or a physical disability, locked away from their family. It was a very shocking realisation to me and that's where the whole thing started".
Yet what if the search for a God-figure wasn't limited to people? After all, God is ephemeral, transcendental, somehow beyond human. Looking for God beyond human form opens the possibility that something more abstract might fit the bill, something like love. Many of my students come to the conclusion that love is the closest approximation to God in Harry Potter, in part because God is defined as love in Christian tradition (1 John 4:16). Of course it goes without saying that love is all-good, but love also guides the operation and has the power to defeat Voldemort. Even in the first book, the reader sees evidence of love's God-likeness when Dumbledore tells Harry:
Danielle Tumminio taught "Harry Potter and Christian Theology" at Yale. Though the committee ridiculed the proposal at first, the class became extremely popular at Yale and later at Tufts. Tumminio's objective was to de-emphasize the witchcraft, which has spawned negative opinions of Harry Potter from the Christian community, and go to the core themes and morales.
Death is the key to understanding J K Rowling. Her greatest fear - and she is completely unhesitant about this - is of someone she loves dying. "My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic.
"I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it."
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
Many of the biographies I encountered mitigated the dark times Rowling went through with her first marriage, and instead focused on her success and fortune. Rowling openly admits to the hardships she went through in her personal interviews and speeches, and also tells how she was able to take her failure and depression and turn it around.
Jo then moved to northern Portugal, where she taught English as a foreign language. She married in October 1992 and gave birth to a daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she and Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, where Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The “K”, for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not appeal to the target audience of young boys.
Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, her course including one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London and worked as a researcher at Amnesty International among other jobs. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.
Many children lived in the new neighborhood. Their mothers often gathered for a chat over tea while the children played in yards up and down Nicholls lane. Among the playmates were Ian and Vikki Potter, a brother and sister whose last name Jo especially liked. She was not very fond of her own last name, which inspired all kinds of jokes from the other children about "Rowling stones" and "Rowling pins." Names fascinated Jo, and she tucked them away in her mind as she grew up.
She met and married a Portuguese journalist, Jorge Arantes, by whom she had her daughter, Jessica. But the marriage did not last and she moved to Edinburgh to be near her sister when Jessica was four months old. Times were hard. Rowling suffered clinical depression. She admitted that the Dementors in Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban, dark hooded creatures that suck out their victims' personalities by identifying their secret fears, were based on the dark feelings of her illness.
Rowling: I like writing too much for that. More of a problem is the fact that Harry Potter comes with so many business-related responsibilities that I'm able to write less often than I'd like. Besides, I have three children, although I'm used to working around my children. Yesterday, for example, I had a wonderful writing day. I got the children ready for school, and once my husband was out of the house with them, I made breakfast for myself in the kitchen. Still in my pajamas, I took my breakfast to bed with me, grabbed my laptop and spent four hours working in bed. Delightful.
Jo always loved writing more than anything. ‘The first story that I ever wrote down, when I was five or six, was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee. And ever since Rabbit and Miss Bee, I have wanted to be a writer, though I rarely told anyone so. I was afraid they’d tell me I didn’t have a hope.’ At school she would entertain her friends at lunchtime with stories.
J.K. Rowling, born on July 31, 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, England, became an international literary sensation when the first three installments of her Harry Potter children's book series took over the top three slots of The New York Times best-seller list. The phenomenal response to Rowling's books culminated in 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became the fastest-selling book in history. In 2012, Rowling published her first novel since the Harry Potter franchise, a book for adults titled The Casual Vacancy.