Rags to riches: The J.K. Rowling quiz

By: Bambi Turner
Image: youtube

About This Quiz

The rise of "Harry Potter" in pop culture is nothing short of astounding, and when you consider that this global phenomenon came from a struggling single mom -- who had never written a book before her big break -- the achievement seems downright miraculous. Take our quiz to see how much you know about the life and work of J.K. Rowling!

How many publishers turned Rowling down before one finally offered to pay for her first "Potter" novel?

In the ultimate lesson on never giving up, Rowling's first Potter novel was turned down by a whopping 12 publishers before Bloomsbury offered her an advance of $2,250 and printed 1,000 copies... and then thousands and thousands more when the novel became one of the most popular children's books of all time.

In what year did Rowling's first book hit store shelves?

"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" made it to bookstores in the U.K. on June 26, 1997. Publishers in the U.S. were quick to pick up the series, offering Rowling more than $100,000 for the rights to the story, and publishing the book in the U.S. in September 1998.

True or false: Rowling relied on public assistance to survive while she penned her first book.

After spending a few years teaching English in Portugal, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, where she relied on public assistance to pay the bills as she wrote the first "Harry Potter" novel. She's doing quite a bit better now financially.

What does the "J" in J.K. Rowling stand for?

Born Joanne Rowling, the author was encouraged by her publishers to take on a pen name so her novels would appeal to a wider audience. She actually has no middle name, but chose the initial "K" in honor of her grandmother Kathleen.

True or false: Rowling was never interested in writing until she was an adult.

Rowling spent her childhood telling and writing stories she dreamed up. She wrote her first story, called "Rabbit," at age six.

Where did she start writing her first Harry Potter story?

The first notes for the story that would become Harry Potter were drafted on a napkin as Rowling rode a train from Manchester to London.

True or false: Rowling is the first billionaire author in history.

In 2004 -- when only five of her bestselling "Harry Potter" books had been released -- "Forbes" named Rowling a billionaire and called her the first person in history to reach billionaire status by writing books.

Which of these books did NOT come out in 2001?

Rowling released two shorter collections in 2001, to raise money for charity, with the publication of "Fantastic Beasts" and "Quidditch Through the Ages." She did the same thing in 2008, when she released a very exclusive edition of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard."

What was Rowling's primary reason for using a pen name for her post-Potter novels?

Rowling chose to write her second major book series under the pen name Robert Galbraith, citing the desire for reduced hype and "unvarnished feedback" as the reasoning behind her decision.

How long did it take for news to break that Robert Galbraith was really Rowling?

Rowling published "The Cuckoo's Calling" in April 2013. It took just three months for people to sniff out the author's true identity, and Rowling confirmed the news on July 14, 2013. Sales of the book immediately skyrocketed.

True or false: Rowling graduated from Oxford.

Rowling took the entrance exam for Oxford, but didn't get in. She went to Exeter instead, graduating with a degree in French and Classics.

True or false: Rowling and Harry Potter share a birthday.

It seems only fitting that the author should share her birthday with her most famous creation -- the Boy who Lived. Both J.K. and Harry celebrate their big day on July 31st, but Rowling didn't get a Hogwarts letter when she turned 11.

What is the name of Rowling's Potter-themed website?

Rowling launched her website, Pottermore, on her birthday, July 31, 2011. She uses the site to add new stories in the Potter universe and to share games and wizarding experiences with fans. Wannabe Slytherins or Gryffindors can even get sorted!

What did Rowling name her first adult novel?

Rowling's first adult effort came out on September 27, 2012. "The Casual Vacancy" focused on a local election in the tiny English town of Pagford.

True or false: J.K. Rowling wrote "The Cursed Child."

Fans were thrilled with the release of "The Cursed Child" in 2016. The play premiered in London and a book version of the script had fans lining up at bookstores. Many were surprised to learn that while Rowling oversaw the project, she didn't actually write the script -- leading to some dubious story lines.

Who is the hero of Rowling's series of mystery novels, written under the name Robert Galbraith?

Rowling's Galbraith novels focus on former British military police officer turned private detective Cormoran Strike.

Which of these Cormoran Strike novels came first?

Rowling introduced her new protagonist, Cormoran Strike, in "The Cuckoo's Calling" in 2013. The same character went on to star in "The Silkworm" in 2014 and "Career of Evil" in 2015.

Why did Bloomsbury take a chance on Rowling's first "Potter" novel?

After being turned down by 12 publishers, the first "Harry Potter" novel ended up at Bloomsbury. An exec at the company handed the manuscript to his 8-year-old daughter, Alice. After she liked it, the company decided to take a chance on the book.

What sport has Rowling said inspired quidditch?

Believe it or not, Rowling based quidditch on basketball, which she calls her favorite sport to watch.

When is "The Cursed Child" set, compared to the events in the original seven "Harry Potter" books?

"The Cursed Child" takes place 19 years after the events in the first "Harry Potter" book. The play focuses on Albus Severus, who is Harry and Ginny's youngest son, as he heads off to Hogwarts.

True or false: Rowling wrote the screenplay for all the Harry Potter books.

Rowling left the screenwriting to others, though she did have plenty of control over how her work was used. She did write the screenplay for the 2016 film, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," which focused on textbook writer Newt Scamander.

How many movies were made from the original seven "Harry Potter" books?

Hollywood transformed the original seven books in the series into eight very successful films. Each book became a movie, with the exception of the final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which was split into two films due to its length.

How many copies of the "Harry Potter" books were sold in the 20 years since the first book was released?

Rowling sold a staggering 450 million copies of her "Harry Potter" books between 1997 and the start of 2017. Rowling earned a cool billion in royalties from the novels alone.

How much did Rowling get when she sold the film rights for the first four books?

Rowling picked up a cool $2 million when she sold the film rights for her first four "Harry Potter" novels. The movies went on to gross $3.5 billion, and rumor has it that Rowling earned a share of the box office on top of her upfront payment.

How many kids does Rowling have?

Rowling is proud mom to three kids, including oldest daughter Jessica from her first marriage and two younger kids with husband Neil Murray, who she married in 2001.

True or false: Rowling gave so much to charity that she got knocked off the "Forbes" list of billionaires.

"Forbes" listed Rowling as the first billionaire author in 2004. After giving $160 million to charity, "Forbes" removed Rowling from the billionaire list in 2012. She's made much more since then, but she keeps her earnings under wraps.

How much did Rowling earn for licensing her books to theme parks?

Rowling earned an estimated $60 to $80 million in licensing fees for allowing Universal to open "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" in 2010. This, plus other parks and additions, has netted her around $100 million as of 2016.

True or false: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is a prequel to Rowling's "Harry Potter" books.

"Fantastic Beasts" takes place around 70 years before Harry Potter went to Hogwarts. Rowling's short 2001 book was transformed into a 2016 blockbuster movie, with at least two additional films optioned.

True or false: Rowling named a civil rights activist as her hero.

Rowling names civil rights activist and author Jessica Mitford, who lived from 1917 to 1996, as her hero. She even named her oldest daughter after Mitford.

Rowling made headlines in 2007 when she announced that which beloved character is gay?

During a speech at Carnegie Hall in October of 2007, Rowling responded to a fan's question with the confirmation that Dumbledore was gay. Her news about a character in the Harry Potter series made headlines around the world.

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