J.K. Rowling‘s rags-to-riches writing story is well known, but exactly how ragged was her pre-Harry Potter life? The rumor mill still circulates tales of Rowling’s life before the fame, before the glamour, before the Potters. Here’s everything we dug up about Rowling before we all knew her, to find an answer for if she was actually homeless or if that fact is just as fictional as her books.
Everyone loves a good underdog story; just look at the success of Harry Potter. From the boy who lived under the stairs to a true hero of the wizarding world, readers followed his story with a passion, voraciously devouring each new book the moment it hit bookstore shelves. A similarly well-known underdog story is that of Harry’s creator, author J.K. Rowling.
There are tales of Rowling sketching Harry’s stories on napkins, living on the streets, and continuing to persevere with his story despite the odds. Yes, her tale of tragedy and triumph is quite well known, but how tragic actually were her pre-Harry circumstances? One rumor is that she was actually homeless at one point during her writing of the book. A literal starving artist tale.
Yet while Rowling’s pre-author life might have been less than glamorous, apparently it wasn’t quite as destitute as one may have thought. It turns out Rowling wasn’t homeless, she received government welfare and lived in government-provided housing in Scotland. She lived in a small apartment in Lief, Scotland, which is just a few short miles from her current sprawling home in Edinburgh. In fact, in an interview, Rowling visits her old apartment and walks through the places where Harry Potter was born.
Not to diminish the true-life tale of triumph that is J.K. Rowling, but if we are going to tell her story, let’s at least tell it right. Her true story needs no embellishment and apparently, her being homeless is just that. It turns out the napkin sketches detail is also an embellishment. Rumor had it that Rowling drew Harry’s story out on napkins on the train between Edinburgh and London, but in an interview with CBS, Rowling rebukes this claim. “No, I did not write on napkins. I could afford pens and paper, yeah.” Not to diminish her financial situation, however, Rowing was on welfare and reportedly did skip meals in order to ensure her children had enough to eat.
Rowling’s humble beginnings paved the way for a young wizard from equally humble beginnings to make his way to the top. Yet despite her significantly changed circumstances, all that glitters has not been gold for this Hogwarts creator. Unfortunately, she has learned the hard way that with a greater platform, comes a greater responsibility. Derogatory comments made towards the transgender community by the author have put her in hot water with fans and the public alike.