1. She has wanted to be an author ever since she can remember: “As soon as I knew what writers were, I wanted to be one. I’ve got the perfect temperament for a writer; perfectly happy alone in a room, making things up.”
2. When she was extremely young, she would sit and copy words from books “without knowing what the words meant”.
3. She wrote her first story – called Rabbit – age six, and wrote her first novel at age 11. It was about “seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them”.
4. She was head girl at her secondary school, but doesn’t consider it much of an achievement.
5. One of her teachers, Steve Eddy, remembered Jo as “not exceptional” but “bright, and quite good at English”.
6. She applied to study at Oxford, but was rejected, and instead studied French at the University of Exeter. She said she did “no work whatsoever” while she was at university.
7. Her eldest daughter, Jessica, is named after Jessica Mitford, who was an author, investigative journalist, and civil rights activist.
8. It took Jo five years to plan all seven books in the Harry Potter series. Most of her plans were written by hand on odd scraps of paper.
9. She wrote the last book’s epilogue in 1990, before she had mapped out the series as a whole or even had a publisher.
10. In 2000, she said she’d hope to be placed in Gryffindor, but that in reality she’d probably end up in Ravenclaw. Later, the official Pottermore quiz sorted her into Gryffindor.
11. She has described Hermione as a combination of herself and her younger sister, Dianne: “that sort of annoying person who underneath is very insecure”.
12. When asked why Harry’s scar was shaped like a lightning bolt, she said, “To be honest, because it’s a cool shape. I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar.”
13. The “only time” she consciously put someone she knew into the Harry Potter books as a character was as Gilderoy Lockhart. She says she “barely exaggerated” what he was like in real life.
14. In 2003, her father sold a first edition copy of Goblet of Fire – which included a handwritten inscription reading “lots of love from your first born” – at auction for £27,500. They had stopped speaking earlier that year.
15. The three-year publishing gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix was a direct result of the pressure she felt because of the series’ success. She became so overwhelmed that she found it difficult to write, and told her publisher there “wouldn’t be a book next year”.
16. She maintains that she never truly finished Order of the Phoenix, saying she didn’t do her usual final edit before handing it over to her editors, “and it definitely shows”.
17. She almost called the final book Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and Harry Potter and the Peverell Quest, which she quickly decided against because the word “quest” was too cheesy.
18. Her favourite chapter from the entire Harry Potter series is Chapter 34 of Deathly Hallows, “The Forest Again”. Her favourite from the first book is “The Mirror of Erised”.
19. Her worst fear – like Mrs Weasley’s – is someone she loves dying. For that reason, she understands why Voldemort is so obsessed with conquering death.
20. If given the choice between all three Hallows, she would be tempted – like Harry – to choose the Resurrection Stone, but ultimately believes that “the greatest wisdom is in accepting that we all must die, and moving on”.
21. Her favourite funny line from the Harry Potter books is at the end of Deathly Hallows, when Ron responds to Peeves’ “Voldy’s gone mouldy” rhyme with “Really gives a feeling for the scope and tragedy of the thing, doesn’t it?”
22. At the height of the Potter craze, she had people going through her bins, stealing her post, and attempting to bribe her friends in order to find out information about the upcoming plot.
23. She briefly considered not publishing The Casual Vacancy – her first novel after Deathly Hallows – because she felt uncomfortable with the attention any book of hers would inevitably receive.
24. In 2011, Lifetime aired an unauthorised J.K. Rowling biopic called Magic Beyond Words, which she hasn’t seen because “the thought of watching it makes [her] curl up like a pretzel”.
25. In the same year, it was announced that she had become the first female billionaire novelist. She was removed from Forbes’ list the following year after giving around £100 million to charity
26. She once bought an expensive pair of earrings but felt guilty afterwards for spending the money, so wrote a cheque for the same amount to give to charity.
27. In 2013, she donated £10 million to help open the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh. The clinic is named after her mother, who had multiple sclerosis.
28. She read aloud from J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, but initially said no, because she thought she’d “wet herself or faint or something”.
29. She was once invited to visit South Africa by Nelson Mandela, but had to say no because she was pregnant.
30. In 2006, she revealed she had written another children’s book, meant for a younger audience than Harry Potter. She called it “a political fairy story” and it was about a monster.
31. Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies wanted her to star in an episode where her “imagination becomes real” and the Doctor has to “battle through a world of witches and wizards and CGI wonders”, but David Tennant refused the idea because it would be “too spoofy”.
32. She said that the author she identifies with most is E. Nesbit.
33. Her favourite drink is gin and tonic.