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JK Rowling reveals why she did not use her real name on Harry Potter books

·3 min read

JK Rowling has revealed she did not use her full name when publishing the first Harry Potter book because she was “paranoid” following a “difficult” marriage.

The author previously said she decided against including Joanne – her real name – because the publisher feared an audience of young boys would not want to read books by a woman.

Rowling has now revealed another reason for the change to her name on the cover of 1997’s Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

JK Rowling
Harry Potter author JK Rowling has revealed paranoia over her first marriage stopped her putting her full name on the books that made her famous (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Speaking to Simon Armitage on his The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed podcast, the writer said she did not want to catch the attention of her Portuguese first husband, Jorge Arantes, who she married in 1992 before splitting a year later.

She said: “I’ve actually never said part of this before, it is true that my publisher felt that this was a book that boys would also like and they were definitely keen to ‘unisex’ me a bit.

“This is the bit I’ve never actually said before: I actually wanted to be published under a completely different name because I’d come out of this very difficult marriage and I was a little bit paranoid.

“It was silly really because my ex-husband knew what I’d been writing, he never read it but we had talked about it so if he ever heard about it I suppose he would know it was me.

“But I didn’t imagine it was going to be a success, I didn’t imagine it was going to be in Portugal, but I was a little bit paranoid at the time.”

JK Rowling
JK Rowling was married to a Portuguese TV reporter in the 1990s (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Asked by poet Armitage if she feared having her full name on the book might make her “vulnerable”, Rowling said she had a restraining order against her ex-husband when she decided on a pseudonym.

She said: “So JK actually suited me a bit, to not have my name on (the book) somehow, although of course it is my surname, but I don’t really feel like ‘JK’.”

Rowling, 55, has daughter Jessica, 27, with TV reporter Arantes.

She has been married to Scottish doctor Neil Murray since 2001 and they have a son and a daughter together.

Elsewhere on the podcast, Rowling brought along two rare artefacts from her writing career in the form of “minuscule, very old notebooks” from her early work on boy wizard Harry.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone launched JK Rowling’s career (Bonhams/PA)

She said: “These were my first two Potter notebooks, and to date only three people including me have ever seen them. I’ve never shown people this because there are things in these notebooks I just didn’t want seen.”

Rowling, who has sold more than 500 million Harry Potter books, admitted she almost considered them too private to bring on to the show.

She said: “I nearly chickened out of bringing these Simon, and I’m not going to show you the bit I’m talking about because I flicked through them last night, I got them down from the attic and I realise there’s an appalling poem in one of them.”

And Rowling, who has attracted criticism for her stance on transgender issues, said it is doubtful she will ever write a memoir, blaming her often poor recollection of events.

Listen to The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed at 7.15pm on July 24 on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

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