This week JK Rowling published The Christmas Pig, her first children’s book since Harry Potter. She dreamt up the boy wizard on a delayed train journey to King’s Cross when she was 25, and wrote the first book “in cafés, with my daughter sleeping next to me”, she told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 2000.
She used the pen name JK Rowling rather than Joanne because her publishers feared boys wouldn’t read a book written by a woman. “I argued,” she says, but “I was so grateful to be published they could have called me anything”. She studied French and classics at Exeter University and loves collecting weird words. Dumbledore is an old British word for a bumblebee that’s “straight out of Thomas Hardy”. Practising witches have approached her in book-signing queues and whispered: “I’m trying the spells.”