Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, divorce from her first husband and relative poverty until Rowling finished the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997. There were six sequels, the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Since then, Rowling has written three books for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction novels The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) and The Silkworm (2014).
Rowling has led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. She is the United Kingdom's best-selling author since records began, with sales in excess of £238m. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million, ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in the United Kingdom. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans. In October 2010, Rowling was named the "Most Influential Woman in Britain" by leading magazine editors. She has supported charities including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos (formerly the Children's High Level Group), and in politics supports the Labour Party and Better Together.