Career

J. K. Rowling's secret identity

How the Harry Potter author's plan to stay anonymous as the writer of The Cuckoo's Calling came unstuck.

By Judy Kean

Best-selling writer J.K. Rowling has revealed how she found herself in the type of predicament one of her Harry Potter characters might easily have landed themselves in – pretending to be something they were not.

Four years ago, she’d written a murder mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and had it published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

“You can probably understand the appeal of going away and creating something very different, and just letting it stand or fall on its own merits,” says the author, whose real first name is Jo.

But things became tricky when the BBC called her agent, wanting to turn her book – which enjoyed moderate success – into a television series.

“They wanted to adapt it before they knew it was me,” says Jo.

“The situation was becoming increasingly complicated, largely because Robert was doing rather better than we had expected, but we all still hoped to keep the secret for a little longer.”

As it turned out, Jo was “outed” not long afterwards thanks to a tweet. One of the lawyers at a firm she had used told his wife’s best friend that Jo was Robert Galbraith, and that woman tweeted the information to a journalist who was praising the book on Twitter.

Jo was not happy – in fact, she took legal action against the lawyer. Still, it was good for sales. When she was revealed to be the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, book sales leapt by 4000%.

She has gone on to write two more books as Robert Galbraith and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling, the BBC TV adaptation of the first book, is just about to screen in the UK.

Jo (52) can’t help wishing she had stayed anonymous for longer. “I had a dream that I might be able to get maybe three books out under the pseudonym before anyone realised it was me.”

Once her secret was out, she was able to work with the producers on the three-part series.

She is now working on a fourth Robert Galbraith book.

She certainly doesn’t need to ever work again, thanks to the estimated $1200m fortune she’s made from Harry Potter books, films, theme park and merchandise.

It was recently announced that a decade after she last topped the list of highest earning authors of the year, she’s taken the number-one spot again, thanks to raking in a stunning $130m over the last 12 months.

read more from