LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - It is a classic rags-to-riches tale.
In the mid-1990s, author J.K. Rowling was a single mother claiming state benefits and writing in Edinburgh cafes while her daughter napped. She had no agent or publisher and planned to return to teaching to make ends meet.
Just 10 years later, in February 2004, the creator of the Harry Potter stories was declared the first dollar-billionaire writer by Forbes magazine, and her personal fortune has swelled since as more books and films appeared.
Joanne Rowling, 41, has questioned estimates of her wealth in the past.
But there is no doubt that she is one of the world's most famous authors, and probably its most successful, having sold 325 million copies of the first six books in her seven-book Harry Potter series.
The seventh and final instalment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", is expected to break publishing records when it hits the shelves on July 21, ending months of media hype and frenzied anticipation among millions of Potter fans worldwide.
It comes just days after the release of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", the fifth Hollywood adaptation. The first four films earned around $3.5 billion at the box office.
Rowling has talked of the downside to her fame and fortune, but the Potter success did give her a sense of self respect she did not have as an unemployed, single mother.
"Yes. I don't feel like quite such a waste of space any more," she said in a 2003 interview, when asked whether success had changed her. "I totally felt a waste of space. I was lousy."
IT BEGAN ON A TRAIN...
Rowling was born in 1965 and enjoyed telling stories to her younger sister Di from an early age. She said she was writing "almost continuously" from the age of six, and as a teenager harboured thoughts of one day becoming an author.
Rowling attended Exeter University in England, where she studied French, before moving to London where her longest job was working with Amnesty International.
According to her online autobiography, the idea for Harry Potter first came to Rowling on a crowded train from Manchester to London, but because she did not have a pen she developed the character of the boy wizard in her mind.
She began writing "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" that evening.
In December, 1990, her mother died after suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years, an event which Rowling said "changed both my world and Harry's forever".
The following year, she moved to Portugal as an English teacher and met and married journalist Jorge Arantes, with whom she had her first child Jessica. The couple later divorced.
Rowling left Portugal for Edinburgh, where her sister Di was living.
There she finished her novel, writing most evenings and dashing into cafes when Jessica fell asleep in her pushchair.
She managed to find an agent, Christopher Little, but it took him a year to find a publisher to agree to print the first Harry Potter novel - Bloomsbury in London.
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" went on sale in 1997, winning several awards and helping earn the author a U.S. publisher.
In December, 2001, Rowling married Neil Murray, an anaesthetist, and the couple have had two children.