I wanted to know this because I was curious what triggered J.K. Rowling to write this.
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According to Bloomsbury, she got the idea at a train station.
JKR’s biography on Bloomsbury says she first got the idea for the Harry Potter series on a trip to Kings Cross Station.
J.K. Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train travelling from Manchester to London King’s Cross in 1990. Over the next five years, she began to plan out the seven books of the series. She wrote mostly in longhand and amassed a mountain of notes, many of which were on scraps of paper.
For specific parts of the story, she’s at times cited specific things, such as Hermione being a younger version of herself, or Lockhart being someone she knew. She’s also mentioned certain folklore and mythology inspired her, like “The Pardoner’s Tale” inspiring the story of the Peverell brothers.
More generally, she’s said she doesn’t know where her inspiration comes from, in this interview.
THE question you are most frequently asked as an author is: "Where do you get your ideas from?" I find it very frustrating because, speaking personally, I haven't got the faintest idea where my ideas come from, or how my imagination works. I'm just grateful that it does, because it gives me more entertainment than it gives anyone else.
Multiple times J. K. Rowling was asked this in interviews, but even she doesn't really know. The most relevant one is probably a somewhat bad 1999 interview:
What inspired the Harry Potter series?
I really don't know where the idea came from. It came into my mind when I was on a train to London. Harry as a character came fully formed, as did the idea for his sidekicks, the characters of Ron and Hermione. It started with Harry, then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head. It was an excitement I'd never known before. The characters arrived in 1990, but it took me six years to write the book.
This question from the FAQ on her old website is relevant too:
Where do you get your ideas?
This is the question every author is asked most. The answer is ‘out of my head’, but people don’t seem very satisfied with that, it’s too boring, even though it’s true. I suppose an idea might be triggered by something you see or hear, though I can’t remember an instance of that happening to me. For me, the most idea-producing-situation is to be sitting in a fairly quiet corner of a café, looking down at a nice blank sheet of paper, with a big mug of tea slightly to the left and a new pen clutched in my right hand.