Diana

Diana Wynne Jones died on Saturday. I heard the news on Monday morning, so I’ve had a day and a bit to absorb it before trying to write this. Which is probably a good thing; I’m not sure I’d have been able to do anything but wail if I’d tried to say anything right away.

I think the first Diana Wynne Jones book I ever read was the paperback of Charmed Life, some time in the early ’80s and I immediately went looking for more of the same. I was delighted to find the run of Greenwillow hardcovers under YA, and rapidly became a devoted fan.

In 1987, I attended the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Brighton, England that year. Practically the first thing I saw was that I’d been put on a panel that Diana was to moderate. I had that sinking sensation that you get when you know you’re going to make a fool of yourself in front of one of your idols, but it wasn’t like I was going to tell them I couldn’t do it. And then I walked into the Green Room a bit ahead of the panel, checking out name tags, and there she was.

She looked like the best kind of witch in the world, with bushy black hair down to her shoulders and an infectious grin, a book in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I took my courage in both hands and stepped up, and she blinked over at me and said cheerfully, “You’re on my panel. I have to introduce you. Who are you? What have you done?”

I was still suffering from the worst kind of stage fright, so I just pulled out the copies of my books that I’d brought along and handed them to her. She shuffled through them and then looked up at me with a frown. “But these look marvelous!” she said accusingly. “Why haven’t I heard of you?”

“Um, American writer?” I stammered, and she grumbled something about publishing and which books got published in different countries, and that was the start of a twenty-four-and-a-half-year friendship.

Most of the time, it was a letters-and-emails sort of friendship, and an erratic one at that. Neither of us had a lot of time to spend writing letters. Periodically, one of us would put together a big box of books that weren’t yet available in the other one’s home country and ship them off to the other; it was a toss-up whether it was more fun to pick out things I thought she’d like, or to see what she’d chosen for me. That was how I got hold of Nancy Farmer’s The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm, and Sally Odgers’ Translations in Celadon.

We saw each other mostly at conventions. There was one where Diana was going around asking everyone to suggest types of magic swords for a project she was working on. The suggestions got increasingly more hilarious as the hour got later, but she wouldn’t talk about the project because it wasn’t completely settled yet. The project turned out to be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which later generated The Dark Lord of Derkholm.

Diana always said that her books were true after the fact – whatever she wrote about eventually started happening to her in some way – and she had a string of hilarious anecdotes to prove it. She was friendly to nearly everyone, and she and her husband were beyond hospitable – when I told her I’d be back in England in 1996 and asked if we could arrange a meet-up, the next thing I knew, she’d arranged a ride down from London for me and my travel buddy so that we could stay overnight at her home.

She was funny and dear and energetic, and even when she complained about things, she was entertaining. I will miss her for the rest of my life, even more than I’ll miss her unwritten books, and I will always remember her as the best kind of witch there ought to be.

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42 Responses to Diana

  1. Deborah says:

    I fell in love with Diana Wynne Jones from her very first book. (“Charmed Life”, for the record.) She was one of the few writers I buy as soon as the book is available.

    Even now I’m finding it hard to believe she’s gone.

  2. Tim Silverman says:

    You’re the fourth of the blogs I read regularly that have posted about this sad event. It’s a measure of her stature that two of them are mainly devoted to politics and economics—one hardly ever mentions literary matters at all.

    It is dreadfully sad that I will never again wander into the children’s section of a bookshop and spot a new Diana Wynne Jones book that I can take home to read. She has been a fixture in my reading life since my childhood. She was one of the very few authors on my “automatically buy” list.

    My first of her books was Power of Three from the library some time in the late 70’s, probably not long after it came out. After that I read all of her others that were on the library shelves (Drowned Ammet, Charmed Life and Dogsbody as I recall), and since then have read pretty much everything of hers soon after it came out.

    I see there are a lot of reminiscences of her on the web now. Her personal warmth and humour reached a lot of people; her extraordinary body of work reached many more. She was one of the most inventive and original writers I have ever encountered.

  3. thewatergirl says:

    How very sad. I’m so sorry for you for the loss of your friend.
    I was not familiar with Diana Wynne Jones until I was almost out of high school, and I regret that I didn’t have her books around when I was young. I was reluctant at first when my older sister suggested I read “Howl’s Moving Castle,” but since she had introduced me to Alanna, Garion, Menolly and, most importantly, Cimorene, I decided to trust her. I’m so glad I did and now I have an almost complete collection of Jones’ books. It saddens me to know that there is now a finite amount of her books I can add to that shelf.

  4. Anica Lewis says:

    It’s lovely that you two were friends. I never knew that, but I always imagined from your respective books – which I love – that you would be, if you met.

  5. David Youngs says:

    I just had my attention drawn to her 2 years ago, when the newspaper reviewed a new edition of the Chrestomanci stories. I now check every bookstore to see if there’s one I don’t have.
    I followed a couple of links and found a short autobiography she’d written.

  6. Cheryl says:

    I’ve been reading Diana Wynne Jones for years, and I’m not sure I realized until this past week just how significant in children’s fantasy she is. It’s been beautiful and touching to see so many people expressing their appreciation for her books and, on several author blogs I follow, their relationship with her as a person too.

  7. Cara says:

    I can’t express how upset I am by this news. FInding her books was one of the best things that happened to me, and I’ve always held her up as the standard to which I compared all other books, including my own attempts. Whenever asked for a recommendation she was always at the tip of my tongue.

    I’m so glad to know that you were friends, and to hear that she was the exact sort of wonderful person that her books always showed me she was.

  8. green_knight says:

    I am sorry to hear you lost a friend. <Hugs>

  9. Mapleleaf says:

    I found, that Diane Wynne Jones has gone, on Saturday. I couldn’t believe it. I love her books since I read Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s awfully sad to understand that I will never see again her new charming, kind and funny book. I sympathize with you in your sorrow.

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  11. ABeth says:

    Charmed Life was one of my comfort books. O:(

  12. Chicory says:

    I am so sorry.

  13. Chicory says:

    I am so sorry. She sounds like such a wonderful person to know. I was introduced to her books very late, but I love `The Power of Three.’

  14. judi says:

    As sad as I am at Diana’s passing, I’m happy to find out so many of the authors I love also love Diana :) My first one, I THINK, was Power of Three. But I’ve re-read Charmed life at least once a year since it was written (as I’ve re-read Cecy and Kate’s books, and Mairelon…so, not as many times altogether, but with as much devotion!). As my daughter says, it’s hard to imagine a world without Diana, because she’s always been there.
    HER first was Magicians of Caprona, when she was about 6 I think. I read her, and later my son, most of them aloud. (His favorite was 8 days of Luke.)
    It became a family joke when I exclaimed, “so THAT’s who Milly is!” at the end of our third or fourth time through Christopher Chant; I think Diana probably would’ve enjoyed knowing that we regularly say “so THAT’s who Milly is!” when someone does something stupid or forgetful. ;)
    You were so lucky to have known her. We were so lucky to have had her for so long. There is no one like her. It’s sad that so many people are only starting to read her now that she’s gone, but I like to think she’d enjoy knowing that too.
    We will miss her always.

  15. I met Diana twelve years ago, purely by chance, in a small antiquarian book shop.

    I don’t remember ever feeling quite as comfortable with anyone within the first ten minutes of meeting as I did with her.

    I remember talking about research, about writing and the funny story she told me that had us both laughing.

    It wasn’t until we were saying goodbye that I realised I’d never said how much I’d enjoyed her work or how much I was looking forward to her next.

    I didn’t have to.

    I discovered she’d written a short note, along with her address and telephone number on the back of a book mark and slipped it into one of the books I’d purchased.

    We’d exchanged but a handful of notes since that time. I treasure them, as I do the memory of our first meeting.

    When the telephone rang that fateful day last month, hearing the voice of a friend at home tell me that the word had just broken of her passing, I was numb for hours and felt adrift for several days.

    There seemed no words adequate to the task then, and there still aren’t.

  16. I’m so sorry.

    I only met Diana once, when she was Guest of Honour at a con in the late 80s, and I had never heard of her. With her wit and her evil laugh and her perpetual wreath of smoke, my instant impression was of a small anthropoid dragon who was exactly as big as she needed to be. She pretty much made the whole event. But I didn’t read any of her books for years, because she wrote YA, and back then I never read YA at all.

    Then I ran across the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and spent a whole weekend laughing like a drain. (I also, ultimately, owe my second favourite personal fantasy setting to it.) Over the next several years, I ran down almost everything she’d ever written, and found that the craving increased with the dose. I’ve very, very seldom run into any storyteller whose voice was so inimitably their own, and yet who kept coming up with so many yarns so utterly different in every particular.

    A Good Witch she was indeed, and a better world this has been for having her charms on it.

  17. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  18. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  19. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  20. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  21. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  22. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  23. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  24. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  25. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  26. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  27. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  28. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  29. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  30. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  31. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  32. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  33. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  34. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  35. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  36. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  37. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  38. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  39. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  40. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  41. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

  42. Jae Young says:

    When I first heard the news of her death, I cried. I rarely cry, I hate crying so much, but I was just so overwhelmed. Diana Wynne Jones was on my list of top 10 people I want to meet, dead or alive, and she still is. To say I adore her might be an understatement. Thank you for sharing your story of your friendship and your memories of her.

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