Diana Wynne Jones was born in August 1934 in London, where she had a chaotic
and unsettled childhood against the background of World War II. The family moved
around a lot, finally settling in rural Essex. As children, Diana and her two
sisters were deprived of a good, steady supply of books by a father, 'who could
beat Scrooge in a meanness contest'. So, armed with a vivid imagination and an
insatiable quest for good books to read, she decided that she would have to
write them herself.
"However, I was extremely dyslexic," says Diana, "so when I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they just laughed." In spite of this, between the ages of twelve and fourteen, the young writer completed two epic tales scrawled in a total of twenty copy books. This taught her from an early age the invaluable lesson of how to finish a book.
Her higher education began in 1953 when she went up to St Anne's College Oxford, and attended lectures by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. It was here she met her husband, John A Burrow, who is Professor of English at Bristol University. They married in 1956 and have three sons.
She has written both children's books and plays (mostly performed at the London Arts Theatre) and her first book was published in 1973. Since then she has written over 40 books. Her enviably fertile mind has allowed her to write prolifically, even when her three boys were small, and quite a handful! When writing, she is totally absorbed in the book and on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, her sons returned from school ravenous to find she had shoved a pair of muddy shoes in the oven for their tea! She says, "I am an inspirational writer. I forget meals and write with ever-increasing speed."
Diana Wynne Jones first conjured up the enigmatic and embroidered dressing-gowned enchanter Chrestomanci in 1977. The adventures in his magical worlds - for, as every budding sorcerer knows - there are many series of parallel worlds - continue to enthral readers all over the world.
Charmed Life, the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children's Books. Diana was runner-up for the Children's Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. In 1999, she won two major fantasy awards: the children's section of the Mythopeic Award in the USA, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK - which is awarded by the British Fantasy Society to individuals or organizations who have made a significant impact on fantasy. JK Rowling was runner-up on both occasions.
She died in Bristol, England in March 2011, aged 76. On Twitter, Neil Gaiman wrote: "Rest in Peace, Diana Wynne Jones. You shone like a star. The funniest, wisest writer & the finest friend. I miss you."
This biography was last updated on 03/28/2011.
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An Interview with Diana Wynne Jones
When did you decide to be a writer?
I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired - or perhaps exacerbated is a better word - by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this.
Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.
When did you start writing?
I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there ...
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