Diana Wynne Jones

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Diana Wynne Jones
File:Diana Wynne Jones.jpg
Born (1934-08-16)16 August 1934
London, England, UK
Died 26 March 2011(2011-03-26) (aged 76)
Bristol, England, UK
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Genre Children's fantasy novels
Subject Fantasy fiction
Notable works

Howl's Moving Castle

Notable awards Guardian Prize
Mythopoeic Award
1996, 1999
World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement

Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011)[1] was a British writer, principally of fantasy novels for children and adults.

Some of her better-known works are the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series; the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm; and The Tough Guide To Fantasyland.

Early life and marriage

Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers.[2] When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre.[2] There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956.[3] In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.[2]

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.[4]


Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter.[5] Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."[5] Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."[5]

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.[citation needed]

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.[6][7]

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley[8] and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot.[9] Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.[10]

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers.[11] Three times she was a commended runner-up[lower-alpha 1] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988).[12] She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark (concluding that series) and in 1999 for Dark Lord of Derkholm; in four other years she was a finalist for that annual literary award by the Mythopoeic Society.[13][lower-alpha 2]

The 1986 novel Howl's Moving Castle was inspired by a boy at a school she was visiting, who asked her to write a book called The Moving Castle.[14] It was published first by Greenwillow in the U.S., where it was a runner-up for the annual Boston Globe–Horn Book Award in children's fiction.[15] In 2004, Hayao Miyazaki made the Japanese-language animated movie Howl's Moving Castle, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. A version dubbed in English was released in the UK and US in 2005, with the voice of Howl performed by Christian Bale.[16] Next year Jones and the novel won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognising the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award (named for mythical bird phoenix to suggest the book's rise from obscurity).[17]

Fire and Hemlock had been the 2005 Phoenix runner-up.[17] It is a novel based on Scottish ballads, and was a Mythopoeic Fantasy finalist in its own time.[lower-alpha 2]

Archer's Goon (1984) was a runner-up for that year's Horn Book Award.[15] It was adapted for television in 1992.[18] One Jones fansite believes it to be "the only tv adaptation (so far) of one of Diana's books".[19]

Jones' book on clichés in fantasy fiction, The Tough Guide To Fantasyland (nonfiction), has a cult following among writers and critics, despite being difficult to find due to an erratic printing history. It was recently reissued in the UK, and has been reissued in the USA in 2006 by Firebird Books. The Firebird edition has additional material and a completely new design, including a new map.[citation needed]

The British Fantasy Society recognized her significant impact on fantasy with its occasional Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999.[citation needed] She received an honorary D.Litt from the University of Bristol in July 2006[20] and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007.[13]

Shortly after her death in March 2011, it was reported that Earwig and the Witch and a collection of Jones' articles would be published later[21] – as they were in June 2011 and September 2012. The story in progress when she became too ill to write was completed by her sister Ursula Jones: The Islands of Chaldea (HarperCollins, 2014).[22]

Interviewed by The Guardian in June 2013, after she finished the Chaldea story, Ursula Jones said that "other things were coming to light ... She left behind a mass of stuff."[22]

Illness and death

Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early summer of 2009.[23] She underwent surgery in July and reported to friends that the procedure had been successful.[24] However, in June 2010 she announced that she would be discontinuing chemotherapy because it only made her feel ill. In mid-2010 she was halfway through a new book with plans for another to follow.[25] She died on 26 March 2011 from the disease.[1] She was survived by her husband, three sons, and five grandchildren.


See also


  1. Today there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU, some runners-up through 2002 were Commended (from 1955) or Highly Commended (from 1966); the latter distinction became approximately annual in 1979. There were about 160 commendations of both kinds in 48 years including two for 1975, three 1977, and six 1988.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fire and Hemlock was one of six finalists for the Mythopoeic Award in 1986, when there was a single Fantasy award, and Jones was five times one of four or five finalists in the Children's category after dual fiction awards were introduced in 1992.
    "Mythopoeic Awards – Fantasy". The Mythopoeic Society. Retrieved 2012-04-27.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Priest, Christopher (27 March 2011). "Diana Wynne Jones obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Butler, Charlie (31 March 2011). "Diana Wynne Jones: Doyenne of fantasy writers whose books for children paved the way for JK Rowling". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-06-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Parsons, Caron (27 March 2003). "Wrestling with an angel". Going Out in Bristol. BBC. Retrieved 2013-06-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jones, D. W. "Diana Wynne Jones". Something about the Author Autobiography Series. Volume 7. Gale. 1989. ISBN 0810344564.
      Reprint with photos and bibliography to 1989 at Chrestomanci Castle retrieved 2014-12-18.
      Reprint text only at The Diana Wynne Jones Fansite retrieved 2014-12-18.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Jones, D. W. (2004). "Introduction: The Origins of Changeover". Changeover [1970]. London: Moondust Books. ISBN 0-9547498-0-4.
  6. Rabinovitch, Dina (23 April 2003). "Wynne-ing ways: Author of the month Diana Wynne Jones". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. de Lint, Charles (January 2000). "Books To Look For". Fantasy & Science Fiction. January 2000.
      Reprint at SFsite.com retrieved 2014-12-18.
  8. McKinley, Robin (23 September 2010). "fame. sort of". Robin McKinley: Days in the Life* *with footnotes. Robinmckinleysblog.com. Retrieved 2014-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Gaiman, Neil [date unknown]. [Title unknown]. The Magian Line 2.2. Refrain: "But I've got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me by Diana Wynne Jones". Hexwood was published in 1993.
      Reprint as "Neil's Thankyou pome" at Chrestomanci Castle retrieved 2014-12-18.
  10. Gaiman, Neil (13 March 2003). "(no title)". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Neil Gaiman (journal.neilgaiman.com). Retrieved 2014-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". guardian.co.uk. 12 March 2001. Retrieved 2014-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Diana Wynne Jones". Science Fiction Awards Database (sfadb.com). Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  14. Jones, Diana Wynne (1986). Howl's Moving Castle. New York : Greenwillow Books. ISBN 9780784824849.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Retrieved 2012-12-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Howl's Moving Castle (2004): Full Cast & Crew". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Phoenix Award". Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  18. "Archer's Goon (TV series 1992– )". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Home page, "More Stuff" in the right margin. The Diana Wynne Jones Fansite. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  20. "Honorary graduates" (1995–present). Public and Ceremonial Events Office. University of Bristol (bristol.ac.uk). Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  21. "Sad News". News and New on Site [home page]. 26 March 2011. The Diana Wynne Jones Fansite.
      Copy archived 2011-04-10 retrieved 2014-12-18.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Flood, Alison (24 June 2013). "Diana Wynne Jones's final book completed by sister". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-15. The headline which says 'final book' is a poor match for the content which closes: 'Jones said there were also "other things were coming to light" [sic] among her sister's papers. "She left behind a mass of stuff", she said.'
  23. Russell, Imogen (9 July 2009). "A fantastic weekend with Diana Wynne Jones". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Gaiman, Neil (23 July 2009). "Eleven Days or Thereabouts". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Neil Gaiman (journal.neilgaiman.com). Retrieved 2014-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Ansible 275". News.ansible.co.uk. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Rosenberg (ed.), Teya; et al. (2002). Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-5687-X. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mendlesohn, Farah (2005). Diana Wynne Jones: Children's Literature and the Fantastic Tradition. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97023-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Butler, Charles (2006). Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5242-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links