|The Official||Diana Wynne Jones||Website|
Interviewed by Helen in 1993
Diana Wynne Jones has been writing all her
life but only professionally since 1973. I write because I enjoy
writing more than anything else really. It really is tremendously fun
and I just love doing it. You can get to feel as if you havent
seen anyone for weeks and its all your fault and nobody loves
you. I dont enjoy that aspect but the way things come alive
under your hands and start to work as if theyre completely
independent is endlessly fascinating.
She admits to having problems with researching
for her stories. Researching puts me off enormously. Ive
discovered this because I was all set once to write a book about
Iceland in the time of the sagas because it was a very exciting time.
Then, researching, I discovered that there are no trees in Iceland.
Now its absolutely impossible for me to imagine - I dont
know about you - a place where there arent any trees. It just
doesnt seem to work right. I couldnt write the book and
then I realised I simply couldnt work that way. My ideas come in
most peculiar ways from things people say, things that happen, or you
just suddenly turn round in your head and there it is. Or else little
habitual phrases suddenly start meaning things. For instance, I
realised when Id written Archers Goon that it was
based on an awful pun urban guerrilla and thats how
the seed of the ideas come to you really.
Not all of her ideas come this way. Some seem
to come from nowhere. Its like when you have an
extraordinary dream and you try to think what put that in your head,
its the same when youre writing a book. You cant
think how you came to think of some of the things. Its almost as
if the book did it itself.
Apparently, people often ask her if she based
one of her recurring characters, Chrestomanci, upon anyone in
particular. I dont think I did, no. He sort of appeared
fully born and I dont know where he is from. At one point
Chrestomanci appears in the middle of a field, clothed in a
magnificent dressing gown and suffering from a streaming cold. He
just walks in like that. I didnt sort of sit down and hammer my
brains to think about it. She confesses to liking that bit, but
I take no credit for it, it just happened.
In Archers Goon, Mr Sykes sends
2000 words to Mountjoy every month, in an attempt to beat his writers
block. Diana Wynne Jones doesnt seem to suffer from this common
complaint herself. Ive known people who do. I feel Ive
got writers block every time I finish writing a book and Im
not actually writing one, so I know how people feel. It doesnt
happen in the middle of a book. If Im finding difficulty writing
its because Ive done something wrong.
Her first attempts at books didnt get
published. It took about ten years. When my children where small
I didnt really do very much because you dont have the use
of your brain. When they started going to school I sat down and
started trying. There were lots of things I wrote that got turned
down; there were rules that publishers had in those days that were
strict and rather strange. To some extent it was my fault because I
was determined to break most of these rules.
She didnt specifically aim her books at
a certain market. It came out that way. Its partly the
kind of book that I particularly didnt have as a small child.
Most people start their career with short stories but she doesnt
find short stories that easy to write. They take as much in a
slightly different way as writing a long book and Ive always
preferred to write long books. Usually a book sort of divides itself
into chapters. Its quite fascinating actually, some books demand
short, crisp chapters and others, like Fire and Hemlock
most of the time, seem to want enormous chapters. And all grades in
between. It really is the needs of the book.
Some of her books, like Wild Robert
are more for younger children. When youre writing
something, as a rule, it doesnt sort of aim itself. When youre
finished you think, Oh, yes, this is really for the younger end.
It doesnt apply to real tinys who have not quite learnt to
read yet. Thats different because you really to settle down and
make sure that what youre doing is in the kind of words that
people can read when theyre just learning.
Her children provided a ready-made audience
while they were growing up. They always demand copies and used
to read the typescripts, except the youngest who wouldnt read it
until it was a proper book. He said typescripts - which is right
actually - turn themselves inside out if you dont watch it and
he didnt like that. They always gave me terribly good advice
too. Now theyve grown up its not so easy.
Doesnt she find her books as
entertaining for an adult as for a child? Yes, now this is what
Ive discovered, actually. In fact, tremendous numbers of adults
turn out to read them. I think what happens is that they start at the
age of about eleven and they go on. It really does seem to work that
way and I was terribly surprised about six years ago when I discovered
Archers Goon, has been dramatised
by the BBC. I was quite closely involved, actually, because the
producer, (Richard Callanan) was a very nice man and he wanted to get
it as close to the book as possible. Both of us had to sit around the
table and persuade the scriptwriter (Jenny McDade) to make it close to
the book. When she started it couldnt have been further from the
book. It got closer and closer and closer and they got most of it in.
They couldnt get some of the stuff at the end in but they did a
fairly good job - I think the scriptwriter actually didnt enjoy
herself at all. They asked me whether Id like to write scripts
but, so far, I havent found it appeals. Its a very
different way of thinking, of telling a story. I was talking to
somebody who is, primarily, a scriptwriter but whod also
published his scripts as novels and he says he has to write the script
first and then the novel from the script. I would have to do it the
other way around, I think.
Nothing further has come from her brush with
television. I think Charmed Life would go absolutely
wondrously on television. There have been various people who have said
this but so far, nothings happened. Another one that would
actually go rather well would be Eight Days of Luke.
Somebodys actually done a script for that but hes got
nowhere with it. I suspect that another one that would go pretty well,
the way that theyre so good at doing special effects nowadays,
is Howls Moving Castle. Most of the set would
actually be in this one room with exits to different places so, in
fact, it would be quite easy to televise.
Events have recently slowed down her work,
although that hasnt stopped her ideas coming. I have,
however, got a book coming out this month, actually, which is quite my
weirdest yet. Its called Hexwood and its very
strange but people whove read it so far say that its
absolutely fascinating, I mean its really weird - I couldnt
begin to describe it. It demanded to be written back to front and
When not writing, she gets on with everyday living and her cat, very jealous of her writing, returns to his place - her knee!