Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011)[1] was a British novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, and short story writer. She principally wrote fantasy and speculative fiction 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.

Though she died in relative obscurity, she has later been cited as an inspiration and muse for several fantasy and science fiction authors: including Phillip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Penelope Lively, Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, J K Rowling and Dina Rabinovitch.

Her work has been nominated for several awards, among them twice as a finalist for the Hugo Award, fourteen times for the Locus Award, seven times for the Mythopoeic Award (which she would win twice out of those seven nominations), twice for a British Fantasy Award (won in 1999), and twice for a World Fantasy Award, which she would also end up winning in 2007.

Jones' work often explores themes of time travel, parallel and/or multiple universes. Her work is usually described as fantasy, though some also incorporate heavy science fiction themes and elements of realism.

Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones
Born16 August 1934
London, England, UK
Died26 March 2011 (aged 76)
Bristol, England, UK
GenreScience Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Children's, fantasy, comic fantasy
SubjectFantasy fiction, Science fiction, Surrealism
Literary movementPostmodernism
Notable works
Notable awardsGuardian Prize
Mythopoeic Award
1996, 1999
British Fantasy Award
Karl Edward Wagner Award
World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement
Locus Award
Years active1968-2011

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.

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[a] 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][b]

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.[b]

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 United States in 2006 by Firebird Books. The Firebird edition has additional material and a completely new design, including a new map.

The British Fantasy Society recognized her significant impact on fantasy with its occasional Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999.[20] She received an honorary D.Litt from the University of Bristol in July 2006[21] 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[22] – 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).[23]

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."[23]

In August 2014, Google commemorated Jones with a Google Doodle created by Google artist Sophie Diao.

Illness and death

Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early summer of 2009.[24] She underwent surgery in July and reported to friends that the procedure had been successful.[25] 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.[26] She died on 26 March 2011 from the disease.[1] She was surrounded by her husband, three sons, and five grandchildren as she was cremated at Canford Cemetery. She was loved by many for her passion for writing.


  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 for 1977, and six for 1988.
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ a b Priest, Christopher (27 March 2011). "Diana Wynne Jones obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b c 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 3 June 2013.
  3. ^ Parsons, Caron (27 March 2003). "Wrestling with an angel". Going Out in Bristol. BBC. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  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 Archived 22 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine at The Diana Wynne Jones Fansite retrieved 2014-12-18.
  5. ^ a b c 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 16 August 2014.
  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 16 August 2014.
  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 16 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". guardian.co.uk. 12 March 2001. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  13. ^ a b "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.
  15. ^ a b "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Archived from the original on 19 October 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  16. ^ "Howl's Moving Castle (2004): Full Cast & Crew". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  17. ^ a b "Phoenix Award". Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  18. ^ "Archer's Goon (TV series 1992– )". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  19. ^ Home page Archived 19 June 2005 at the Wayback Machine, "More Stuff" in the right margin. The Diana Wynne Jones Fansite. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  20. ^ Crowe, Elizabeth A. (2005). The Wit and Wisdom in the Novels of Diana Wynne Jones (Thesis). Brigham Young University.
  21. ^ "Honorary graduates" (1995–present). Public and Ceremonial Events Office. University of Bristol (bristol.ac.uk). Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ a b 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.'
  24. ^ Russell, Imogen (9 July 2009). "A fantastic weekend with Diana Wynne Jones". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  25. ^ Gaiman, Neil (23 July 2009). "Eleven Days or Thereabouts". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Neil Gaiman (journal.neilgaiman.com). Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  26. ^ "Ansible 275". News.ansible.co.uk. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2014.

Further reading

  • Rosenberg (ed.), Teya; et al. (2002). Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-5687-X.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Mendlesohn, Farah (2005). Diana Wynne Jones: Children's Literature and the Fantastic Tradition. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97023-7.
  • 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.

External links

A Tale of Time City

A Tale of Time City was first published in 1987 by British author Diana Wynne Jones. It tells the story of a girl, Vivian Smith, who is kidnapped while being evacuated from London during World War II and caught up in a struggle to preserve history. In this novel, Jones explains time travel with more reference to our current understanding of science than she does in many of her other works.

Archer's Goon

Archer's Goon is a 1984 fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones both for the young adult and adult markets. It was nominated for the 1985 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and is listed as an ALA Notable Children's Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book.

Castle in the Air (novel)

Castle in the Air is a young adult fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones, and first published in 1990. The novel is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle and is set in the same fantasy world, though it follows the adventures of Abdullah rather than Sophie Hatter. The plot is based on stories from the Arabian Nights. The book features many of the characters from Howl's Moving Castle, often under some sort of disguise.

Dalemark Quartet

The Dalemark Quartet is a series of four fantasy books by Diana Wynne Jones set in a rustic parallel universe with pre-industrial or even medieval civilization. Dalemark is a region by the sea divided into South Dalemark and North Dalemark, consisting of 15 earldoms (formerly called marks):

In addition to the 15 earldoms, Dalemark includes the so-called King's Lands (the Holy Islands, the Marshes, and the Shield of Oreth), although there has been no king in Dalemark for a long time.

The earls ruling South Dalemark are presented as much more tyrannical and cruel than the North Dalemark earls, who are described as being more liberal and with greater respect for human freedoms. As a result, there is constant tension between the North and the South, which often erupts in open war or rebellion. The Great Uprising was a countrywide revolution which led to the restoration of monarchy with Amil the Great ascending to the throne of united Dalemark. The Great Uprising took place about a year after the main events described in Drowned Ammet, the second book of the Dalemark Quartet.

The Dalemark Quartet titles are listed below in the order of publication, which is different from the order of internal chronology (shown by Arabic numerals in parentheses):

Cart and Cwidder, 1975 (3)

Drowned Ammet, 1977 (2)

The Spellcoats, 1979 (1)

The Crown of Dalemark, 1993 (4)

Dark Lord of Derkholm

The Dark Lord of Derkholm, simply Dark Lord of Derkholm in the United States, is a fantasy novel by the British author Diana Wynne Jones, published autumn 1998 in both the U.K. and the U.S. It won the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature.The novel is a parody, for its setting is a mock high fantasy world, similar to that Jones covered in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (U.K., 1996), a humorous travel guide on the Rough Guide model. The story continues in Year of the Griffin and the two novels have been called the Derkholm series (which ISFDB does not explicitly link to The Tough Guide).

Deep Secret

Deep Secret is a fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones, published by Gollancz in 1997. It is the first in the Magids series.

Diana Wynne Jones bibliography

Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011) was a British writer of fantasy novels for children and adults. She wrote a small amount of non-fiction.

Dogsbody (novel)

Dogsbody is a 1975 children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

Enchanted Glass

Enchanted Glass is a fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones which was first published in 2010.


Hexwood is a 1993 fantasy/science fiction novel for young adults. It is by British author Diana Wynne Jones.The book was dedicated to author Neil Gaiman, who later wrote a poem about the honor and gave it to her.

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways is a young adult fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones. The story is set in the same world as Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air.

Power of Three (novel)

Power of Three is a 1976 fantasy children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The novel, a bildungsroman for the adolescent character Gair, discusses the relationship among three different races in a manner that can be read as a parable of race relations in humans.

The Crown of Dalemark

The Crown of Dalemark is a 1993 fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It is the fourth and last book of the Dalemark Quartet, and follows the adventures of a group of people trying to reunite North and South Dalemark under a new king.

The Game (Jones novel)

The Game is a children's fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones. It explores a young girl's life and her relation to the "Mythosphere." This book pulls heavily from Greek and even some Russian mythology.

The Homeward Bounders

The Homeward Bounders is a fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones in which a vast series of parallel universes serve as the game-boards for a race of demons that delight in war-games and fantasy-games.

The Merlin Conspiracy

The Merlin Conspiracy is a children's fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones, published by HarperCollins in April 2003, simultaneously in Britain and America. It is a sequel to Deep Secret (1997).

In the 2004 poll of Locus readers to confer the annual Locus Awards, it finished third among the year's young-adult books (fantasy, horror, and science fiction, etc.).

The Ogre Downstairs

The Ogre Downstairs is a 1974 fantasy novel for children. It is British author Diana Wynne Jones' third published novel.

The Time of the Ghost

The Time of the Ghost is a supernatural English-language children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones, published by Macmillan in 1981. Set in the English countryside, it features a teenage ghost who is one of four sisters, and observes the family, unable to remember which one she is. She is from seven years in the future, in the aftermath of her "accident", so it is a kind of a time slip story, but she has no memories of those seven years.

Greenwillow Books (William Morrow) published the first US edition only in 1996. According to WorldCat, The Time of the Ghost is not among the twenty works by Jones that are most widely held in participating libraries.

Year of the Griffin

Year of the Griffin, later The Year of the Griffin in the UK, is a fantasy novel by the British author Diana Wynne Jones, published 2000 simultaneously in the UK and the US It is the sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm, set primarily at the University several years after that novel's radical conclusion.

Year is centred on six first-year students of magic, in relation to the administration and teachers, their families and studies, and each other. A review in Publishers Weekly called it a "boisterous spoof of the campus novel"; another in Booklist said that it continues "Jones' spoof of traditional fantasy conventions".

Works by Diana Wynne Jones
Dalemark Quartet
Howl's Moving Castle
Standalone works

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