This weekend, whilst sitting at traffic lights on a trip out with the family, I checked tweets on my phone and glanced a sad message – Diana Wynne Jones had died.
There were six of us in the car, my wife, our children and my parents – all of whom at one stage or another had come into some contact with her great work. As is often the case with great writers of childrens’ books, it’s sometimes also the cinematic versions of their tales that are sometimes more known to some than the books on which they were based and I know for a fact that my cinema-mad drinking buddies, who love their Studio Ghibli movies would certainly know of Howl’s Moving Castle – but from the great movie rather than the great book.
A sad loss, but her great books and stories will remain forever.
Feeling that I would be unlikely to put words together any better than her publishers, by kind permission here is the tribute paid by them:
HarperCollins today paid tribute to Diana Wynne Jones who sadly passed away on 26th March, aged 76, following a long illness.
Victoria Barnsley, Publisher and CEO of HarperCollins UK and International, said, “Diana was one of our truly wonderful and much cherished children’s authors. Her rich imagination inspired many thousands of children. She will be greatly missed by all of us. Our thoughts are with her family.”
Diana Wynne Jones was born in August 1934 in London, where she had an 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 so, armed with a vivid imagination and an insatiable quest for good stories, Diana decided that she would have to write them herself. She was dyslexic, but began writing at a young age and went on to study at St Anne’s College Oxford benefitting from going to lectures by C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Diana’s first children’s book, Wilkin’s Tooth, was published in 1973, and since then she has written more than 40 books, including the Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, as well as short stories and plays. The Chrestomanci series Diana first conjured up the enigmatic and embroidered dressing‐gowned enchanter, Chrestomanci, in 1977. The adventures in his magical 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. Much to the delight of her long‐standing fans, after a 17‐year break Diana revisited the world of Chrestomanci, publishing Conrad’s Fate in 2005 and The Pinhoe Egg in 2006. In 1999, Diana 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 organisations who have made a significant impact on fantasy. Howl’s Moving Castle Howl’s Moving Castle, first published in 1986, is one of Diana’s most successful and well‐known novels. In 2004, the book was made into an animated feature film by Studio Ghibli, the renowned Japanese animation studio. Director Hayao Miyazaki came out of retirement to steer the project, and on release, the film broke box office records in Japan. In 2006 it was nominated for an Oscar, extending Diana’s fan base into the Manga / Anime arena. Sequels Castle in the Air (1990) and House of Many Ways (2008) revisit the madcap world of favourite characters Howl, Sophie and Calcifer.
As well as Howl’s Moving Castle, other of Diana’s work adapted for stage and screen are Archer’s Goon, made into a TV series in 1992, and Black Maria, which was staged as a multimedia dance piece at Sadler’s Wells, London in 2007. Diana Wynne Jones was recognised internationally as a major writer of fantasy and in 2007 she received a Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Association. She has also won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (twice) and the Guardian Award. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have sold more than a million books in the UK with worldwide sales reaching over 10 million.