with an angel
STORY LAST UPDATED:
27 March 2003 1822 GMT
Wynne Jones is in the middle of writing a new book, "it's
like wrestling with an angel," she said.
popular Dalemark Quartet has been re-issued
And she should know.
Over the past 20 years the Bristol-based author has written
more than 20 novels, and become something of a star herself.
She has fans all over the world and is recognised as one of
the most outstanding writers of children's fantasy.
And all this started from quite humble beginnings, when Diana
began writing adventure stories to entertain her young sisters
at the end of World War II.
father, who Diana freely admits was a bit of a "Scrooge",
had been a teacher and knew the importance of his three daughters
wanting to spend too much money though, he bought the complete
works of Arthur Ransome and locked them away, giving them out
one by one each year as Christmas presents to share between
| As a youngster
Diana found out that authors Beatrix Potter and Arthur
Ransome were not child-friendly.
Desperate to have something to read during the austerity after
the war, Diana began writing stories for her younger siblings.
"Though I'm still not in the least bit grateful to my father
for the push," she says.
But even before she began to read his works, Ransome, author
of Swallows and Amazons, had figured in the young Diana's life.
She and her family had been evacuated to the Lake District during
the war, and ended up in the house previously inhabited by the
children Ransome had based his Swallows and Amazons series upon.
She even met Ransome "a small man with lots of beard",
very briefly, while she was there.
He rushed by the shocked five-year-old in her home to berate
the women of her household for allowing their children to be
And this was not young Diana's only brush with famous authors
while she was living near the lakes.
Her young sister and a friend were smacked by Beatrix Potter
for swinging on her garden gate!
Not a pleasant introduction to writers then?
"At least they were both real, physical people," said
"Up until then I thought books were made by machines in
Woolworths - this made them very real."
Destined to write
By the age of eight Diana knew she was going to be a writer.
"It was as if my future self suddenly tapped my eight-year-old
self on the shoulder and said this is what you are going to
be," said Diana.
parents just roared with laughter."
with his face pressed against the chalk board'
At university in Oxford Diana met up with more literary figures.
She attended lectures given by both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis;
"well Lewis lectured and Tolkien tried not to," said
"He was totally inaudible and spoke with his face pressed
against the chalk board.
"He was in the middle of writing the Lord of the Rings
and wanted to get back to it, but he was being paid to lecture
no matter how many students attended.
"Because we kept turning up he had to carry on, and what
we did hear was very interesting."
Lewis though was a different kettle of fish.
"He was a superb lecturer, the hall was crammed and he
held everybody spellbound, even if he was talking about things
that others would have made quite dull."
Despite meeting the famous authors, Diana hadn't read any of
their works. In fact, apart from Ransome's books she didn't
read children's books until she had youngsters of her own.
"I was seeing books for the first time with my children,"
"And I wanted to write books like this myself."
She started to write and her three sons became her biggest fans
- and critics - reading everything she wrote.
"One son was a very critical reader and rarely said anything.
If he did say something it was usually an adverse comment and
I would immediately alter it," said Diana.
'Life of their own'
Diana admits her works, which include the Christopher Chant
novels and the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, have "a life
of their own," a fact which became apparent as soon as
she started writing.
"Some books just seem to happen without much warning or
apparent thought, while others slowly accumulate bit by bit"
"Nearly all seem to spring from characters."
One series of books, the Dalemark Quartet, took an extremely
long time to finish.
"The fourth one I couldn't write for 10 years because I
knew it too well and it started doing its own thing," said
"The nice people turned out to be nasty in the end and
I kept putting it off, which had my agent jumping up and down."
Some of Diana's fans were also unhappy with the end of the series
and were not shy about telling her so.
"It is nice to hear from fans though, especially if they
have had some sort of problem and reading my books has helped,
even if it has just taken their minds off things," said
She hears from fans all over the world, ranging from young children
to grandmothers, and quite often from students re-reading her
books when they start university; "quite often a lonely
time for some."
With a new book, Merlin Conspiracy, out in April and work continuing
on her next novel, Diana is not worried that she may simply
run out of ideas.
"I have long barren stretches away from writing when I
say I will never write again," said Diana.
"But there are masses of stories left to tell, I'm just
sorry I won't live long enough to write them all."
was in the middle of writing the Lord of the Rings and
wanted to get back to it, but he was being paid to lecture
no matter how many students attended."