September 2001 to April 2002
Last week a third of the big blue tree outside my house fell down. There was no wind, nobody was near it, but it just suddenly lost four tree-size branches which came crashing down over the path and then stopped, hung up by a thread of bark about ten feet in the air. Since the path is a public one, it was clear that it was now very dangerous and something had to be done. We rushed out and stared at it. Then rushed in and tried to ring the tree-surgeon who last trimmed it. He was unavailabe - in hospital, we later learnt - but we put frantic messages on his answering machine and then rushed out again to put traffic cones and warnings in the path. (This was just before the England match with Germany, you see, and we knew that people would be along the path either celebrating or drowning their sorrows shortly - wasn't it good? Five-One!)
Anyway, the phone rang and I snatched it up, hoping for the tree man. A slightly Welsh voice said, 'Hallo, you don't know me, but I'm your second cousin. I've been enquiring into our family tree and I've only just found out that your branch exists.'
I spent the next hour talking about this other kind of tree. He was a brave man, my second cousin. He and his wife had taken up family research as a retirement project - which would be all very well if our name was Carruthers or Postlethwaite, but just fancy trying to sort out all the Joneses there are! They had done pretty well too. My grandfather had left the family to take up religion, so neither side spoke much after that. But another second cousin happened to remember that my father had three daughters and just happened to remember that one of them was some kind of a writer... So Mrs Jones went down to her local library and asked them there if they had ever heard of a writer called Diana Wynne Jones. She got astonished stares. 'Of COURSE we have!' they said. And there we were.
Not much news, I'm afraid, because I've been so busy trying to catch up after being ill. The main thing I'm trying to catch up on is the novel. It's now far enough advanced that I can talk about it a bit. It's probably going to be called MAGIC OF BLEST. When it first arrived in my head, the way books do, I thought it was actually two books and wasted months trying to untwist it. Actually it's two narratives that sort of wrap around one another, tighter and tighter, until you're getting the same thing/crisis from both points of view. Fiendish to get right. Particularly in the later stages. And there has been another film offer. This one is for BLACK MARIA, which makes a change. It almost seems as if this one might be successful. Cross your fingers.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I am trying to write a story from the point of view of a cat, and keep being interrupted by Brazilian journalists wanting to interview me. Ok, except that they do seem to think that Harry Potter and Tolkien are the same person. This makes it quite hard to answer some of their questions.
Some of the things I'm doing shortly are:
* April 7th, 5.30, panel in the Town Hall at Cheltenham Festival of Literature
* April 27th, 11.00- 12-00, signing at Oxfam, Princess Victoria Street, Bristol. Books will be £1 each.
* May 17th, conference in Dublin.
* And would you believe this! In June I do a Prize Giving at a school in Bristol. This puzzles me very much, because I went to a school where they didn't give prizes on principle, so I have no idea of what you are supposed to do or say. And my sons, if they ever won prizes, made damn sure neither of their parents knew. They hated the idea of us sitting there clapping and looking proud. So I shall almost certainly do something Wrong.
On World Book Day I went to an Event. The people who organised it had taken the whole London Eye for that morning. Each pod went up with ten or so children, or six children and their parents and their local librarian and an author - and somehow it worked. In the teeth of the coldest and fiercest March wind, we all arrived, and were all marshalled on to our pod with the right set of people and a photographer, and then the wheel started to go round. The organisers had written all the authors a letter telling them they had to run guessing games and make the children write poems and things, but when I saw the children I was with, they somehow made it quite clear that they were here to look out of the windows and have their photos taken. So that is what we all did. It was quite good to see Big Ben from miles overhead and the Thames and the misty distance, but it was bit like when they went flying in THE OGRE DOWNSTAIRS - after you had done it for five minutes or so, you were saying 'And?' And nothing else happened except that one of the boys suddenly shouted 'The door's come open!' and we all whipped round. It hadn't of course. Then we came down. It was quite hard to see what this had to do with books.
THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY is going to be published simultaneously in England and America in April 2003. It seems a shame that we are going to have to wait for a whole year for it, but it can't seem to be done sooner. Those of you who wanted to know more of Nick Mallory will be glad to know that Nick is one of the main characters in this book, along with a whole lot of new people - and a number of new worlds. There is also a Magid in it, though not one anyone has met before. This one is called Maxwell Hyde and he writes detective stories. A goat falls in love with him. You will also, in due course, meet an elephant and myriads of salamanders. And those are only a hundredth of the things in this book.
I must say thank you to everyone who has sent messages. You all say such lovely things. To those who want more of Howl or Chrestomanci or griffins, I have to say that books don't come by demand. All I can do is promise to try. I am thinking all the time about new books to write, and I get very miserable when I am not writing one. Thank you to everyone who suggested ideas. To those - and there are such a lot of you - who say they keep rereading my books and finding more in them, I can hardly say how pleased this makes me. When I was small, my ideal book was always the rare one that made me turn to the beginning and start again as soon as I had finished it. Now you tell me that I have written books like this. That gives me such pleasure!
But spare a thought for me. When I have flu, I can't read my own books. I'd keep thinking of parts I should have done better. Not relaxing.
The animated film of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE is now supposed to be ready in 2003, but don't, anyone, hold your breath. It seems to be taking a while.
Someone asked about a video of ARCHER'S GOON. The BBC might still have copies - for a long time they were hiring it out in Denmark and Norway - but I don't know if they still have any. It might be worth writing and asking. They are currently issuing DVD's of some adult sf and fantasy tapes and if they found there was a demand, they might just do ARCHER'S GOON. But I shouldn't bet on it.
And who got the idea I didn't like lawyers? It depends on who the lawyer is, surely, just like other people. One of my sons is married to a lawyer, and I don't think I've met anyone nicer or more beautiful. My next-door-neighbour is a lawyer. He is an obsessive gardener. When a drunk came along and pulled up a handful of his delphiniums, the lawyer came tearing out of his house whirling a spade round his head and shouting 'Put that back!' The drunk said, backing away, 'Careful with that spade! you can be jailed for assault.' And the lawyer shouted, 'I know! I'm a lawyer. And I DON'T CARE!' You can't dislike that.
It IS customary, since someone asked this, for one writer to ask another if he or she minds an idea being borrowed. For instance, when Neil Gaiman was writing AMERICAN GODS (which is a terrific book), he knew he had got the original idea from me, from EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE, and he told me so. But of course his book turned out very different. Besides which, we have been friends for a long time. But I have never met JK Rowling, so this doesn't seem to apply.
Copyright © Diana Wynne Jones 2001, 2002