for fans of
Diana Wynne Jones

MARCH 2003

Just before Christmas we had a small traffic accident - we hit a kerb at high speed - and it has taken me all this time to get over the concussion and cracked ribs I got from it. Ribs take forever to get better. They are a pain. But I didn't know until now what concussion was like. It jumbles your brain. I couldn't write even my name without mixing all the letters up. I couldn't read without getting all the words wrong. Whenever I read the word 'underparts' for instance, I ALWAYS read it as 'underpants'. (Have you noticed that only EVIL things in books have underparts? They never talk of the underparts of a house or a bicycle. It's always an evil demon or, at the very mildest, a nauseating fungus - they have underparts like anything, but people don't, tables don't, dogs don't). But the main thing about concussion is that it goes on and on...

Anyway, it went in the end and just as well because my new book is due out at the beginning of April and things to do with it suddenly crowded in. First, my American publisher wanted me to sign my name 700 times for a signed limited edition, and they wanted it by Christmas (which was already long gone). So I got to work signing and finished in ten days (I had to do some life round the edges after all and if you write your name too many times, it goes funny and you forget how to spell Jones). The sheets were going to be rushed to America. Yet, for some reason, they are still sitting in a large package in my hall. Did I waste my time? No idea.

The other things that crowded in were interviewers and photographers. They have been coming every other day now for a week. The rule seems to be that all interviewers are nice people and they all like to think that my books are about Growing Up. I spend a lot of time saying, Well, no, only incidentally - there are all sorts of other things for books to be about. And no, my books are not about my own childhood really either.

Photographers are nice people too, but they have two vices. They never arrive when they say they will, and they always move the furniture to strange places and leave me to put it back - and as I have been told to get dressed up in fine clothes to be photographed in, I am not dressed for furniture-moving. There is an awful popping-noise as expensive tights give way while you haul back a table.

One interview was a bit different though. This particular nice lady told me that a lot of schoolchildren, for their SATS, are having to write about another world from this one. Did I, she asked, have any tips about how to think up an alternate world? (And she didn't mean heaven, hell, or a giant gas planet). I scratched my head a bit and said things. And it has occurred to me that I ought to put down here some of the things I told this lady, because it might be very useful to everyone.

1. Instead of trying to think of places you've never seen, simply imagine that hundreds of worlds spread out from our own THAT ARE NOT THAT DIFFERENT.

2. Then think of TWO things that ARE different. For instance, no telephones and we use thought transfer instead.

3. Then think this through. What difference would it make? Really. In the example I gave, for instance, there would be no need to text your friends in lessons. Teachers would be using quite different methods to catch you out. And spying would be rather easy. Or would it?


Copyright © Diana Wynne Jones 2003