The first Diana Wynne Jones novel I ever bought was Howl’s Moving Castle, in 1986. Everyone at the science fiction bookstore where I shopped — the House of Speculative Fiction, in Ottawa, Canada — was talking about it, and Pat Caven the owner pressed it into my hands. It was by no means the last.
Jones studied English at St Anne’s College in Oxford, where she famously attended lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis before she graduated in 1956. She began her writing career with plays, and had three produced in London between 1967 and 1970.
In 1970 she switched to prose with her first novel, Changeover, a comedy marketed for adults. She began writing for young adults with her second book, Wilkins’ Tooth (1973, published in the US as Witch’s Business), and never looked back.
Although Jones is widely admired as a YA fantasy writer, she had a surprising range. Perhaps my favorite of her books is The Tough Guide To Fantasyland (1996), a hysterical tourist guide which skewers dozens of fantasy clichés as it catalogues the common places, weird items, people, governments, and situations readers are likely to encounter as they journey through a typical fantasy novel.
Jones was nominated — and won — numerous awards in her lifetime. Her novel Archers Goon was nominated for a World Fantasy Award; The Tough Guide To Fantasyland was nominated for both a Hugo award and a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Lord of Derkholm won the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The same year she won the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK.
She received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007, perhaps the highest honor our field has to offer.
Her novels have enjoyed extended life in other media: Archer’s Goon became a BBC television serial in 1992, and Howl’s Moving Castle was famously adapted as an animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki in 2004.
Jones continued to work until late in life, publishing her last novel, Enchanted Glass, last year. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, and died on March 26, 2011.