Just a tiny bit over a year ago, my author hero Diana Wynne Jones died. I wrote a letter to her on my blog that she would never see and mourned that there would be no more Diana Wynne Jones books. Now, the blogosphere is alight with a celebration of her life, and her editor asked if I would be a part of it. I struggled to think of what I could say in addition to the letter I already wrote her, and I think the best thing is to just repost the letter and then add what I missed at the end. And please, any of you guys who also loved her — please post your experiences with her books on your blogs and twitter and Facebook so that this whole week can be one big love-fest of DWJ fans.
I found out yesterday that you’ll be discontinuing the chemotherapy you’d been undergoing for your lung cancer and I realized it was time to write a letter. Past due time.
Again and again in interviews, I’ve listed your books and career as one of my main influences, but I never actually told you directly. So here goes. When I was a young, evil child, I read your books again and again. I’m pretty sure I stumbled on Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant first, during my years living in between the shelves of my public library. Then Archer’s Goon and The Ogre Downstairs, checked out again and again. Then I hit on Fire and Hemlock, which I didn’t like the first time, partially because I was too young and partially because my sister loved it, and there was no way I was going to be caught dead loving something that she loved. She must feel so vindicated now that I’ve finally agreed to love it.
All the while I was writing horrible books with overwrought characters and dreaming of being an author.
Then some summer I hit upon Dogsbody and I know I did other things that summer, but I don’t remember any of them. Because I read Dogsbody back to back six times. I still remember laying on my bed — on a hot, muggy, thunderstorming Virginia afternoon — closing the last page of the book, sighing, and then flipping it back over to the front to read it again, not even getting up to stretch my legs.
And somewhere along the way, I decided, that was why I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be that author who changed someone’s life. Not through deep and weight philosophical tomes, but merely by the sheer physical weight of the days spent lost in the pages and mood of the book. So much of my childhood was reading and so many of those books were yours. So even after hitting the bestseller list and getting lovely emails from around the globe, my favorite ones are still the ones that say: “I have reread Shiver or Ballad or Lament 14 times.”
Thank you so much for being part of my childhood and adulthood and everything in between. I owe a debt more than any letter sent via e-mail or post could say, and I’m sorry that it took bad news for me to send it.
The other day, I pulled out Fire and Hemlock and reread it for the first time in years. And you know what I did when I got to the end? I flipped it back around and started reading it again.
I’m reading it again and thinking, what can I add to that? I don’t know if I can. Maybe just additional gratitude for how her body of work and her career continues to support me as an adult. Every time I wonder what my goal is with each book that I’m writing, I think about opening a Diana Wynne Jones novel and seeing that page “also by Diana Wynne Jones” — with her list of other books. And I’d run my eyes down the list to see if I’d missed any, and I’d remember the ones that I loved particularly, and I’d feel that warm glow of knowing I had so many options of Diana-books to dive into when I was done with this one. I would like to do that, Diana. I don’t know if I can pull if off like you did . . . that’s a bit of a lofty goal. But if I can come close, that would be a pretty amazing life.