There are a lot of books I haven’t recommended here yet, but that I eventually want to get to. One that holds a special place in my heart is Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. That said, I’m not here today to recommend Howl’s Moving Castle; instead, I want to introduce you to another of Jones’ books.
While most of Jones’ books were written primarily for children, she did also publish in the adult realm. One such book, and I believe on of her last, was Reflections. The book contains, as the title implies, reflections on her life and on her writing.
Throughout her career, Diana Wynne Jones took plenty of opportunities to either speak about writing or to write about it. Reflections is a collection of 25 of those speeches and articles, touching on everything from Jones’ early life to her writing habits. It also includes plenty of tips and other tidbits for writers.
I have to say, Reflections was a really interesting read. It’s engrossing, but it’s also the type of book I might want to use as a sort of study tool. As it was, I found myself going back and re-reading certain passages, or even chapters, to make sure I was taking in as much as I could. Many of the writing tips focus on writing for children, but I think writers of all categories, and particularly those who write speculative fiction, would get something out of it.
I also really liked the little stories about her life, particularly her childhood, that are scattered throughout the book. Jones had a unique childhood, to say the least. And if you’re a fan of her work, you’ll certainly appreciate the stories about the childhood experiences that she integrated into some of her novels.
Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories – of magical fantasy – written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an engaged, scholarly critic of writing that interested her.
This collection of more than twenty-five papers, chosen by Diana herself, includes fascinating literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon) alongside autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing. The longest autobiographical piece, ‘Something About the Author’, details Diana’s extraordinary childhood and is illustrated with family photographs. Reflections is essential reading for anyone interested in Diana’s works, fantasy or creative writing.
The collection features a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction and interview by Charlie Butler, a respected expert on fantasy writing.