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Chronicles of Chrestomanci #01: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life/The Lives of Christopher Chantby Diana Wynne Jones
I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired — or perhaps exacerbated is a better word — by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this. Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.
I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there were hand-weaving, hand-making pottery, and singing madrigals, for none of which I had either taste or talent. So, in intervals between trying to haunt the church and sitting on roofs hoping to learn to fly, I wrote enormous epic adventure stories which I read to my sisters instead of the real books we did not have. This writing was stopped, though, when it was decided I must be coached to go to University. A local philosopher was engaged to teach me Greek and philosophy in exchange for a dollhouse (my family never did things normally), and I eventually got a place at Oxford.
At this stage, despite attending lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I did not expect to be writing fantasy. But that was what I started to write when I was married and had children of my own. It was what they liked best. But small children do not allow you the use of your brain. They used to jump on my feet to stop me thinking. And I had not realized how much I needed to teach myself about writing. I took years to learn, and it was not until my youngest child began school that I was able to produce a book which a publisher did not send straight back.
As soon as my books began to be published, they started coming true. Fantastic things that I thought I had made up keep happening to me. The most spectacular was Drowned Ammet. The first time I went on a boat after writing that book, an island grew up out of the sea and stranded us. This sort of thing, combined with the fact that I have a travel jinx, means that my life is never dull.
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