Biography

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 499

Diana Wynne Jones was born in London, England, in 1934, the daughter of educators. She has written that her relationship with her parents was a troubled one: They were dedicated to their careers, and Diana and her two sisters received little support or encouragement from them.

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Growing up during World War II was also difficult for Jones, who was intermittently sent out of London to avoid the bombings, but who nonetheless developed a keen sense of the dangers of war. Jones wrote, "When the siren sounded at night, we went to the ground floor where we sat and listened to the blunt bang and sharp yammer of gunfire and bombs whistle as they fell, or watched searchlights rhythmically ruling lines in the sky." She recalls that amid all that, her grandmother provided a welcome relief from the worries of the war and from her alienating home life. "Granny was truly marvelous, five feet of Yorkshire common sense, love, and superstition."

Jones realized at the age of eight that she wanted to be a writer. Although she "suffered from perpetual book starvation," she read as many books as she could find, and by the time she was fourteen she had written two books of her own. In 1956 she received her bachelor's degree from St. Anne's College at Oxford, where she had attended lectures by authors C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Later that year she married John Burrow, with whom she had three sons.

It was after the birth of her sons that Jones returned to writing. She has noted that her children were instrumental in encouraging her to write. As she read stories with them, she came to know what children liked and was then able to focus her creative energies on books that she thought would capture her children's imaginations. In 1973, her first book, Wilkin's Tooth, was published; the following year it was published in the United States as Witch's Business.

Jones blends both realism and fantasy in many of her novels, most of which have been for children. She often incorporates mythological or fairy tale images to support her presentation of fantasy. In Fire and Hemlock, for example, she draws her story from two well-known Scottish ballads. At the same time, her characters are believable and must often confront family problems. Indeed, Jones says she often uses people she has known as models for her characters. One could, for example, see some parallels between Jones's description of her own childhood and the depiction of Granny in Fire and Hemlock.

Jones has written more than twenty novels for children and has received critical attention for her work. In 1978, she received the Guardian Award for Children's Books for Charmed Life; that novel and Dogsbody were also nominated for the Carnegie Medal. At the present time, Jones continues to be a prolific writer—she has said, "I get unhappy if I don't write." She lives in England with her husband, who is a professor of English at Bristol University.

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