So to speak. As someone who has upon occasion pondered the make-up of fiction for academic purposes and has a fascination with the writing process, I was quick to place a copy of Diana Wynne Jones's Reflections on order, not least because she is also one of my favourite fantasy authors. As an added bonus, this also means the opportunity to read Neil Gaiman's Foreword to the collection of papers – a treat in itself, given he knew Diana Wynne Jones personally and the wording of his contribution to the pieces reflects this in tone. It is also poignant, given the anthology was compiled from existing manuscripts in the knowledge that Diana was terminally ill. Her Preface confirms she envisaged them as an opportunity for readers and students alike to reflect upon both her “ideas and convictions about writing for children, writing, and fantasy generally”, in addition to providing useful material charting “the creative process itself”. In this, she is entirely successful.
The contents of the collection range from literary criticism related to the shape of the narrative in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a review of Mervyn Peake's Boy in Darkness to anecdotes concerning reading tours and information concerning the origins of, amongst others, Fire and Hemlock and The Merlin Conspiracy. There are also hints for developing writers concerning characterisation and one of the last ever interviews conducted with the author prior to her death. Any one of these makes the book worth reading for anyone even remotely familiar with Diana Wynne Jones’ works or of a creative bent personally, as I’ve already stated previously.
For me, one of the things which struck me most whilst making my way through the various contributions was how strongly the author’s personality came across within her descriptions of the “two kinds” of writing required within speculative fiction (i.e. writing for children and for adults and the differences between the two) and “Answers to Some Questions”, to cite merely two examples within the entirety of the text. I was also fascinated by the biographical detail within the section entitled “Something About the Author”, given it was apparent from the brief autobiographical hints apparent within her The Time of the Ghost (US version here, for one) that Diana Wynne Jones had had what might be termed a somewhat unusual childhood.
As a fan of this author’s works in general, this is a welcome addition to my collection and I was glad of the opportunity to familiarise myself with additional material from her; previously unpublished in a number of cases. I’m only sad that it emphasises the fact that there will be nothing further to add to the collection and that those who value the significance of Diana Wynne Jones’ writing to the field of speculative fiction (such that she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Fantasy Association in 2007) will not be afforded the opportunity for additional examples of her offbeat sense of humour, original plotlines and quirky characterisation.