I discovered Diana Wynne Jones in the same library I discovered Lloyd Alexander, when I was about eight. I picked up a book called Fire and Hemlock, and it stuck so firmly in my mind that it's never got out again, even though I spent many years away from it. I'd never read anything like it before (and never have since). Around the same time my parents bought me Black Maria for my birthday, and someone else gave me a copy of The Power of Three. I found a battered Charmed Life at a school fete, and borrowed Dogsbody and The Magicians of Caprona from the library.
Nobody writes magic like Diana Wynne Jones. There's something about the way magic springs so effortlessly from the ordinary, humdrum world, that makes everything magical.
I kept borrowing Fire and Hemlock, over and over again, until suddenly I had no access to that particular library any more. My supply dried up, and although I looked eagerly in every library and second hand bookshop I encountered, I found nothing. I felt a bit like Polly at the beginning of the book, wondering if the story had indeed been as magical as I remembered.
Then, in 2000, I started working in a book shop. And I did my usual Diana Wynne Jones catalogue check, and discovered... reprints. Fire and Hemlock had been reprinted. I ordered it.
It was that magical. It was better than I remembered.
I ordered the others. I ordered them all. I discovered AbeBooks and ordered all the ones that were out of print. Over the next few years, I read every book Diana had ever published. But more kept coming! Nearly every year, and even though Diana was growing old, and her health was failing, still the books kept coming. And there was not a dud among them.
But no more. Thankfully, I have a book shelf full of Diana that I can turn to whenever I wish.
I can't begin to explain the kind of influence that Diana Wynne Jones had on me. She made me want to be a writer. She makes me want to be a better writer. The character of Thomas Behr in Scatterheart is an homage to Tom Lynn in Fire and Hemlock - a kind of fan-fiction, I suppose, because I loved Diana's character so much, I wanted to spend more time with him.
Of course I'm not the only one. There are a lot of writers and readers out there mourning the loss of one of the best fantasy authors of our time - the best, in my opinion.
Goodbye, Diana. Thank you for every single word.