Friday, 22 January 2010

Confessions of a Youthful Misdemeanour - Lucy Coats

The anticipated delight of a new title from an author you have been reading for years cannot be underestimated, and I am happy to report that I enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones' latest book, the just-published Enchanted Glass,very much indeed.  It's a stand-alone, and it has all the old W J magic about it--at least I thought so. There is just something about her writing which fuses the mundane and the magical in a way which makes me feel that were I to walk into one of her country villages, I would recognise the landscape and characters immediately.  I would even go so far as to say that if I had to choose a fantasy landscape to walk into, then it would be one of hers. They are so comfortably English, and yet have an edge of hidden danger and wild mystery about them which I find very appealing. 

I didn't discover Diana Wynne Jones at all till I was in my twenties, but I loved her books no less for that. I was working in those far off days as an editor for Heinemann, and was nominally in charge of some of the (then) new and shiny yellow Banana Books.  It was terribly exciting to be editing such literary luminaries as Mary Hoffman, Penelope Lively, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Dick King-Smith (to whom I was known as the Lacy Scout) and the late, lovely Douglas Hill with whom I had possibly the longest, chattiest and best author lunch ever and never got back to work at all.  It was a wonderful time, and I plunged headfirst into reading every modern children's book I could get my hands on to catch up on the ten or so years I'd missed out on. 

That included Charmed Life, and I fell in love with Chrestomanci Castle and its inhabitants at once.  You can imagine my delight when a Banana Book story from Diana Wynne Jones fell onto my desk. And now here comes the Dreadful Confession.  I found that I wasn't actually very keen on it, and I had to write and say so to her agent. Did I do the right thing? It is a question which haunts me even now, and I'll never know the answer.  Apart from anything else, I was longing to meet her.  But even the best of us have an off writing day now and then.  At least,  I know I do. It's part of the rocky territory which goes with this author business.

PS: In mitigation, I now own every book Diana has ever written, both adult and children's and reread them often when in need of comfort--and my own children pounce on them as eagerly as I do.  I do hope that's some small recompense for that one youthful editorial misdemeanour, (and if anyone else out there has a deep dark literary secret they'd like to confess, here's the place to do it!).

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Katherine Langrish said...

You've just reminded me that I was promised a copy of this - must chase up!!!
Diana Wynne Jones is a National Treasure.

Charlie Butler said...

Another DWJ fan here. (And - ahem - I believe I may have been mentioned in this book's dedication - ahem!) I wouldn't feel too bad about your misdemeanour, Lucy - even DWJ's stories have to be judged on their own merits, and I suspect the readers of the Banana Books were no respecters of literary reputation. (But did you make a sneaky photocopy of it, for completists?)

Book Maven said...

Yes, where is my copy? Dreadful HarperCollins!

You did the right thing, Lucy. You can't accept a "wrong" book just to meet a "right" author.

So glad to hear you loved Douglas as much as I did. Miss him so much.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Always been a fan of hers,Lucy, shall look for her book, thanks for letting us know.

Lucy Coats said...

Kath--Yes--Diana IS a NLT, which is why I've always had a sneaking guilt complex.

Charlie--indeed, I think you may have been! And no, I didn't keep a sneaky photocopy. I so wish I had, but hindsight, as always, is a fine thing.

Mary--thank you--I know that really! And yes, dear Douglas. I miss him too. He was the best 'adviser' on which was the best fantasy to read that one could ever wish for.

Miriam Halahmy said...

A wonderful recommendation and I so remember Banana books and teaching children to read with them. Heady days!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

DJW is wonderful - I only discovered her about ten years ago and promptly bought all the books I could find at the local bookstore!

catdownunder said...

Sigh. I have a copy on order. Now they tell me they have run out of imported copies and I will have to wait at least another six weeks. Oh well, something to look forward to. My father, no lover of fantasy, thinks DWJ is 'marvellous' so, of course, he will read it first.