As many of you probably already know, author Diana Wynne Jones passed away on Saturday.
Jones is partly responsible for the character of Golaka the chef in my goblin series. Back in late 2000, as I was finishing up the first draft of Goblin Quest, I picked up a copy of her book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. This book was exactly what I needed as a newish writer, being a guidebook/dictionary to generic fantasyland, including every cliche and trope from Dark Lords to Eye Color to “reek of wrongness.”
It also has an entry for Stew, the official — indeed sometimes the only — meal of Fantasyland.
Now, let me share with you the never-before seen opening paragraphs from the very first draft of Goblin Quest:
Jig’s spoon sank forgotten into his bowl of stew as he tried to back further into the shadows. To his left, his friend Brak moaned.
“He’s going to choose us this time. I know it.”
“Hush,” Jig snapped. He tried not to panic, but even Golara’s wonderful stew couldn’t stop the knot of fear tightening around his heart.
I cringed when I read the “Stew” entry in The Tough Guide. Fortunately, it was only a first draft. I still had time to fix this! I went online and began researching different recipes, trying to adapt them for goblin cuisine.
Golara became Golaka, and soon she was preparing spicy rat dumplings and pickled toadstools and pot pies. She became interesting, and eventually turned into one of my favorite characters in the series.
I wonder how many other struggling new authors Jones helped with that book, which was such a brilliant idea — sharply written and highly amusing. If you appreciated Golaka and her rather twisted recipes, thank Diana Wynne Jones. And if you haven’t read Neil Gaiman’s post “Being Alive. Mostly About Diana.” go do it now.