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Between the Lines

Interview with Diane Duane
The Young Wizard Series
So You Want to Be a Wizard, Deep Wizardry, High Wizardry, A Wizard Abroad, The Wizard's Dilemma, and, coming in October, the sixth book A Wizard Alone.
Diane Duane
Biography
Diane Duane was born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island in the New York suburbs. She graduated from Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing as a registered nurse, with an honors specialty in psychiatry. She then practiced at Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic of New York Hospital for two years.

Ms. Duane has been writing for her own enjoyment since she was a child. She is the author of numerous novels, short stories, screenplays, comic books, and computer games; and she has worked extensively with the Star Trek television series and related products. She is listed in Twentieth-Century Science Fiction Writers, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

She says of her books: "What I try to do for my readers is to pass on some of the things that I found out about being thirteen after doing it for forty years." Her six books for Harcourt make up the Young Wizards series: So You Want to Be a Wizard, Deep Wizardry, High Wizardry, A Wizard Abroad, The Wizard's Dilemma, and the latest in the series, A Wizard Alone which is coming in October.

Ms. Duane lives in rural Ireland with her husband, writer Peter Morwood, and four cats. For more information, visit her Web Site at www.owlsprings.com.
Interview
Q: This series of wizardry books is very much about developing confidence, choosing between right and wrong, and facing life's challenges. You are addressing some very tough issues that many young readers face in daily life—such as Nita's mom developing cancer in The Wizard's Dilemma, and the introduction of an autistic wizard in your upcoming release, A Wizard Alone. What inspired you to include these two social/emotional subjects in the books?
A: The issues of the choice between right and wrong has to be an ongoing concern for everybody, at every age. There is no magical point in a human life when anyone is or becomes immune to the second-by-second choice to do right instead of wrong. Everyone has to deal with the choice with every breath, and it's so easy to fail at any moment, no matter how well you've been doing the moment before or may do the moment after. If I do deal with the subject, either directly or indirectly, in my books for younger readers, it's because I would also be doing so in my adult books. The young have no monopoly on innocence, no matter what their elders think. Kids want to know (just as much as adults do, or more) how the hard choices look when they approach, and how to deal with them. "How shall a man do right?" has been one of the most basic human questions since long before Ecclesiastes. It turns up in the Book of the Dead and in old Hittite and Assyrian writings. I don't think I'd qualify as human if it didn't turn up in mine.

As for cancer and death . . . . As one of the characters says in the book, in regards to humans liking to hear stories that we know the end of: "This is the one story we all know the end of . . . . but we just won't talk about it." It is, frankly, stupid not to talk about it. It's going to happen to every one of us who walks the planet. How are you supposed to form your response to something that nobody will talk to you about? Maybe it's my nursing background, or something else, but ignoring this vital part of human experience-the part that makes all the other parts most precious, isn't something I'm capable of doing.

Autism is another story. As I conceive of it, wizardry is an equal-opportunity employer. Everybody, no matter how differently "abled," must to my mind have some unique quality or ability without which the universe wouldn't be the same. And what that quality might be isn't ours to judge.

Q: You also address the character's choices between good and evil, with the careful distinction being made that one does not exist without the other—the Lone Power is evil personified; the wizard's work is in pursuit of "good." Although the magical aspects of the book are entertaining, what is your underlying message about choosing between good and evil?
A: If there's a message—which isn't something I specifically set out to commit: I write for pleasure mostly—it would probably be summed up in a T-shirt that says: TRY GOOD: IT'S NOT AS BORING AS THE BAD GUYS WANT YOU TO THINK! But that discovery is one that people usually make for themselves, by and large—or have made—by the time they come to a book like this. My bottom line as a writer is that I can legitimately share my own experience of which side I prefer to play for. But I decline to run around in the literary arena, as it were, with fire and sword-trying to beat people into making the same choice. This isn't routinely an effective way to communicate the life—enhancing quality of choice.

Q: Transcendent Pig is a unique character in book five, The Wizard's Dilemma. I imagine because he's omnipresent that he will have at least a cameo in A Wizard Alone. What's his story?
A: I first met The Transcendent Pig in the Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore. He's Chinese—or at least the Chinese think he is. Only one other writer that I know of mentions him, and only in passing—Barry Hughart, in Bridge of Birds—but that's to be expected, as Hughart is most expert in Chinese mythology. The next time I met the pig, I was up Mount Rigi, in Switzerland, but that's another story.

As for his being omnipresent . . . Well, he is, but his comment would probably be: "Just because you're omnipresent doesn't mean you have to be everywhere at once." He does not appear in A Wizard Alone—at least as far as I know, at least not in any shape which I recognize at the moment. This may change as I start to write Wizard's Holiday, the next book in the group. There is a matter concerning Kit and Nita that he's keeping his eye on. To say much more about it would be to violate confidentiality. Since I'm going to visit the pig's haunts on Rigi next week, this strikes me as unwise. :)

Q: There are many other animal characters in the series. One in particular, Kit's dog, Ponch, develops magical powers, takes on an important role in book five, and in book six becomes a main character. What is the significance of "man's best friend" in the magical mix?
A: Life without friendship isn't worth much. Dogs have a very special kind of friendship/relation with human beings—one I recognize, though I'm more of a cat person myself. Plainly, something is going on with Ponch that is unusual for him, or for dogs in general. It's going to be fun to watch this unfold.

Q: Friendship is highlighted throughout the Young Wizards series. In the first book, So You Want to Be a Wizard, Nita meets Kit and must stand by their friendship to develop it. In Deep Wizardry, Nita and Kit form a lifelong friendship with the whale, S'reee. In The Wizard's Dilemma, their bond begins to splinter until the threat of the Lone Power brings them back together. Even though their friendship is resilient, during periods of separation both Nita and Kit are self-sufficient and capable of great independence. Do you believe that your readers need a little of both—friendship and independence—as they "come of age?"
A: I would think everyone would need a certain amount of self-sufficiency to make a friendship work. A friendship that relies entirely on leaning on someone else is going to get unsatisfactory for one person and fatiguing for the other. But life can't be all self-sufficiency, either. This is the reason why, among literary characters, James Bond is probably the loneliest creature on the planet. There's no one he can depend on.

The middle ground is best. Your ability to depend on yourself means that your friend has twice as many resources—possibly three times as many—to depend on. It's not so much a matter of needing both qualities to come of age, it's that you can't be fully of age, or stay that way, without both.

Q: Your characters travel quite a bit. They experience life underwater, navigate the streets of New York, go to Ireland, and even explore the galaxy. Do you think this expansiveness will help teens to realize that life is full of possibilities—and that limits often are self-imposed?
A: What teens will realize is always a mystery to me. I'm still realizing so many things myself, very belatedly, that it seems unwise to think I have any right to be showing people things in hopes that they'll realize them. Mostly I'm grateful to have realized them myself at all. :) As for travel, I like it a lot. I'm writing this right now on my PDA in a little tree-shaded taverna on the island of Hydra, in Greece, and I sit here wondering: "Why didn't I ever think of coming here myself before? Why did I wait until someone asked me to go? I've been realizing that there are whole chunks of the map of the world, which have effectively been blank for me, and I've never given serious thought to filling them in. I don't know if this is going to turn me into a world traveler—I have to stay home and write sometimes! But to be reminded that the world is big, REALLY big—even just our own planet—has to be a good thing.

If I go off-planet a lot, it's because that's a part of the "landscape" I've been aware of, and interested in, since I was about five. I remember, just, the news that Sputnik had gone up, and that news suddenly snapped the world into focus for me as if someone had said: "This is the time you were born for—wake up!" Since then Space, with a capital S, has always been a passion for me. I doubt I'll get there myself, but I've lived to see the time when people are starting to get there without it being a big deal. I will live to see space tourism . . . and be glad that I lived to see it happen.

Yes, limits can be self-imposed. But, as regards space, especially, they're starting to dwindle. It can be the same way for people . . . .

Q: Which of the six Young Wizard Series books is your current favorite?
A: This is as dangerous a question as asking a mom which of her children she likes best. The only safe answer is: the next one. I'm already getting excited about Wizard's Holiday. :)

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Diane Duane

Diane Duane

The Wizard's Dilemma