One of the first books I remember being genuinely moved by was The Children at Green Meadows by Enid Blyton. I was a huge Enid Blyton fan and read all The Secret Seven series. The Famous Five series was also a firm favourite, especially as the show was on TV.
We also had some abridged illustrated classics at home, like Treasure Island, King Solomon’s Mines, and The Last of the Mohicans. I think I enjoyed the illustrations more than the stories but they did prompt me to revisit these titles when I got older and Treasure Island is still one of my all-time favourites.
We loved comics in our house too, though we weren’t allowed to buy them often. Our neighbour however, got comics every week so when he was finished with them we received bundles of the Beano, the Dandy, Roy of the Rovers and Thundercats.
Our mother also encouraged us to read Irish books and I loved Tom McCaughren’s fox series beginning with Run with the Wind. I also vividly remember Carolyn Swift’s Robbers series and Island of the Great Yellow Ox by Walter Macken.
Roald Dahl has to be on this list too, my favourites from him being Danny the Champion of the World and James and the Giant Peach.
I also have great memories of books in school. Every day we used to look forward to the teacher reading us Charlotte’s Web or The Iron Man. In the older classes I discovered abridged classics like Dracula, Frankenstein or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The first books that totally transported me to another world were Mary Norton’s Borrowers books. I guess it was my first taste of fantasy. Watership Down was my second, and I was truly blown away by it. It remains in my top ten books of all time.
As kids, we loved getting gifts that came free with a box of cereal, but when the Weetabix came home from the shop with a book attached we were overjoyed. Not just because it was a free book, but because it was a book we’d never seen the likes of before. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in which the reader makes decisions at the end of each page to choose the direction of the story. This interactive fiction coincided with the arrival of an Atari 800xl computer in our house and for the first time I realised that the reader no longer had to play a passive role, and that a story can have many endings. I remember reading War With the Evil Power Master, The Case of the Silk King, The Horror of High Ridge, Survival at Sea, and Mountain Survival over and over again until I reached a satisfying ending.
From there, my brother and I evolved to reading gamebooks. These were like Choose Your Own Adventures, but with the added complexities of fighting monsters, rolling dice, collecting objects and earning/losing health and skill points etc. I loved The Way of the Tiger series by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson, and the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever.
These types of books led me to write my own books, which I still have. They’re my most precious possessions! At around the age of ten I wrote The Magic Sword, and The Samurai was written some years later.
Fast forward twenty years and it was no big surprise that my first publications would be interactive puzzle adventures – Trapdoor to Treachery, Voyage to Victory, Tempest of Trouble and Curse of the Cockroach.
Fast forward another 10 years and it is no surprise that my first novel, The Black Lotus includes swords, ninjas, samurai, time travel and talking animals. It may have taken forty years, but the books I read as a kid were the making of my novel, and also, the making of me.
The Black Lotus by Kieran Fanning is the first book in the Samurai Wars series and is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House). Find out more at http://www.kieranfanning.com and http://www.chickenhousebooks.com