There can’t be many less romantic venues for secret reading than an East Midlands building site, but so absorbed was I in the magical world of fauns and talking animals that afternoon after afternoon slipped by. In particular, I remember being enraptured by the scene in The Magician’s Nephew, where the two children find magical rings that transport them into a forest that turns out to be a sort of no-man’s land. The trees in the forest are surrounded by pools – and each pool represents a whole different universe. If they step into one of the pools, they are transported to that world. I often think that the enormous privilege of being a novelist is to have those magic rings, the ability to move from one world to the next, to create whole universes for a reader. I know that when I am completely absorbed in a book, I feel transported to the world of it in a way that feels very real – sometimes, if I look up from my reading, it takes a moment or two for me to realise where I am or what it is I should be doing. The thought that something I write might do that for a reader is a truly intense pleasure.
Writers often get asked what it was made them become a writer – and when I am asked that, I think of myself at the age of seven, eight or nine, hiding in a muddy hollow in my thin anorak, hiding because I wanted to disappear into somebody else’s world, hiding because I wanted to read. Over four decades later, it’s wonderful to be able to do that all over again, not only with reading but with writing my own fiction. Each book feels like its own world and nothing gives me greater pleasure to think of my own readers disappearing into that world in their turn.