As I grew older, so did my tastes in reading. I moved on to the imaginative, character-filled worlds of Roald Dahl. One story that sticks in my mind is The Twits - a dark, twisted and terrifying tale. I’d recommend it to everyone! It’s so horrible you can only laugh at the absurdity of two old crotchety people trying to out do one another in the nastiness stakes. Roald Dahl’s imagination is on top form in this story – from serving worm spaghetti to making the old Twit think she’s shrinking is creepy, funny and fiendishly clever. I haven’t read this book in maybe 25 years, but the fact that I can still remember these scenes and the characters just shows how brilliant The Twits is.
By my early teenage years, I wanted to take more control in reading. This was the decade of the Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I must have read over 20 of these single-player fantasy gamebooks. Being the hero and making the character’s choices was a revelation for me and I was hooked. I could follow my own path through the story - as if I was the omnipotent author.
As a fully-fledged teenager, I then discovered Stephen King. I realize some people may disagree with me, but I think he’s one of the great storytellers of all time. Some dismiss King as ‘just’ a Horror writer; but he’s also responsible for such brilliant books such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. The one story of his that haunts me to this day is IT. The book deals with childhood fears that enter the adult world. A clown, who is often the source of laughter, becomes the focus of fear. I read this tome in the middle of Africa and I still had nightmares that a clown was about to jump out at me from behind a bush…when I should have been far more worried about the real-life danger of a lion!
And the last book I read…Under The Dome by Stephen King. Need I say more…
So when it came to writing my own novels, I followed his advice to write the book I would want to read as a young person. So I combined many of the elements above in my Young Samurai series: from the swashbuckling, high-seas adventure I loved in Captain Pugwash; to the memorable distorted characters of Roald Dahl (check out Dragon Eye in my book); to the fact that as the author I could really can make my own plot decisions; and finally to the simple essence of great storytelling that Stephen King espouses - a gripping plot that twists and turns with nail-biting cliffhangers.
I can only thank these master storytellers for all their lessons, ideas, inspiration and hours of enjoyment. For in writing this blog, I’ve discovered – reading makes the writer.
Chris Bradford is the author of the award-winning Young Samurai series, a tale of adventure, friendship and heroism that follows an English boy as he strives to become the first foreign samurai. (www.youngsamurai.com
Chris is a black belt in martial arts and lives in a village in West Sussex, England, with his wife.
Books in series: The Way of the Warrior and The Way of the Sword