My early experience with stories came from the radio, which is a wonderful medium. I remember listening to gangster serials, and cowboy serials, and best of all — Superman! When I first saw a Superman comic, it changed my life. Soon afterward I discovered Batman, too, whom I loved even more. I had to argue with my parents about them, though, because they weren't “proper” reading. I suppose what persuaded them to let me carry on reading comics was the fact that I was also reading books just as greedily. I was good at spelling, so obviously the comics weren't harming me too much.
For a long time, my favorite stories were ghost stories. I used to enjoy frightening myself and my friends with the tales I read. I also liked making up stories about the tree in the woods we used to call the Hanging Tree. My friends and I would creep past it in the dark and shiver as we looked at the bare, sinister outline against the sky. I still enjoy ghost stories, even though I don't think I believe in ghosts anymore.
I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It's important to put it like that — not “I am a writer,” but rather “I write stories.” If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you're in danger of thinking that you're the most important thing. But you're not. The story is what matters, and you're only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order.
I live in Oxford now, and I do my writing in a shed at the bottom of the garden. If the young boy I used to be could have looked ahead in time and seen the man I am today, writing stories in his shed, would he have been pleased? I wonder. Would that child who loved Batman comics and ghost stories approve of the novels I earn my living with now? I hope so. I hope he's still with me. I'm writing them for him.