For Cressida Cowell, the bestselling author of the How To Train Your Dragon books - which chart the adventures of 11-year-old viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third - starting on a new series was nerve-wracking.

"I was worried - having loved Hiccup so much, I did think, how am I ever going to write something that I love as much?" the 51-year-old children's author admits. "But I genuinely loved writing The Wizards Of Once in the end," she adds of her new series. "I was working on it for about five years, while I was writing the end of How To Train Your Dragon, so I now love it as much as How To Train Your Dragon."

The Wizards Of Once is set in a magical Iron Age Britain, where the Warriors are at war with the Wizards and there are giants, ogres and sprites - and the Witches are making a comeback.

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Cressida was inspired by the ancient Sussex landscape, where she used to roam on her bicycle as a child and go tobogganing down an Iron Age hill fort, as well as by the books she loved as a child - from The Wizard Of Earthsea and The Lord Of The Rings, to The Ogre Downstairs.

Here, the writer and illustrator shares her childhood reading memories and favourite books...

What's your first memory of reading or being read to?

"I have many memories of being read to as a child... Rudyard Kipling's The Just So Stories; 'the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo river!' A lot of the stories I remember are the ones with the rhythm.

"I was read to a very great deal by my parents and it had such an effect - I always say books read to you in your parents' voices live with you all your life, because it sends such an important message to a child, that books are important, they matter.

"I remember my mother reading the Pooh Bear stories to me in hysterics. She would laugh as much as I would. So that's why I write The Wizards Of Once and How To Train A Dragon to be read aloud, even though they're books for older readers which they can read independently, it's very important that you read aloud to your children way beyond the age that they can read to themselves."

Did you have a favourite place to read?

"I read everywhere, literally everywhere. I would read walking along to school and, sometimes, when my children have got into a book series, they've done that as well. All the pictures of me as a kid, I'm always reading.

"I read up trees. I had a lovely tree where I used to read in Sussex, near where my grandmother lived. Sussex was a real inspiration for Wizards Of Once because that was where this Iron Age hill fort was that inspired the hill forts. I also read in the bath and I still do - it's one of my favourite places to read. You can't take an ebook into the bath!

"For me, it's a very physical experience reading a book. If it's a book I really like, I have to have two copies, a hardback and then a paperback to take in the bath because often it doesn't quite survive the experience!"

Who was your favourite children's book character?

"I love buckets of children's book characters, but the one I wanted to be like was Pippi Longstocking because she was redoubtable. I like my girl heroes redoubtable. She's so strong, she can lift up a horse, she's cheeky, she has her own monkey.

"I did love all the naughty characters, the rebellious ones like Tom Sawyer. If it was a character who wasn't obeying the rules or didn't feel cowed by obeying the rules, I generally liked that!"

What do you read now?

"All sorts of different stuff; I read lots of history, lots of poetry, lots of biographies of Shakespeare.

"I just read a wonderful book, Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Such a great character and a really touching story and it puts you into the head of somebody else, which is what books should do.

"It's like walking around in somebody else's skin, that's the To Kill A Mockingbird quote and you really feel like you know what it's like to be that person. It was heartbreaking. That is a hardback and it's maybe had an encounter with a little too much suntan lotion, so I might have to get another copy.

"And the other one I read recently, Moonrise, by Sarah Crossan, that's a young adult book. She's great, she also wrote One, which is fantastic for teenagers. I've got The Essex Serpent, but I haven't started that one. I read loads of different kinds of things, I'm very eclectic."

  • The Wizards Of Once by Cressida Cowell is published in hardback by Hodder Children's Books, priced £12.99. Available now.