Puzzles and card games captivated Jonathan Stroud as a child, so it’s little wonder he has grown up to be a successful fantasy writer spinning magical tales to the delight of his pre-teen audience.

Jonathan, who lives in Harpenden, will soon be making a date at Watford Central Library as part of Hertfordshire’s LitFest 2011. His Bartimaeus trilogy and the prequel, Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon has now sold more than million copies worldwide. The Ring of Solomon was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Children’s Book Award and has recently been adapted into a graphic novel.

Jonathan moved to Harpenden three years ago having previously lived in St Albans from the age of six. He attended Wheatfields Junior School and St Albans Boys’ School and went on to do an English Literature degree at York University. On graduation, he worked his way through the ranks at Walker Books.

“I started out on work experience doing tedious accounts and filing. They told me if did that for a couple of months, I could spend time in different departments.”

He went on to work on the Where’s Wally series and spent nine years editing books before he decided it was time to write full time.

“It took me years to pluck up the courage to go freelance. I used to write in my spare time in the morning before going to work, but I’d always grumble about it. My wife said it was time to put my money where mouth is and she gave me a year to try and make a go of it.”

Now 40, Jonathan says he found inspiration from growing up in St Albans.

“It’s a place with one foot in the past with the Abbey and Roman remains, so you’re constantly aware of its ancient history under the landscape but it’s also a modern, changing environment.

“I had the idea for Bartimaeus the genie while strolling along a street feeling depressed on a rainy day. I developed this idea of magicians being bad guys and spent six months on it. I sent it out to publisher in the summer and ended up with a book deal and a film contract.”

The success of Jonathan’s books does seem to be linked to his ability to meld the mysterious with up-to-the-minute issues.

“Bartimaeus is set in an alternative but recognisable London where these corrupt magicians run the country. There’s a mix of uplifting magical escapist stuff paired with ponderings about how the world works and the problems of the real world.

“You have to walk a fine line – escapist or fluffy fantasy is okay but it’s limited also imposing some kind of vision of things can get a bit tiresome.

“I write for the 12-year-old kid inside me but also what I enjoy as an adult. It’s a pleasure to write it and if that’s so, the chances are other people will like it as well.”

Jonathan is at Watford Central Library, Hempstead Road, Watford on Tuesday, March 15 at 6.30pm. Details: 0300123 4049