Here Be Dragons - Sharon Kay Penman
Set in the 13th-century reign of King John of England, it tells the story of his struggles with Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales. Penman breathes life into people from centuries past who might otherwise remain dry figures in dusty historical reference pages. She gives them colour and heart, makes you love or hate them. Her writing in particular has impressed upon me the need for thorough research.
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fourteen and in love with the lonely man that Jay Gatsby was, I was enchanted by his remoteness and liked especially that he was incredibly attractive to women and yet loved only one. In each of my books I have written a leading male with these qualities and he's invariably my favourite.
The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
Nineteen, commuting to London, and if I wasn't going all the way into Victoria, I'd have probably missed my station. I was captivated by the exciting European destinations and seduced by Bourne's favourite Parisian hotel - the Hotel George V. This book guided me into the travel industry and I'm pleased to know I have ticked off most of those cities I read about and I did finally stay at the George V.
A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones) - George R.R. Martin
As good as fantasy fiction gets. Powerful, addictive, brilliantly written and pure escapism. It stunned me with the easy way that its author kills characters without apology and essentially gave me permission to follow that more brutal style of fantasy for my writing. Until I read Martin, I thought something was wrong with me!
Grimm's Fairy Tales - Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Still as wonderful to read now as they were when I was a child. Tense, dramatic, adventure-style stories were always my cup of tea, and even now I struggle to stay patient with novels that navel-gaze. These wildly creative and exciting tales lit a fire beneath the tinderbox of my imagination and set me on my course to be a storyteller of fantastic realms and characters.
Fiona McIntosh is a British-born Australian author of 17 adult novels and six children's books. Her latest novel, set in Nazi-occupied France, is The Lavender Keeper (Michael Joseph, $29.95).