By Tina Jordan
Updated February 05, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

His megaselling fantasy adventure The Lightning Thief is now a Chris Columbus-directed movie, opening Feb. 12. Author Rick Riordan hasn’t seen it yet, though: He’s scrambling to finish his new book, The Red Pyramid, which goes on sale May 4. But he found a few minutes to take our book quiz.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Fletcher and Zenobia, by Edward Gorey. Out of print now, but a wonderful mixture of fantasy, ’60s psychedelia, and Gorey’s macabre sense of humor.

Is there a book you’ve read over and over again?

The Lord of the Rings is the series that turned me into a reader and got me interested in fantasy and mythology. I’ve probably read it 14 or 15 times.

Who’s the fictional character you most identify with?

Of my own characters, Grover the Satyr. In a battle, I would not be in the front line with a sword like Percy Jackson. I would be hiding in a bush like Grover, whimpering, ”Don’t kill me!” Fictional characters from other books: I’ve always had a soft spot for Pip in Great Expectations. That poor kid gets a raw deal, but he makes the best of it.

What book would you use to squash a bug?

I’d never use a book to squash a bug. I’d grab a magazine. They make much better swatters.

Is there a book you’ve faked reading?

Every book I was ever assigned in high school. Of course later I became an English major in college and had to go back and read them all. Then I became an English teacher, so there was definitely some karmic punishment going on.

What book changed your life?

Aside from the aforementioned Lord of the Rings, I’d have to say Robert B. Parker’s A Savage Place. That was the first private-eye novel I ever read, and it opened up the whole genre for me, from Raymond Chandler to Robert Crais. Percy Jackson’s narrative voice was shaped a great deal by the wisecracking PIs of noir fiction.

Is there a book you wish you could once again experience for the first time?

Charlotte’s Web, but I fear I’d have to be a child again to really appreciate it on a first read. I still remember the sense of wonder it evoked. ”Some Pig!”