"I was always drawn to characters, like Huckleberry Finn, who are a little off-center, who needed a little attitude adjustment. That sort of character appealed to me more than the good guy."
“My first ambition,” says bestselling author Eoin Colfer, “was to be a cartoon artist.” Colfer drew cartoons with his brother: “We were big comic book fans, and it was difficult to get cartoons in Ireland. So we’d make our own and staple them together. For years it was our thing, and it bonded us.”
Eventually he shifted his focus to writing. Even before his famous Artemis Fowl series debuted, Colfer had written six books that had done well in Ireland. “I felt I was lucky enough to be published well here, so why push my luck and venture further afield. So I never tried to get an agent.” But after his wife read the first Artemis Fowl book, he recalls, she came down the stairs and announced, “Right, that’s enough now. We need to get an agent.” Colfer agreed, though he didn’t plan to follow through. His wife arranged for the two to have a drink with his brothers, who cornered him in a stairwell. “They made me promise to look for an agent the following day.” Colfer sent his work to two agents, one wrote back, and the rest is history.
The astonishing success of his books has changed little about the couple’s lives in Wexford, Ireland, Colfer reports, though the family did move to a slightly larger house “about 200 yards away from the first.” Being a full-time writer is the biggest difference. “I bring the kids to school and keep my mornings free for writing and afternoons for email, and when the boys come home, I have my computer on my knee in the family room, and I work whenever I can--just tapping away.”
Is he ever tempted to borrow bits of the conversation?
“I steal wholesale!” he replies. “My 14-year-old son is Artemis Fowl. He has a devious sense of humor, and while I am not happy with what he says all the time, after I scold him, I often take it and put it in the book. It’s a little hypocritical of me,” he adds. “But I was always drawn to characters, like Huckleberry Finn, who are a little off-center, who needed a little attitude adjustment. That sort of character has appealed to me more than a 100% good guy. I don’t think anyone really identifies with that type of hero anymore.” He pauses, then adds, “Although I know Harry Potter is pretty perfect, and he appears to have one or two readers.”
An audiobook fan who also listens to all of his own books to see how the narrator handles his characters, Colfer admires Nathianel Parker’s work on his Artemis Fowl series. “Nathaniel does such a great job especially with the accents--there are about 12! Russian, Estonian, French--I think he relished that challenge.”
Colfer’s current creative challenge is writing the final book in the Artemis series, a task that involves mixed feelings. “Artistically, though, the time is right, and it’s a good time to end it, do a great last book.” The regret is quickly replaced by a brimming enthusiasm for his next project, PLUGGED, an adult crime noir novel introducing the character Daniel McEvoy. “I wanted to try something as completely different as I could get. I really looked forward to writing each morning, and I’d try to think of the most ridiculous situations I could. My challenge: Could I keep the reader involved even though I knew the scenarios were ridiculous? I enjoyed writing it so much!” He adds, “It was like a sneeze--I just sneezed this book out. A long sneeze, an allergy fit! I was laughing myself, even.”--Jessie C. Grearson [Oct/Nov 2011]