Life after Artemis Fowl? Alison Wells talks to Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer is from Wexford and began his working life as a primary school teacher. He spent several years travelling with his wife in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy and his first bookBenny and Omar, published in 1998, was based on his travels in Tunisia. The Artemis books are a series of eight science fantasy books featuring the teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl and his adventures with and against various Fairie and pixie allies and foes. His latest bookThe Last Guardian (published July 2012 by Puffin) is the last in a series which hit readers by storm, selling millions of copies worldwide since the title book was released eleven years ago. The Artemis Fowl series has been translated into forty languages – as www.6of3.com says, “most of them human.”
Catching up with Eoin Colfer amid his travels, I ask him to cast his mind back and tell us how the idea for Artemis Fowl originated. His answer is both surprising and wry: “I got the idea for a young, super criminal from a photo I saw of my little brother making his Confirmation. It occurred to me that he looked like a James Bond villain and I thought it would be funny if that was the main character in a series.” Did he know how many Artemis books he would go on to write? “I actually had planned for only three books, but ideas kept coming so I kept on writing more. Eight is enough, I think, time for Artemis to retire.”
Writers hope for success but it’s never a given. I ask Eoin what the huge popularity of Artemis Fowl has meant to him. “The Artemis series has been hugely important for me and my family. It brought us security for one thing. Another thing Artemis did for me was allow me to be a full time writer,” Eoin says “and even more than that I could indulge myself in writing projects that I felt pretty sure would not be blockbusters, including a musical and a few one-act plays.”
While Eoin Colfer is now perhaps best known for the Artemis books, he has also written adult books such as Plugged and in 2009 he completed And Another Thing… the well-received continuation of the famous and much loved Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.
The Artemis series has been marketed in different covers to suit different reader age groups, but the main focus is on the child and teen market. The concepts and language of the books are high level. It seems to me that this refusal to talk down or simplify has contributed to the success of the books. Colfer agrees, “Anyone who spends any time with teens knows that they are just as smart as adults and they consider themselves much smarter, so not talking down seemed like an obvious idea to me.”
Fans of the series will know that one of his main adversaries throughout the series was Opal Koboi whose quest for world destruction had to be thwarted several times by Artemis. In The Last Guardian (UK and US covers illustrated left), Artemis and his friends face an additional enemy called the Beserkers, long-dead fairy warriers who rise from the dead to wreak destruction over the Earth. I asked Eoin Colfer how the idea for the Beserkers had taken shape. He told me, “I have always been drawn to the stories of Japanese soldiers left behind on islands during WWII to fight the American forces, “ he says. “I found it tragically heroic that these guys would fight for years, and sometimes decades, in a battle that was long since over. I wanted to transfer this somehow to the fairies who battled the humans at Taillte, so the Berserkers were born.”
In The Last Guardian, Artemis’ younger twin brothers Myles and Beckett feature highly (albeit in an usual way). As younger characters I wondered was there the potential for them to appear in their own series in the future? “I have become more interested in those two especially because I modelled them on my own sons.” Eoin admits.” I think I might be taking a very close look at them in a few years, but for now I am staying well away from Fowls and fairies.”
What has Eoin Colfer to say about the children’s market? I asked him if he felt it had changed over the last number of years. He comments on how the children’s/YA market has come into its own. “I think that market forces have realised what a vast market it is, and so now children’s book are marketed just as aggressively as adult books. I think that at least five of the top ten best-selling books of all time are children’s books.”
What about life after Artemis?
Colfer is off on a new adventure with his next book W.A.R.P. I asked him to tell me more. Eoin explained, “WARP is a steampunk, time travel, adventure comedy. Book 1 is set in Victorian and present day London. It has elements of Oliver Twist and the Matrix stirred in with fascinating characters, magic and a complex story. “ I must admit it sounds fabulous, so how does he think Artemis fans will transfer to the new series? “I hope Artemis fans will move over without too much pain. My readers know by now that I like to experiment in different genres, so I hope they will stick with me for this new adventure.”
And what about the nuts and bolts of writing? How does Eoin go about it?
When writing his first books, Eoin Colfer combined his day job as a teacher with writing. His writing routine was more flexible then, he says “I used to be able to write any place and under most conditions, maybe because writing was my hobby and I had to steal time where I could. Now that I write all the time I seem to need very specific conditions. I like working in my office with music playing and a cup of coffee beside the keyboard. Where once I could write up-side down in a wardrobe, now I need comfort and peace. I am getting old!” he jokes.
I ask Eoin to tell us what he feels is the most important habit that writers should develop.” I would tell aspiring writers to observe,” he answers readily. “They already know it is vital to read and write whenever possible, but often people forget to watch what is going on every day in their surroundings. That is where your ideas come from. Keep one eye on your computer screen and the other on the world around you.”
(c) Alison Wells Aug 2012
Alison Wells is a psychology and communications graduate and Irish writer. Her short stories have been shortlisted in many major prizes and have appeared in zines and anthologies including National Flash Fiction Day’s Jawbreakers, Crannóg, Voices of Angels and Metazen. Her space comedy adventure novel as A.B. WellsHousewife with a Half-Life is available in Hughes & Hughes and Dubray Books, Bray, in Ireland, Amazon in paperback and for Kindle US/IRL and Kindle UK.
Susan Strong is a suburban housewife who is literally disintegrating. When, Fairly Dave, a biker jacket & kilt wielding spaceman arrives through the shower head to warn her, she knows things are serious. When she and her precocious 4 year twins Pluto and Rufus get sucked through Frozen Peas into another universe it gets even messier. In a world where household appliances are alive and dangerous, where Geezers have Entropy Hoovers and the Spinner’s Cataclysmic convertor could tear the world apart, Susan Strong is the only thing holding the world together. Through this madcap, feel-good adventure, Susan Strong and Fairly Dave travel the alternate universes to find Susan’s many selves, dodge Geezers and defeat the evil memory bankers. From dystopian landscapes and chicken dinners, to Las Vegas and bubble universes, can Susan Strong reintegrate her bits and will it be enough to save us all?
Alison's new mini short story collections including Stories to make you go ‘ah’, are available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. She blogs at www.writing.ie in Random Acts of Optimism and atwww.alisonwells.wordpress.com.