Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl YA novels and several other books, is a very, very funny man.
In a recent book event and interview at the Toronto Reference Library, Colfer kept the audience laughing as much as he informed them about his work. He was actually in town promoting his newest book, Plugged, but naturally there was as much discussion of his other books as there was of that one. In fact, there is a lot to talk (and laugh) about, when it comes to this prolific writer.
Even when he writes a book like Plugged, which is a darker crime fiction novel and a decidedly not-for-kids book (“It has some bad words,” says Colfer), you can’t escape the humour. The book itself was predicated on a pun. And the main character’s constant inner dialogue resembles imaginary conversations that Colfer says he conducts inside his own head, with his characters, with reviewers, with interviewers, and anyone else who wants to join in.
He puts himself (and his friends and relatives) very much into the books he writes, yet surprisingly, Artemis Fowl is not his own alter ego. Artemis is in fact patterned after his brother, who had a very “James Bond mastermind” moment during a solemn picture-taking at a church. This brother, according to Colfer, is “quite pleased” with his fictional transformation. Another brother was the source for kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Duggums, primarily inspiring Duggums’ rather “windy” characteristics. This brother, understandably, is “not so happy about it.” Holly the diminutive leprechaun, who is the moral centre of the Artemis Fowl books, was also patterned after someone Colfer knew: a plucky girl he used to teach, who was eager to learn, and who never backed down from anyone.
Discussions about Holly, and leprechauns in general, provided much of the laughter throughout the evening. Colfer mentioned that people are always asking whether Artemis and Holly will eventually “get together” — if you know what I mean. Aside from the fact that Holly is about eighty years older than Artemis, there’s another problem. To explain, Colfer leaned toward the audience and informed us solemnly, “I have a rule: only the same species.”
He also described how a doctor arose in the audience of one interview and pointed, his hand shaking with anger, to say, “That high a dosage of that medicine would have killed that leprechaun!” Colfer talked to him afterward, and agreed that the dosage should have been less. Another man in an audience said indignantly, “There’s no such thing as a female leprechaun!” So, as Colfer said, “I had to explain to him that there’s probably no such thing as leprechauns at all.”
Colfer plans another two Artemis Fowl books before the series winds down. He is also likely to follow Plugged with a couple of sequels. Airman, in his opinion, is as perfect and complete as it can get, so it’s likely to remain a standalone book. But the sequel he’s probably most famous for, and notoriously so, is And Another Thing…, a completion of Douglas Adams’ unfinished sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.
Colfer felt he could never do the book justice, yet also felt he couldn’t say no, especially when Adams’ widow, Jane Belson, welcomed the idea. But even here, Colfer ran into some amusing sorts of trouble. He was on Facebook at the time (he isn’t now), and Facebook’s randomly generated “you might like this” page suggestions brought up a group wanting to stop Colfer from writing the book! So naturally, he joined the group.
Some writers view their work very seriously, and spend years and much angst as they produce their great work of art. Eoin Colfer makes sure to do a thorough and well-crafted job, yet refuses to take himself that seriously. And as the audience at the Reference Library discovered during the interview, that more light-hearted attitude takes him (and us!) a long, long way.