WRITERS' MINDS Eoin Colfer


New York Times bestselling author, Eoin Colfer, chats to Sarah Broadley about his expansive writing career and sharing stories across the length and breadth of Ireland as children's laureate.


Eoin Colfer is the author of the New York Times best-selling Artemis Fowl series, currently being adapted into a major motion picture from the Walt Disney Studios. He also wrote the critically acclaimed WARP trilogy, and many other titles for young readers and adults, including Iron Man: The Gauntlet, Airman, Half Moon Investigations, The Supernaturalist, Eoin Colfer’s Legend of . . . books, The Wish List, Benny and Omar and Benny and Babe. In 2014, he was named Ireland’s laureate for children’s literature. He lives with his wife and two sons in Dublin, Ireland, where he is working on an Artemis Fowl spin-off series featuring The Fowl Twins.

Going from a primary school teacher to a full-time writer must have been a drastic change for you, can you give any advice to writers who are considering the same? Do you miss the classroom at all?

I found the easiest way for me to navigate the transition, once I’d finished crying with happiness, was to try and keep up the work schedule. So, I have always dragged myself out of bed at seven and done a full day’s work as though writing is a proper job which it isn’t for me as I love it. I did try to laze around and see if ideas popped into my head but that doesn’t seem to work for me. The guilt blocks my flow I think. My best ideas have always come while I am working on something else. I don’t miss the classroom at all because I visit at least fifty per year and so my old teaching skills come in handy.

In September 2008 you wrote the sixth novel in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, 'And Another Thing...'. Can you share your experiences writing for the series and if you encountered any creative obstacles?

This was the hardest book I have ever had to write, apart from the first Artemis Fowl sequel in which I had to prove to myself that the first best seller wasn’t a fluke. But with H2G2 I was taking on my own adolescence in some way. The pressure was immense and my reverence for the characters was really getting in my way. It all evaporated one day when I told my wife about my difficulties with the imaginary alien Zaphod Beeblebrox and she had to leave in the middle of my explanation to collect our non-imaginary kids. That little event put everything into perspective and I was unblocked.

You have written screen plays, musicals and comics – out of these three, which has been your preferred outlet and do you have any plans to expand your work in these areas?

I do love musicals passionately, and would love to see one of my projects on Broadway or the West End. I still have a few shows on the go, so that dream is still alive. There are so many moving parts in a musical that it is a feat of near magic to get everything running smoothly. Someday.

If your characters, Artemis and Benny, were ever to meet, do you think they would compare notes on hurling and criminal activities? 

I think if they were to meet they would probably hate each other for a year and then be drawn together by a mutual love of sarcasm. I would like to think that Benny would teach Artemis how to hit a ball and just be a boy for a while. But Artemis would probably enlist poor Benny in a nefarious scheme.

Your time as Laureate na nÓg (2014-2016) gave you the opportunity to engage with many readers and their families. Did you have a plan of what you wanted to achieve whilst in the post? Do you have any favourite moments from this time?

As laureate, I wanted to bring writers to children who had probably never seen or heard a writer before. So, I enlisted a rag tag bunch of authors and we travelled the length and breadth of Ireland telling stories to children whether or not they wanted to hear them. We visited remote islands, halting sites and one-teacher schools. And just when the writers thought they were off the hook, I asked them to contribute to a short story book which would tell readers all about the magic of their own country. I am very proud of my two years as laureate and even more proud that I helped to persuade my friend PJ Lynch to take over from me.

In 2015 you collaborated with Oliver Jeffers to create the picture book Imaginary Fred. Can you tell us about the initial contact to the completed story?

I met Oliver in the wings of a theatre in Auckland at a storytelling event. I listened to Oliver’s story which had heart, history and wit, and by the end of the night we vowed to do something together. This is a vow often sworn at festivals and then forgotten but we followed it up and by the time we met again two days later in Melbourne I had the bones of a story. Over the next two years we Skyped our ideas back and forth across the Atlantic until Fred took shape. It is a beautiful book and I am legally allowed to boast about it because I am not solely responsible. It is one of the great gifts of my profession that I am able to meet creative people like Oliver, PJ, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano and see if they wouldn’t mind working with me. I have not mentioned the names of those who declined.

* Feature photo: Eoin Colfer. Photo credit: Sophie Hicks Agency

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Sarah Broadley lives in Edinburgh with her family and two cats. She is a member of SCBWI SE Scotland and is represented by Alice Sutherland-Hawes from the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter.

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Natalie Yates is Writers' Minds editor for Words & PicturesFollow her on Twitter. Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org.

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