Matthew Peterson: My next guest is Eoin Colfer, international best selling author of the Artemis Fowl Series, which won the British Childrenís Book of the Year Award and has sold over 18 million copies. Heís also the author of Half Moon Investigations, which was the basis for a TV series this year, plus the Supernaturalist and Airman. Eoinís latest book is the highly anticipated 6th installment to the late Douglas Adamsí Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy series and is called And Another Thing. Thanks for being on the show today Eoin.
Eoin Colfer: Youíre welcome Matthew, my pleasure.
Matthew Peterson: Now, before we get into the Hitchhikerís book, letís first talk about the Artemis Fowl series, real quick.
Eoin Colfer: Yeah.
Matthew Peterson: Those books have won a slew of awards, all of them have hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and theyíve been translated into dozens of languages, but like most authors you struggled at the beginning of your writing career to make a name for yourself, didnít you?
Eoin Colfer: I did, I mean I started when I was a young man, back in my early 20s. Iíd just left college and I kind of knew I wanted to be a writer, but it seemed like a very distant dream, especially when you live in a small town in Ireland that already had its share of writers, we had [names three authors]. So that was kind of three international writers, and I figured that was probably our quota.
Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yep.
Eoin Colfer: But I went ahead anyway, and I wrote a childrenís book because I was teaching at the time. But it was rejected by everybody. I sent it to dozens of publishers and I had these dreams of phone calls and advances, but they never materialized.
Matthew Peterson: Your brothers kind of sat you down one day and they said, "You need to get an agent."
Eoin Colfer: Thatís right. I had written six books and they had all done reasonably well in Ireland, but itís a tiny, tiny market, you know. If you do really, really well in Ireland, then you can possibly take the family on holiday for a week. So thatís what was happening. I had six books out and theyíd all been kind of best sellers in Ireland but no where else. So my wife read the first Artemis Fowl book and she said, "Ok, itís time you got an agent." And I said, "Yeah, yeah sure, Iíll do that, someday." And I was quite happy toddling along, but then she orchestrated this night out with my four brothers and then basically, there was, I was going to say implied violence, but it wasnít implied, it was directly stated, "We will be violent to your person if you donít get an agent."
Matthew Peterson: [laugh]
Eoin Colfer: So, I did that. Thereís something about being a writer where you donít want to rock the boat. If you have a publisher. You donít want to upset that publisher by asking for stuff like money or overseas rights. So, you just say, ok look, Iím published thatís really what I want. And it was all I wanted, but then I got an agent and gave her the first Artemis Fowl book and my life just totally changed within weeks. And it hasnít really changed back since. I keep waiting for the bubble to burst, but Iím still as busy now as I was ten years ago. Itís great!
Matthew Peterson: Well, I love the Artemis Fowl books. Iíve read them all except for the last one, I havenít gotten to that one yet. But Iím very excited for them.
Eoin Colfer: Yeah, Iím glad to hear that, Matthew. There are a lot of adults reading them. And I think itís because I really write them for the little boy in me that I still have, who still lives in there. And I think a lot of grown ups have that little kid inside them, who needs to be let out every now and then and this is a way to do that. I donít try and hold back on the vocabulary or the story so I do like to make them appropriate for teenagers or younger, but I donít like to make them too simple. I think thatís a mistake people make is that if youíre writing for boys--and boys like simple stories. I donít think thatís true. I think boys like pacey stories, yes, they do like pace, but they donít like simple, they donít like to be able to get to the ending too easily. So, I kind of try to keep the plot twisting and turning.
Matthew Peterson: For the people who havenít read the Artemis Fowl books, give us just a brief summary of what theyíre about.
Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl is an Irish teenager, now, and heís a criminal master-mind, or at least he used to be. And his first great scheme was he would restore the familyís fortunes. His family is kind of a criminal dynasty, but theyíre going out of business. So, he will restore their fortunes by kidnaping a fairy and blackmailing the fairy people, the leprechauns, for their crock of gold. Which is a classic story, young boy tries to kidnap leprechaun, get the crock of gold. With the twist being that these fairies are not the fairies of lore, you know, lovely simple guys wearing green suits. Theyíre very high tech and high speck and they come back and they want their captain back and thatís how it starts off. Obviously as the series progresses, he becomes more of a rounded character and he develops friendships with the fairy people. So now at this stage of the series, heís kind of fighting on their side for planet Earth in a way, thereís a little ecological message in some of the books, but not too heavy. My main weapon, I think, is humor.
Matthew Peterson: Humor, oh yeah.
Eoin Colfer: Thatís what I like, I like to crack jokes and set up funny situations and Iím a big fan of old black and white movies and that kind of humor. So, thatís what I like to use in my books.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah, they are, theyíre extremely humorous.
Well, letís talk about The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy series. It started out as a radio show. The first book came out like 30 years ago, and there was a TV mini-series, 3 musicals, comic books, video games and even a big budget movie, which I just watched for the first time last night, and after 17 years since the last book was published, the long awaited sequel has finally come out. So, Eoin, why were you chosen to continue the series?
Eoin Colfer: I donít know. I mean, I ask myself that as much as other people. I donít want to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I think where our diagrams intersected would be the humor, I think, the humor and the technology which are two big elements of Douglasís books and theyíre also big elements of my books. And Iím a huge Douglas Adams fan and I think, simply put, this was a scheme that as dreamed up by Douglas Adamsí agent, the famous Ed Victor, whom I know because he works with my agent, Sophie. So, I think they dreamed this up and I think it has been brought up before, but they could never find someone that Ed liked because heís very very particular about this. Heís very protective of Douglasí legacy. But then, I donít know, something about my style, thought maybe I could do it and when they asked me I thought, "Well, itís lovely to be asked, but Douglasís widow is never going to agree to a childrenís writer taking over." I mean a lot of people could do a brilliant job on this. But she did! And they said to me that Jane would love you to bring Douglas to the new generation and itís hard to turn that down. I really found it hard, even though thereís a million reasons why I should, I found myself saying, "Ok, Iíll give it a go." So, thatís what I did.
Matthew Peterson: We do have a whole new generation of readers that might have missed The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy. Tell us briefly what the series is about and how your book, And Another Thing, fits in.
Eoin Colfer: Well, the series, briefly, is about an English man, Arthur Dent, who finds, one morning, that his best friend is not an actor, as he thought, but heís a reporter for The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy, which is kind of like an iphone of the future that covers the whole galaxy and that Earth is about to be blown up, which it is. And so this guy Arthur hitchhikes his way off the dying planet with his friend, Ford, and they go on a series of madcap and absurd adventures through space and time, with various characters, including the two-headed president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and a very pretty young lady, who is also an astro-physicist, called Trillian. And eventually, they end up back on the Earth of another dimension. Which is also about to be blown up. And this is where Douglas left it, where, the Earth blew up, and all the characters are killed and then he had planned to bring them back in a kind of a return from a cliff hanger kind of a way, but he died before he could do that, so the series was left unfinished. So my challenge was to show how these characters escaped almost certain death in an entertaining and surprising way.
Matthew Peterson: Well, thereís a lot of things that needed to be tied up. What are some of the questions that are answered in the new book that you just wrote?
Eoin Colfer: Well, I think funnily even though it has this huge scope and scale of all these intergalactic travelers, for me one of the main things that had to be tied up were family relationships. I thought Arthur was left with this teenage daughter, who he didnít really know and kind of had no respect for him, even despised him. This wasnít a very nice way to leave things. I thought maybe they could have some kind of relationship. So, that was, for me, one of the main things. And Trillian who had kind of searched the galaxy for love and sheíd hooked up with, first of all with Beeblebrox, found him to be very shallow, and then Arthur and her, even though heís the last human man alive, they never really clicked. And so she never found this great love that she felt she was destined to have, it just never materialized. And so I wanted to deal with that as well. So, it was funny, even though the themes are all planet destruction and all this kind of thing, for me the real themes were just relationships.
Matthew Peterson: And of course heís on the quest for the perfect cup of tea and the recurring number 42 and [laughs] . . .
Eoin Colfer: Itís an amazing series, people donít realize the impact itís had on the country. I mean, he has basically highjacked the number 42 which is an amazing thing when you think about it. In the UK and Ireland, Iím not sure what itís like in the States, but if anyone says the number 42 or asks you, what is the meaning of life? everybody knows itís 42.
Matthew Peterson: Itís 42, yeah.
Eoin Colfer: I mean he highjacked towels over here as well. People say, "I hope you know where your towel is." So, it had a huge cultural impact, even before the movie came along.
Matthew Peterson: Will there be another book? Like a seventh book of the trilogy?
Eoin Colfer: I think one book is nice and itís respectful. But I donít want to take over Douglasís mantel. I just want to provide maybe a possible ending for some of the strands, but you know, not so gloomy as the 5th book, which is, what Douglas said himself is that he left it very bleakly. And he didnít really want to leave it like that. So, this is a way for Hitchhikers to go back to the story and if they want to take a little bit of closure from it, thatís great, but I mean, hopefully all I really want them to do is just to say to themselves, "Well, you know, itís not Douglas Adams, but itís very funny and I really enjoyed that." And take it in the spirit that itís meant.
Matthew Peterson: Well, thank you so much.. Iíve been speaking with Eoin Colfer, international best selling author of the Artemis Fowl series and the new Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy, which is called And Another Thing. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Eoin.
Eoin Colfer: Thanks, Matthew, my pleasure.
Matthew Peterson: And I guess I should end the call, So long and thanks for the fish.
Eoin Colfer: Oh, the fish . . . very good.
Matthew Peterson: Alright everyone, make sure you go to TheAuthorHour.com so you can listen to all the bonus questions that Eoin answered. Stick around, weíve got Jody Lynn Nye and Piers Anthony cominí up next!
Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.
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