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Artemis Fowl's Eoin Colfer on Writing
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Writing Tips
 17 Jul 2007, 13:18 #19626 Reply To Post
Eoin Colfer's Writing Tips

Source: BBC Bookblast

Spotlight on Eoin Colfer
Author

"Read as much as you can, I have never met a writer who was not an avid reader."



Eoin Colfer was a primary school teacher in Ireland up before he secured the largest ever advance for a children's novel by an unknown author in 2000. His first novel Benny and Omar was an instant bestseller in Ireland and he has since won several awards with his fantastically original novel Artemis Fowl; including the Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, the WH Smith People's Choice Children's Book of the Year and was also short-listed for the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year 2001.

Robert: How did you come up with the idea for Artemis Fowl?

Eoin Colfer : Artemis is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind and a bit of a sarcastic character. I have three younger brothers who are like that, so I drew on their characteristics. Obviously not the criminal bit, well, nothing has ever been proved.

Daniel: Do you believe in fairies, elves and other mystical creatures?

Eoin Colfer : I would have to say yes I do. I don't know what creatures I believe in explicitly, but I definitely believe in the unexplained. So I would have to say yes.

F9: I haven't finished the book yet but I really like Artemis, but it's unusual to have a criminal as a hero?

Eoin Colfer : Well my opinion of Artemis is that he has always been a hero in the making. As the books progress he becomes more and more responsible and at the end of book three, he is almost a nice person.

Robert: I am writing a story about two spies, what hints can you give me?

Eoin Colfer : I think the most important thing about writing any story, is the personalities and relationships between the characters. It does not matter if it is a spy story or a science fiction story. If the reader does not care about the characters they will not continue reading. Make sure the central characters and their relationships are interesting. Make them distinctive, by giving them problems or perhaps an unusual relationship with their family and maybe a quirky dress sense. Give them characteristics that will make them intriguing.

Little_miss_giggles121: Have you written any other books?

Eoin Colfer : Yes, I have written six other books, three are for younger children and they are picture books. As far as I know they are only available in Ireland. Two were about a character called Benny. These were called Benny and Omar and Benny and Babe. I have also published a ghost story called The Wish List.



Amir: Do you think a writer should start looking for an agent the minute he finishes his book or start earlier i.e. after finishing two to three chapters only?

Eoin Colfer : You could submit your first two or three chapters, but if the agent likes them they will need the rest of the book. So it is really better to have the book ready, because if they have to wait a year for the rest of the book they might forget you. By all means submit the first two chapters, but be ready to go when the agents reply. The first Artemis Fowl book was written before I started approaching the agents. When I was about twenty, I wrote a book that on reflection was not very good. I sent it to a hundred different publishers and quite rightly nobody wanted it. This was quite depressing and I sulked for about ten years, but now I think that it all worked out for the best.

Chatter: I love your book, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Eoin Colfer : I began to write at a very early age and wrote stories without any thought of publication. It was like playing football for me. I was forever writing stories and plays but did not think of becoming a professional writer until I was in my twenties. If you are writing in between homework that is a good sign that you are going to be a writer.

Intrafairy12: I want to know if you have a favourite hero and who is your favourite villain in comics?

Eoin Colfer : In comics, that's a difficult one! My comic hero would have to be Hell Boy, not as famous as Batman but an excellent hero. Hell Boy is very original and very strange character. He is a kind of a gargoyle, who was conjured up by evil magicians, but he decided to go over to the good side. I like books that take you by surprise in that way. In terms of villain, I think it would be the Joker from the Batman comics.

F9: Can you tell me where the character Mulch came from?

Eoin Colfer : I knew someone would ask that! Mulch has an unusual method for digging tunnels, he uses his jaw to eat the earth and then it comes out the other end. I'm not sure where I got the idea for this dwarf. Originally he was going to be a normal dwarf, but then the flatulence idea came into my head. Everybody seems to love him.

Chatter: Is Artemis Fowl going to be a movie?


Eoin Colfer : There are plans to make Artemis Fowl into a movie. At the moment the movie company are searching for a boy to play Artemis. Once they have found him, everything should fall into place, but until everyone is signed up they are being very secretive about the casting.

Chatter: Who would you like to play him?

Eoin Colfer : I really liked the boy who starred in About a Boy. He was a great actor, but might be a bit old now, so maybe if he has a little brother...

Intrafairy12: Do you ever dream about meeting up with the LEP?

Eoin Colfer : I do actually, I have very strange dreams. A lot of my ideas come from dreams. Often I will sit up in the middle of the night and try to remember the dream I just had. One night I dreamt I had written the perfect book, but I woke up and couldn't remember it. I remember that portable toilets featured in it somewhere.

Cont. later ..
This post was last edited by Writing Tips, 17 Jul 2007, 13:47
Writing Tips
 17 Jul 2007, 13:45 #19627 Reply To Post


Intrafairy12: Do you carry a notebook to write down ideas?

Eoin Colfer : I usually take my laptop everywhere. If I don't have access to that I will write everything down in a notebook. I write down anything interesting. If I see somebody who looks interesting or someone says something that appeals to me. I like to hang around with funny people who are a huge source of inspiration and I don't pay them anything!

F9: What authors have inspired you?


Eoin Colfer : There are several, I was very inspired by CS Lewis, Tolkein of course. I think that Mark Twain is a fantastic writer for children. Also contemporary writers like Jacqueline Wilson. Ronald Dahl manages to gets away with more than any other children's writer could. Also people like Melvin Burgess, Louis Sachar, Jeremy Strong and Allan Ahlberg.

F9: Would you like to have a cameo role in the movie and who would you play?

Eoin Colfer : I think I would like to play a little goblin in the crowd scene, so I could just wave at my mother. I don't think I would like to be recognisable and I would not want to act. I would like for once to have the experience of getting all that make up on. Or may be I could go on without makeup and then lie about which one was me. I could be a bit like Alfred Hitchcock, only slimmer.

Artemis1fan: How do you choose names for your characters?

Eoin Colfer : I spend a lot of time on the names, because, with a fantasy series you have the leeway, which you don't have with other books. I like to give the characters names that mean something. Artemis Fowl means the 'nasty hunter', The Butler is the butler, Holly Short is small with rosy cheeks and Mulch means 'he who digs and fertilises', which is what he does.

Artemis1fan: Where did the gnomish language come from or is it just made up?

Eoin Colfer : I'm afraid that I have to say that it is just made up because I promised the fairy people I would not reveal their secrets. So for the record it is made up.

Chatter: Where do you like to be when you are writing?

Eoin Colfer : I have a little office in my house. Well to be honest, I use to have an office, but then we had another baby and now my office is the baby's room. There are men in my garden shed at this moment turning it into an office.

Gator: Do you wish you had a butler?

Eoin Colfer : Yes, I would love to have a butler. I spend the whole day ironing baby gros, so yes. I don't mind the clean nappies but I think though, if I had a butler, he would probably ignore my wishes and do everything my wife said.

Chatter: Do you get compared to Rowling or Pullman, and does it annoy you?

Eoin Colfer : I am a huge fan of Philip Pullman and I think he has done a lot for children's literature. He is a wonderful writer and I can only aspire to be like him. So any comparisons that people make between me and Pullman are highly gratifying. Even if they say Pullman is great, Colfer is rubbish!

Gator: Do you know how your story ends before you start or does the ending just happen?

Eoin Colfer : I usually know how it ends at the start. That's very important for me, because it gives me something to work towards. Sometimes in the middle of writing a book I come up with a better ending and change the idea, but I need an original ending to work towards. I try to sketch out a skeleton plan before I start anything. You have to plan how you are going to get from A to B and from B to C. So I will always establish the beginning the middle and the end first.

Artemis1fan: Are you a teacher?

Eoin Colfer : Yes I am a teacher by profession, but I'm on a break at the moment. Hopefully someday I will get back to teaching as I love it. I think it was teaching and the interaction (well it was mostly dodging) with that young audience, which convinced me to write for children.

Intrafairy12: Will you read your stories to your babies when they grow up?
Eoin Colfer : I am already telling stories to my son. At the moment they are too young for the Artemis Fowl books. I hope that when they are older they will be interested, but I fear that I will suffer from the 'uncool parent syndrome'.

Gator: Which character is most like you?

Eoin Colfer : As I'm small and pale I think I am like Artemis. My wife says I'm more like the flatulent dwarf Mulch.

Artemis1fan: Which do you think, is best book that you've written?

Eoin Colfer : That's difficult. I like all my books for different reasons. So I couldn't say I have a favourite. At the moment it is the one I'm working on. I'm working on a picture book for my eldest son, so that is my favourite. It is nice to collaborate with an illustrator too. Obviously I have to like illustrations, but I have found in the past that the illustrator has a fantastic imagination and I have never had to say a word. That's the way I like it.

Eighteen: Do authors make a good living or does the publisher make all the money?

Eoin Colfer : The publisher does make more money than the author, but that money is spread amongst a lot of people who work at the publishers. Most writers don't make a lot of money, and have to have a second job. There are a few, who can make a good living from their writing and luckily I am one of those at the moment.

F9: What would be your dream project?

Eoin Colfer : I would really like to write a classic adventure story, something like Robin Hood, The Black Arrow or Kidnapped. I would like to write something that would make it into the Penguin Classics in twenty years time, so someday I'm going to give that a go. I'm working on several things at the moment, a horror screen play for adults and a musical which is good fun. The success I have had with Artemis has allowed me to take the time to work in various other arenas.

Artemis1fan: Are you very good at spelling and grammar?

Eoin Colfer : I guess that from being a teacher I am pretty good. So I'm a dream writer for an editor, because I never show up anywhere and I am good at spelling and grammar. Okay, the stories are rubbish but two out of three...

Holly: Do you have any tips or advice for writers?

Eoin Colfer : The first thing is read as much as you can, I have never met a writer who was not an avid reader. Secondly, keep a journal and thirdly try to remember what you and your friends say, because very often the best lines will come from the people you know.

Timber Beast
 17 Jul 2007, 15:41 #19640 Reply To Post
Quote: Writing Tips, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 13:45
Holly: Do you have any tips or advice for writers?

Eoin Colfer : The first thing is read as much as you can, I have never met a writer who was not an avid reader. Secondly, keep a journal and thirdly try to remember what you and your friends say, because very often the best lines will come from the people you know.



Note to self: upgrade quality of friends to ones with more bon mots.
Best,
Norm
Forestry combines art and science, grapples with the ecological riddles of our time, but it's also a job. That's what I write about.

Timberati
To everything blog, blog, blog
spotty leopard
 17 Jul 2007, 15:46 #19642 Reply To Post
Quote:
Note to self: upgrade quality of friends to ones with more bon mots.


It doesn't half unnerve them when you whip out a notebook and pencil (or an Alphasmart Dana if you're being really hi-tech) and ask them to repeat it slowly.

They tend to give you a funny look, clam up and sidle off.

Honestly.
Lexi

Click here for my blog
Timber Beast
 17 Jul 2007, 15:54 #19647 Reply To Post
Quote: spotty leopard, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 15:46
It doesn't half unnerve them when you whip out a notebook and pencil (or an Alphasmart Dana if you're being really hi-tech) and ask them to repeat it slowly.

They tend to give you a funny look, clam up and sidle off.

Honestly.


And they probably don't like the digital recorders stuck under their noses either.

You mean to say that I must remember snippets of conversation verbatim?
Best,
Norm
Forestry combines art and science, grapples with the ecological riddles of our time, but it's also a job. That's what I write about.

Timberati
To everything blog, blog, blog
spotty leopard
 17 Jul 2007, 15:56 #19648 Reply To Post
Quote:
And they probably don't like the digital recorders stuck under their noses either.

You mean to say that I must remember snippets of conversation verbatim?


Picky, aren't they?

Much easier to make it up, I think.

Lexi

Click here for my blog
Timber Beast
 17 Jul 2007, 18:20 #19656 Reply To Post
Quote: spotty leopard, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 15:56
Quote:
And they probably don't like the digital recorders stuck under their noses either.

You mean to say that I must remember snippets of conversation verbatim?


Picky, aren't they?

Much easier to make it up, I think.



I reviewed a sci-fi story here on YWO titled Off-Camera. Everyone in the world had been fitted with devices that recorded everything you did that day, what you did, what you said, etc. I don't think I'd like that. But I would like to remember what the person actually said so that my dialogue would sound authentic.
Best,
Norm
Forestry combines art and science, grapples with the ecological riddles of our time, but it's also a job. That's what I write about.

Timberati
To everything blog, blog, blog
plumboz
 17 Jul 2007, 19:33 #19661 Reply To Post
"I think that Mark Twain is a fantastic writer for children."

I know my father read to me regularly from Twain's "Letters from the Earth". It shaped my world view to a terrific degree.

Perhaps therapy would help, but I like being cynical and pessimistic.

It's so freeing.

Best,
Alan

Sketches by Plumboz
Timber Beast
 18 Jul 2007, 14:38 #19678 Reply To Post
Quote: plumboz, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 19:33
"I think that Mark Twain is a fantastic writer for children."

I know my father read to me regularly from Twain's "Letters from the Earth". It shaped my world view to a terrific degree.

Perhaps therapy would help, but I like being cynical and pessimistic.

It's so freeing.

Best,
Alan

Sketches by Plumboz


From the late, great, Molly Ivins
“It's hard to argue against cynics - they always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side”

Best,
Norm
Forestry combines art and science, grapples with the ecological riddles of our time, but it's also a job. That's what I write about.

Timberati
To everything blog, blog, blog
Assignment Robot
 18 Jul 2007, 18:36 #19688 Reply To Post
Quote: Timber Beast, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 15:54
Quote: spotty leopard, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007 15:46
It doesn't half unnerve them when you whip out a notebook and pencil (or an Alphasmart Dana if you're being really hi-tech) and ask them to repeat it slowly.

They tend to give you a funny look, clam up and sidle off.

Honestly.


And they probably don't like the digital recorders stuck under their noses either.

You mean to say that I must remember snippets of conversation verbatim?


One could always bug one's friends and then catch up on their funny bedroom bon mots over dinner.

Aside: get along to the hardware store, help dog, I have a little wiring job for you ..

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