About Eoin Colfer
An Interview with Eoin Colfer
More About Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl is the first title in the mega-selling series - it was one
of the most eagerly awaited children's books ever to be published. Described as “Die Hard
with fairies”, this adrenaline-packed novel marks the arrival of the Irish teacher-turned-
author as a major force to be reckoned with in the popular fantasy genre.
Watch Eoin Colfer's hilarious webcast with a live audience of 900
children at the Southbank Centre, featuring a special appearance from Artemis Fowl
Simply register at www.eoincolfervirtuallylive.co.uk to watch.
Born: Wexford, Ireland, May 14th 1965
Lives: Wexford, Ireland
First Book: Benny and Omar, 1999
Both Eoin Colfer’s parents were teachers and young Eoin was taught by his dad Billy at
Wexford’s Christian Brothers primary. Eoin remembers his dad’s presence in school as
“witty…[he] made school fun.” Colfer junior’s first attempt at serious writing came in the
sixth grade. “I wrote a play for the class about Norse Gods. Everyone died in the end
Eoin followed in his parents’ footsteps and trained to be a teacher at Carysfort
College in Dublin. After qualifying, he returned to his home town to take up a post as a
Resources and Learning Support teacher at Coolcotts National School. As a class teacher,
he liked to end the day with ten minutes of reading to his students. “I’d find myself
elaborating if I saw the interest flagging,” he says, “I’d add in gory bits. In the end I
made up my own stories.”
Eoin is the author of five books prior to Artemis Fowl, all published by the O’Brien
Press in Ireland. His first book, Benny and Omar, appeared in 1999 and instantly achieved
bestselling status in Ireland. His next title, Benny and Babe, was another bestseller and
was shortlisted for the Bisto Award 2000. Most of Eoin’s books are written for the early
teens, but he has also written two stories, The Funny Feet and Going Potty, for six-to-
eight year-olds. Eoin’s fifth title, The Wish List, for 11+ readers is packed with humour
although it deals with serious issues of life, death and the hereafter. Eoin has also
written plays for adult audiences, including The Lords of Love, created for his actor
brother Donal. Fantasy is a strong theme in Eoin’s work. He feels that here he has a
strong advantage being an Irish writer – “our well of mythology is so deep and rich – we
are steeped in shape-shifting and magical folklore”.
Eoin’s writing career was building very satisfactorily in Ireland, but no-one could
have predicted the worldwide furore that surrounded publishing rights to Artemis Fowl. The
book was the subject of a fierce bidding war, which was won by Puffin after ten days.
Worldwide publishing deals followed, along with a movie deal from Miramax and Tribeca (the
production company of a certain Robert de Niro). All this has been accompanied by a chorus
of approval from those who have read the manuscript of Artemis Fowl. Influential
children’s bookseller Sonia Benster’s reponse was typical – “It’s so refreshing to have a
different take on the fantasy genre. Such a gifted writer cannot fail to make a huge
At the centre of Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old criminal mastermind from North Dublin
who attempts to raise money by holding a leprechaun to ransom. Artemis is an anti-hero
with definite edge. Eoin says he has always been attracted to dark characters, from
Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories to Darth Vader. “I had the idea
of creating an anti-hero,” says Eoin, “a boy who was witty and sarcastic, always out for
his own good. Once or twice he is mistakenly accused of a noble motive but, in fact, he’s
always in it for the money.”
For Artemis Fowl, Eoin decided to bring the portrayal of leprechauns radically up-to-
date from the old legends, rendering them “streetwise… neurotic, psychotic, sarcastic”
creatures, who experience both racism and sexism. In fact us humans have got it wrong,
“LEPrecon”, actually stands for “Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance”. The LEPrecon have
such advanced technology that the book has been described as “Die Hard with fairies”.
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident toppled J K Rowling from the top of the bestseller lists
in June 2002.
Eoin cites influences as diverse as Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, graphic novels
and The Simpsons. “I’ve always collected comics – Batman is my favourite - and enjoyed the
dynamic characters. I think children can cope with sophisticated humour.”
Eoin is married to Jackie, also a former teacher. They have a son, Finn.
Eoin wrote Artemis Fowl, like his previous novels, while still working full-time as a
teacher. Writing was sandwiched in, after work, between 3pm and 4pm and then after 8:30pm
(after Finn had been put to bed). Eoin took a break from teaching to focus on writing the
next book in the Artemis Fowl trilogy. Nevertheless, he says “teaching is my first love
and my first career choice”.
WHAT HE SAYS...
“Inspiration comes from experience. My imagination is like a cauldron bubbling with all
the things I’ve seen and places I’ve visited. My brain mixes them all up and regurgitates
them in a way I hope is original.”
“Kids nowadays are much more technologically aware than adults, and their huge interest
in magic has to do with what they see on computers, videos and movies. It makes them
better able to see how magic works.”
“I think kids who read tend to read books intended for an older age group. That’s why I
don’t ‘write down’ to kids. In Artemis Fowl, I’ve created a complicated plot.”
“I’ve always loved the idea of kids out of their element, struggling to survive in a
strange environment. It’s a recurrent theme in my work.”
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT EOIN COLFER...
"What a writer! A sort of cross between Philip Ridley and Terry Pratchett."
Prue Goodwin, Reading and Language Information Centre, University of Reading
"One of the most original creations in contemporary writing for children… A highly
imaginative and inventive romp of a book, in which the world of traditional Irish story
meets the world of modern technology - and what an entertaining encounter, complete with
some of the oddest characters (human and otherwise) you are likely to come across
Robert Dunbar, Church of Ireland College of Education, Dublin on Artemis Fowl
“Wildly original… and you thought fairy stories were just for kids.”
T2 (The Telegraph) on Artemis Fowl
“The latest hot tip in children’s literature is Artemis Fowl.”
“[Artemis Fowl is] full of zippy dialogue, James Bond style gadgets and henchmen with a
“This is a fantastic, exciting and completely original novel. From fairies with machine
guns to trolls on the rampage, this book will capture the imagination of every child who
reads it. It will be a massive hit. I for one cannot wait for the sequel…”
Jo Edwards, Fiction Buyer, WHSmith on Artemis Fowl
“It’s so refreshing to have a different take on the fantasy genre. Such a gifted writer
cannot fail to make a huge impact.”
Sonia Benster, The Children’s Bookshop, Huddersfield on Artemis Fowl
“Artemis Fowl is absolutely brilliant. Hardcase leprechauns, elves with attitude,
fairies that are anything but and a troll to make Voldermort look like a wuss: the
fairytale has been redefined!”
Luise Pattinson, The Book House
“It’s a highly original adventure story with an action-packed plot which twists and
turns right to the end – a kind of William Gibson meets the Hobbit/Irish Legends. It has
all the right ingredients.”
Marc Lambert, Children’s Programme Director at the Edinburgh Festival on Artemis Fowl
Shortlisted for the Bisto Book Awards 2000 for Benny and Babe
Shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year for Artemis Fowl
Winner of the 2002 WHSmith Award, Children’s category, for Artemis Fowl
Winner of the 2011 Independent Booksellers Award in the Children's Category for Artemis
Fowl and the Atlantis Complex
PLACE & DATE OF BIRTH:
14 May 1965, Wexford, Ireland
Stig of the Dump
The Great Beyond - REM
Silence of the Lambs
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
When did you start writing?
My first attempt at proper writing was way back in 6th grade. I wrote a play for the class about Norse gods. Everyone died in the end except me.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from experience. My imagination is like a cauldron bubbling with all the things I’ve seen and places I’ve visited. My brain mixes them all up and regurgitates them in a way that I hope is original.
Can you give your top 3 tips to becoming a successful author
1. Practise – write every day even if it’s only for ten minutes. Remember, nothing is wasted. Eventually your style will emerge. Persevere!
2. Don’t submit your manuscript until it is as good as you can make it. Edit! Cut! Chop! Trust your editor.
3. Get a good agent – they will find the publisher that is right for you.
One of my favourite memories is from my wedding day when my wife and her 3 sisters lined up for an impromptu Irish dancing session. A precursor to Riverdance.
Favourite place in the world and why?
Slade, a small fishing village in Ireland. It’s where I spent the holidays of my youth fishing and now I go back with my own son.
What are your hobbies?
My main hobby is reading, I even read the labels on jars. I also love the theatre and have even written a few plays. I have recently been introduced to parachuting!
If you hadn’t been a writer what do you think you would have been?
If I hadn’t been a writer, I think I would continue as a primary school teacher. Kids are a great source of inspiration.
Who is the man behind Artemis Fowl? In an exclusive interview Eoin Colfer reveals his favourite character, what he would do if he was given the use of a mud shield (read on for more information!), and we get a sneaky peek at the sequel to Artemis Fowl
First of all, how did you come up with the name for anti-hero Artemis
Reading action-packed Artemis Fowl felt very much like watching a film and you have described the book as ‘Die Hard with fairies’. How did films and film characters influence the writing of Artemis Fowl?
The name was very important. I knew it had to be a mysterious name that would make an instant impact on the reader, like Titus Groan or Hannibal Lecter. Fowl was easy enough, Fowl by name, foul by nature. But Artemis was harder. I went through several first names: Bartholemew, Bartlemy, Archimedes before I found Artemis on a Greek boys-names website. The second I saw it, I knew.
Films definitely had an impact on my writing style. I am a huge movie fan, and the action genre is one of my favourites. I realised that very few action movies are specifically for kids, even though kids love them. So, I decided to fill the vacuum with a book that reads like an action movie. Hopefully when you read the book, the movie will play itself in your head.
Who did you base the character of feisty elf Holly Short on? Is she a reflection of the ‘girl power’ frenzy that’s swept the nation over the last few years?
Holly is based on a mixture of several girls that I have taught. They are real people and refuse to conform to some idea or fad. There have always been female heroes, it’s just that male authors didn¹t want to write about them.
Did you have fun playing with the Irish myths and legends in Artemis
Fowl and creating a futuristic (but still very magical) fairy world?
I grew up reading Irish myths and legends, so I had great fun putting a spin on them. I knew that there was no point in regurgitating other people¹sstories, so instead I gave them a technological makeover.
There is a lot of technical gadgetry in Artemis Fowl. Do you use technology a lot in your everyday life? If so, what gadget could you not do without?
I was introduced to computers about six years ago by a Scottish student, and they have been an indispensable part of my life ever since. I have written several books on my trusty iBook. However, my favourite gadget is a laser alarm clock that projects the time in huge red numbers onto the ceiling.
If you were given the fairy power to put up a shield (Mud People translation: making yourself invisible), where would you go and what would you do?
If I were shielded, I think I would float into a few banks and erase their third world debt accounts. Either that or follow my wife and find out where she hides the biscuits.
Do you have a favourite character in Artemis Fowl? If so, who is it and
Artemis himself is my favourite character. He is so complex that it takes me
days to come up with an idea he would have in a second. Mulch the flatulent
dwarf is a close second, because, basically I am a big juvenile at heart.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy are fantasy novels that appeal to adults as well as children. Artemis Fowl also appeals on many levels, did you set out to do this?
When I was twelve, my favourite authors were Stephen King and Robert Ludlum.
I believe there are millions of children out there reading their parents books, so it never crossed my mind to write down to them. I just wrote a book with material suitable for children, if their Moms and Dads like it too, great.
If Artemis Fowl is made into a film who would you like to see cast in the roles of Artemis Fowl, Holly Short and Mulch Diggums (I for one would love to see that ‘bottom flap’ in action!)?
If Artemis is transferred to the big screen I think they would have to find a newcomer to play Artemis. As for Holly I have a list of young actresses: Kirsten Dunst, Wynona Rider, Lucy Liu and Anna Paquin to name a few. Mulch could be excellently portrayed by David Spade, Danny deVito or Michael J Fox.
You’re writing a sequel to Artemis Fowl. Can you tell us a bit about that?
In the second instalment all the familiar characters return plus a couple of new ones. I’m not supposed to reveal too much about the plot, but I can tell you that Artemis and Holly are forced to co-operate in order to stay alive. Sparks will fly.
You’ve recently become a full-time writer. What happens in your typical
Typical day? To tell the truth, I haven’t had so many of those in the past
while. Not since Artemis entered my life. But when I do have a quiet couple
of days: Up at eight with my son, wrap him in some clothes and shovel a few
cornflakes down his neck. At nine we’re off to play school (my son, not me). The
working day starts at nine thirty. I try to write until lunch. Forty minute
break, then back to work. At four my boy, Finn, returns and I am on Daddy
duty until seven. After dinner I might do some editing until nine, watching TV
with one eye. That’s about it!
What books are on your bedside table at the moment?
The two books on my bedside table at the moment are: Mr. X by Peter Straub
and The Truth by Terry Pratchett.
If you had to put two things you really dislike into Room 101 what would they be and why?
Tough question. Obviously war, disease and famine would be everybody’s first
choice. A friend of mine, Larry O’Loughlin, wrote a book about child labour
which really struck a nerve. It is appalling to think that we might accidentally use something that has been made by a child slave somewhere. So that would definitely have to go in. On the lighter side I would also like to banish faulty computers, as all they do is crash and cost you months of work!
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