Words Down Under: Artemis Fowl And The Deltora Three Part 2

So, here’s Part 2: Some more in depth discussion of what Colfer said, as well as some facts that were stated throughout the hour. I tried to write in chronological order, but may not have succeeded, and I also separated some things and bullet pointed them for further ease. Expect a lot of writing!

Kate de Goldi talked about the age-groups that the two authors had in mind when writing theirs series, and how they both tended to leave it quite open, but base it on the tweenish years, and after Rodda had had her say, Colfer said that he wrote Artemis Fowl for himself as a 12 year old, so it was aimed for what he was interested in as a 12 year old – something complex but fast, like the Alistair MacLean books he read and enjoyed. But he said that he had seen parents, fathers especially, that got dragged to talk shows like this one, or would be forced to read their children the Artemis Fowl books, and so he would try to fill his books with jokes that they would enjoy. As an example, he used a character that will be introduced in the last book – a dwarf named Colin Oskopy. Colfer’s dwarves tunnel using their un-hinging jaws, not shovels. The adults in the audience all laughed at this play on words, but I had no idea what was funny, and had to ask my mother afterwards. Colonoscopy is a medical procedure when a long tube is inserted to view the large intestine or the kidney from inside the body. Apparently, this is funny. I  still don’t get it though, ignorant as I am. Colfer said that he enjoyed word puzzles, especially using word play with the names of his characters, a trait he shares in common with, notably,  J.K. Rowling.

In a radioed interview on Radio New Zealand National on 10th May 2012, Colfer elaborated a bit on this, saying that the worst thing an author can do is specify that they are writing for children, and then ‘dumb down’ their language, simplify concepts and really become quite condescending in the way that they write their novels. This is something that the interviewer picked up on, and noted that Colfer never  ‘talked down’ to his audience, instead using advanced vocabulary and complicated plot lines. Colfer concurred, adding that children learn by picking up the words they read and hear, and so it was beneficiary to use longer words rather than censoring themselves in such a way.

Due to some of the standard ‘inspiration’ questions, I found out that:

  • Artemis’ bodyguard, Butler, was based on the bodyguard that Colfer wished he had as a child, as he used to get bullied for reading, and “there used to be this one kid, and he’d ask me what page I was on” and that he would say something like “page 47”, and then the kid would poke him 47 times. Colfer added that he should have been smarter, and said “Oh, I haven’t started this book yet”. He would wish that a great hulking bodyguard would appear beside him, loom over the kid and grasp his head like a football, and then “fling him into the distance”.
  • Mulch Diggums, the flatulent dwarf, was based on one of Colfer’s little brothers, who really used to “let fly”. Colfer said that when guests used to come over, after admiring his cuteness, they’d ask what he liked, and that he [Colfer] and his older brothers would always say that what he’d like was a glass of coke, and then to be left alone for 10 minutes, and then to be poked in the stomach. The guests would wonder about the specificness of the request, but Colfer and his brothers would just shrug and say, “well, that’s what he likes”. So the guest would do it, and 10 minutes later they’d be crying out “my eyes!”
  • Colfer would cast his younger brothers as some of the villains in the Artemis Fowl books, and found it very therapeutic, because in every book he would kill them in some way. (This was a joke, it is possibly appropriate to mention).
  • He based Artemis Fowl on one of his brothers (he didn’t say which but I suspect it was Paul), who was very proud of it, as he’d printed off a T-Shirt with I Am Artemis Fowl emblazed on the front, and he’d walk into pubs with it on.
  • He joked that he wrote ‘Benny and Omar’ and ‘Benny and Babe’ when he was younger, more naive, didn’t have any children and hadn’t been teaching for too long so he still had hope. And not-white hair.

When asked about his writing habits, Colfer said that as he used to teach, when he started writing, he continued to work teaching hours, dropping his kids off to school, working until they get home, and then sometimes working after they fall asleep. He also said that he likes walking, and so he often goes for walks and visits Philip Pullman, goes through his trash, and uses his throw away material. This was a joke, as Pullman lives in Norwhich. Unlike some authors, Colfer also confessed that he enjoys a bit of pressure, as it makes him get stuck in and have a definite aim. However, he quickly reassured the audience that he doesn’t like a lot of pressure, and that he’s only ever had a contract for a book without having planned it first once, on the last AF book, because he knew it would be the last and he already had a lot of characters and plot ideas to draw from.

Colfer expounded how Irish education was different in that myths and legends were taught considerably and an important part of the curriculum “We’re very lucky in Ireland, which I didn’t realise until I began to travel and talk to kids from around the world”, and that the myth about the boy who steals the leprechaun’s gold is one of the oldest Irish myths, and that all he [Colfer] had done was bring it forward into the future and modernise it. He said that  he thought that “every Irish author goes through a fairy faze”, but that he wanted to do something different (obviously), and so he brought the story forward. He also added that whenever he needed a gadget or weapon, he would go to his big brother Paul, who worked with electric things, and he’d say something like “I need to transport a colony of demons using sunpower” and his brother would tell him “leave it with me”, and in a couple of weeks he’d come up with a reasonably workable process, because Colfer felt that whatever technology he used had to be able to stand up to some examinations, and be at least half-way believable, rather than just have Artemis whip out a random gadget that saved the day somehow.

When someone asked him whether there was ever going to be an Artemis Fowl movie, Colfer replied that the person had to go and twist the knife, then went on to say that he hoped so, and explained that the movie was 12 years in the process of being made, had already had 14 directors at the helm, and still wasn’t being made. He joked (I think. It was a bit hard to tell) that the first person cast as Artemis himself was now married and had two children.

Another joke he made was when a young boy, stumbling over his words, asked about the part in ‘The Lost Colony’ book 5 in the AF series…

Spoiler Ahead

…where the time-spell is unravelling and so time is jumping back and forwards, and Artemis saves Holly’s life by calculating the exact type of jump, moving so that he can stop her from being shot after just having witnessed her being shot and dying.

He asked whether this meant that for a span of time there were two Artemis’ in existence, or some such question; it wasn’t really understandable and the explanation was perfectly clear in the books, but instead of showing the boy up, Colfer claimed that ” I vaguely recall writing something like that. Actually, I wrote down the answer, because someone has asked me this before. You’ll have to talk to me later”.

A person asked when his next Artemis Fowl book would be released, and they obviously hadn’t read what was written in book stores and on the internet, or listened to the radio, because for one, at the book stall just outside the hall there had been a huge sign saying that the last AF book, ‘The Last Guardian’, was coming out on 10th July 2012 and  was available for pre-ordering, and Colfer was very kind – he didn’t tell the boy to stop wasting his time with stupid questions, but asked whether he’d been planted by his editors, and then answered the question, adding that this was the LAST book, not the last-but-I’m-going-to-write-another-one book, and that he hoped that people would enjoy the next series he came up with. However, in an interview back in the dark ages (2007), Colfer said that he had some ideas for a second Supernaturalist book, or a second Half Moon Investigations novel (two of his *currently* stand alone novels), so maybe one of these will be coming up next…who knows?

However, in an interview with Colfer stated that he had already written his next book, and that it will be published next year; a new series called WARP (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program) an acronym used by the FBI to hide important witnesses in the past, which sounds extremely interesting. The first book ‘The Reluctant Assassin’ centres on  a Victorian boy called Riley who goes on the run in 21st-century London pursued by a ruthless assassin from his own time and aided by a young FBI agent.

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