Chris Colfer is known for his role as Kurt Hummel on the groundbreaking television series “Glee.” But long before he became famous, Colfer was enthralled by writing, to the extent that he occasionally becomes exasperated on stage.
“One of the most frustrating things about being an actor that I’ve experienced is the inability to change the words coming out of my mouth,” Colfer says with a laugh. “I can never change a script if I’m just an actor. When I was a kid the acting bug and writing bug hit me at the same exact time. When you’re young, you just think of them as playing pretend. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized they were different things.”
Colfer, who appears July 14 at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland as guest of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures New & Noted Series, has just published “The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide,” (Little Brown, $19.99). The book is the sixth and final installment in a best-selling young reader’s fantasy series that has its roots in Colfer’s childhood. The first book, in “The Land of Stories” series, “The Wishing Spell,” was culled from a story Colfer wrote when he was in grade school.
Fortunately, his grandmother, a church minister with three doctorates, knew a little bit about writing.
“My grandmother was the toughest editor I’ve ever worked with,” Colfer says. “My editor at Little, Brown, Alvina Ling, is a saint compared to my grandmother. (Ling) never crumpled up something I’ve written in front of me and said I can do better. … My grandmother was a great first editor because she encouraged me to keep going, but she was very honest if she thought I could do better. That kind of training early on made me raise the bar for myself.”
His grandmother’s stern advice helped when Colfer made his publishing debut in 2012. While the book was a bestseller and earned generally good reviews, his young readers — the books are geared to ages 8 to 12 — had no qualms about voicing their concerns or criticisms about the book.
“I thought writing for kids would be much easier than writing for adults, but it’s the toughest audience in the world,” Colfer says. “They have absolutely no filter when they meet you. If they have a critique or a comment, they will just say it. And you have to be prepared to answer why you wrote what you did. It’s very challenging, but I like it. It keeps me on my toes.”
The series features Conner and Alex, a brother and sister who are gifted with a book of fairy tales that serves as a portal between reality and the fairy tale world. Throughout the “Land of Stories” books the siblings traverse between these two spheres. But in the final installment, the worlds merge into each other, with chaos ensuing.
Colfer admits that ending the series is a bittersweet. But near the end of a “Worlds Collide,” he does cast some doubt about the series finale when Alex says “The end of our story? That’s funny, because I was afraid this was only the beginning.”
“I love writing the series and it’s been one of the greatest joys of my entire life,” Colfer says. “While I do think this is the right moment to end it, I can definitely see myself coming back to it some day in the future. I don’t know if it would a continuation of Alex and Conner’s story, or maybe the next generation. Maybe their kids or grandkids are at the center of the next series. But I definitely wanted to leave something in their so even though the kids know the books are ending, Alex and Conner’s adventures will still continue in their hearts and minds.”
All attendees at the July 14 event will receive one raffle ticket to meet Colfer at a VIP meet-and-greet after the event; those wearing costumes from “The Land of Stories” series will receive an additional raffle ticket
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