Former “Glee” star #ChrisColfer releases the sixth book in his bestselling children’s series, “The Land Of Stories”, telling Cheryl Hickey that ending his book series has been an emotional roller-coaster
Chris Colfer shot to fame for his Golden Globe-winning portrayal as openly gay countertenor Kurt Hummel on the Fox musical series “Glee” — yet many of his fans know him only as a writer.
“I get messages from people saying how shocked their kids are to find out that I was on TV,” he says, with a chuckle.
At 27, Colfer is the bestselling author of “The Land of Stories” children’s fantasy and its spinoffs, which includes illustrated picture books, audio books and upcoming graphic novel.
Since 2012, he’s been captivating the imaginations of 5- to 12-year-olds with the epic adventures of fraternal twins Alex and Conner Bailey through the worlds of fairy tales, classic literature, and their own creative writing. Those literary realms come crashing into reality in the sixth and final installment titled “Worlds Collide,” which hits bookshelves Tuesday.
In the series closer, Alex has gone missing.
Her brother sets out to find her, and with the help of his fairy-tale friends tracks her down in New York City. She’s under the control of the witch Morina and her band of evildoers who are hatching a plan to take over the world.
Can Conner save Alex and stop these Land of Stories villains before it’s too late?
While he’s never traveled through dimensions, Colfer confesses he’s a lot like his characters.
“I am Gemini, so that means I’m always thinking with two different mindsets, which has been a blessing and a curse,” he says. “Alex represents my people pleasing, smarter-than-my-own-good side, and Conner is my sarcastic, class-clown side. So they’re very much me in different forms.”
Raised with a younger sister just outside of Fresno, Colfer began writing “The Land of Stories” in grade school at the urging of his mother.
“My mom used to read fairy tales to me as a kid,” he says. “I had so many questions about the characters and their motives that I think she finally got annoyed and said, ‘Why don’t you write your own fairy tales?’ So I started writing ‘The Land of Stories,’ promising myself that if I ever got a chance to publish it, I would make it happen.
“I honestly think one of the reasons why the first book has been so popular with kids is because it was technically written by one,” he says, referring to “The Wishing Spell.”
While he was big on imagination, Colfer admits he struggled with reading until J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter came along.
“It was the Harry Potter books that made me excited to read and made me work hard on becoming a better reader so I could keep up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione,” he says. “Some of the happiest memories of my childhood were waiting at Barnes and Noble for the midnight release of the next Harry Potter book, and being there with a roomful of nerds like me. To think that I’m now contributing to the children’s literary world in some ways means a lot to me.”
Colfer is currently on a national tour, which includes a ticketed event hosted by Children’s Book World at the Landmark Regent Theatre on July 31.
At these events, young fans always want to know, When’s the movie coming out?
“I’ve asked them for a lot of patience over the years because ever since the first book (“The Wishing Spell”) came out, we’ve had an interest in this becoming a film franchise,” he says.
As it turns out, he’s busy adapting the first book in the series for the big screen in what will be his directorial debut.
Most of his writing takes place in the guest bedroom of his Laurel Canyon home. He sits a red desk, flanked by a pair of twin beds outfitted in “Star Wars” and “Super Mario Bros.” sheets, listening to film scores like “Lord of the Rings” or “Forrest Gump.” In fact, that’s where he closed the book on Alex and Conner’s adventures in March.
Or did he?
“I might go back and do a prequel series about the twins’ grandmother when she was a young girl growing up,” Colfer says. “I can always do another spinoff of something or other. Just because the series is over does not mean ‘The Land of Stories’ is over, and I can say that with confidence.”
Tuesday, July 11 – CHRIS COLFER talks about the book “The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide,” and singer-songwriter SABRINA CARPENTER performs for the “Live” audience.
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