Chris Colfer’s performances in “Glee” made him a Golden Globe-winning star (and a hero to kids who’ve been bullied for who they are). His “Land of Stories” books, for kids ages 8-12 and beyond, have made him a best-selling author.
And yet he’s still not too cool for school.
Colfer visited Naperville and Skokie bookstores last weekend to meet throngs of tween fans and sign copies of the fourth book in “The Land of Stories.” Titled “Beyond the Kingdoms,” it’s the latest installment in Colfer’s fairy tale remix/mashup set in a never-never-land encountered by a brother and sister. “Beyond the Kingdoms” tails the twins Alex and Conner Bailey as they recruit Goldilocks, Jack, Red Riding Hood, Mother Goose and her gander to thwart a plot by some of the wickedest villains ever to darken children’s dreams.
“Glee” ended its six-year run last spring. “The Land of Stories” is paging toward its happily-ever-after conclusion — Colfer and his publisher planned for the fifth book, out next year, to be the finale. But in an email exchange, Colfer hinted at a possible plot twist. This is an edited transcript.
Q: When did you get the idea to write these books?
A: I came up with the initial concept when I was about 7 or 8. Fairy tales and fantasy novels were my favorite thing to read, and I desperately wanted to jump into the books and join the adventures.
Q: Did you intend for it to be a series, or did you think it would be one and done?
A: At first, I was only planning to do one book, but thankfully it did very well, and now I’ve expanded it into a series.
Q: How have you managed to write among all of your other pursuits?
A: I’m not sure how I’ve managed to pull it off. Filming a one-hour single-camera television show can sometimes take as much as 80 hours a week to shoot. In between lighting setups, between scenes, weekends, late nights — any chance I got to myself I devoted to writing.
Q: Where would you be found during these rare breaks in “Glee” action?
A: I wrote most of the first “TLOS” book in the boys dressing room under the stage of the 2011 Glee World Tour. The rest were written in any quiet corner I could find on Stage 14 and 15.
Q: Are you surprised by the series’s success, or did you know it would resonate the way it has?
A: I hoped it would do well, but I never expected the series would become what it has. It’s been translated into a dozen languages and has sold well above a million copies — and that’s not including international or “TLOS” 4 sales. The series has also gotten critical praise, but most importantly, kids really love reading it. None of it would mean anything unless they did. Giving kids an adventure is much more fulfilling than just selling a product.
Q: Did you always love to write? Or to act? Which came first and most intensely?
A: It all hit me at the same time, because as a kid I didn’t know the difference. It was all storytelling, and storytelling is my addiction.
Q: Do you consider yourself an actor first, or a writer?
A: Probably a writer, only because every actor has to be a little bit of a writer in order to create a character.
Q: What do you hope kids take from your books?
A: There are several lessons throughout the series that teachers and librarians have actually referenced in their classrooms, but honestly, I just want my readers to have an adventure. I think it’s just as important to be entertained as it is to be educated. It’s important to let kids enjoy reading too.
Q: Any chance of a sixth book in the series?
A: I’m toying around with the idea of doing six. I’m not ready to say goodbye to these characters.
Q: What else is next for you — what are you working on right now?
A: I’ll be playing Noel Coward in an upcoming biopic. I also have three other books being published this year: a children’s picture book “The Curvy Tree” and two novellas in a boxed set, “The Mother Goose Diaries” and “Queen Red Riding Hood’s Guide to Royalty.” Next year my second children’s picture book, “Trollbella Throws a Party,” will be published as well as “TLOS” 5 and a new YA novel.