Chris Colfer on His New Kids' Book, Gloria Estefan, and Rewriting History
Brian Bowen Smith/FOX
Like many children, when Chris Colfer was a wee lad, he would doodle silly characters and write passages to his made up stories. As he grew up, he kept adding to those stories that once helped him get through adolescence. And now as an adult, he's able to share those same stories with the world.
"I promised myself that one day I would get it done, and thanks to Glee, the opportunity came and I jumped on it," Colfer told Cultist over the phone from New York City.
What he got done - aside from a successful run on Glee, winning a Golden Globe, writing a young adult novel (Struck by Lightning), writing a screenplay and producing his first major film - was finally getting around to bringing his fairy tale scribbles to fruition. The first installment in a now-growing series, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, was published in 2012, followed by The Enchantress Returns in 2013, and keeping the steady flow, The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning was just released this week.
Colfer has embarked on a national book tour to promote the popular children's book, and Miami is his sixth stop. He'll make an appearance at Books & Books this Sunday.
"When Glee started airing and my character really became inspirational for a lot of people, I kept getting a lot of offers to do autobiographies or books for kids or books for people like me," he recalls. At only 20 years old at the time, he hadn't experienced much of life to write an authentic autobiography. But he did have another story in mind he could share.
Taking a page from the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Colfer felt inspired not only by the brothers themselves, but also the time period they lived in. "I remember when I initially sat down and thought about the third book, I thought it was so interesting what a hectic time these men lived in because Napoleon's army was just taking over the world at the time, and they were publishing kids' stories."
That's how the premise for Colfer's third book in the TLOS series, which follows two twins who travel to the fairy tale world and get into all sorts of adventures, was born. "Napoleon's grand army could make such a great group of villains, and so in a way, the third book is all about Napoleon's grand army trying to take over the fairy tale world," Colfer explains.
Courtesy of Little Brown
Colfer's work reimagines things that happened in the past with a magical twist, but he doesn't intend to rewrite history. "I want to write history as it is, but I just want to fill in the gaps. And you have to be careful because filling in those gaps can be dangerous," he says. Unsurprisingly, Colfer is a self-proclaimed history buff, so he says the historical references came pretty easy to him.
For fans of the series, there's much to look forward to from Colfer. For starters, he has a fourth book in the works, as well as a picture book based on one of the tales. There's also the possibility of a feature film based on the novels, or even a "Matilda meets Into the Woods/ Wicked" Broadway show. According to Colfer, he's taking meetings and listening to some pretty convincing pitches.
"At first, when the first book came out, I never wanted it to happen because I just wanted it to have a life as a book," explains Colfer, "because it's a book about storytelling. But, I never expected them to do as well as they have, and to become as big of a deal as they have. I think the kids that read the books really want to see the characters come to life, so I'm very open to the idea of a movie now. I've been taking a lot of meetings, so we'll see."
So far into his book tour, Colfer says the most interesting aspect has been seeing how the demographic of fans has changed in the last two years. "When the first book came out, all I got was Glee fans coming to support me and now I see more and more families, more and more kids," even little children who probably have never seen Glee, he says.
Sunday will be Colfer's first time visiting Miami, though he does say he wants to come back, explore, and spend more time with a high-profile local friend of his: Gloria Estefan. The Miami music legend guest starred on Glee as Santana's mom. "I'm sort of friends with Gloria Estefan and she always tells me if I ever came to call her and we can go out to dinner, but I don't think I'll have time [this trip]...she's the sweetest woman alive," he gushes.
Before we hung up with Colfer, we just had to ask him one question, nerd to nerd: Episode VII or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? "Oh my gosh! I couldn't pick!" he laughs, saying it would be a dream to work on either film or any superhero movie. "I would die to be a part of any of them!"
"I am the biggest nerd, and I'm so happy that I can be public about that."
Colfer will be signing copies of his new book at the Books & Books in Coral Gables on Sunday, July 13, starting at 11 a.m. In order to get in the book signing line, guests will need to purchase a copy of A Grimm Warning ($18) and show their receipt as proof of purchase. Colfer will sign up to eight books per person, two of which can be backlist titles from the series. Call 305-442-4408 or visit booksandbooks.com.
Send your story tips to Cultist at email@example.com.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.