EOIN COLFER

Eoin Colfer (50) is one of Ire­land’s best-known writ­ers for chil­dren. His ‘Artemis Fowl’ se­ries is world-fa­mous and is soon to be filmed. Born in Wex­ford, he cur­rently lives in Dublin with his wife, Jackie, and their sons, Finn (18) and Sean (12)

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS -

The alarm is set for 7.20am ev­ery morn­ing. We live in Monkstown at the mo­ment. Nor­mally we live in Wex­ford, but I was do­ing so much com­mut­ing for work that I sug­gested to my wife that we move, tem­po­rar­ily, up to Dublin. I’m not great in the morn­ings. I suf­fer from mi­graines, so usu­ally for the first hour of the day I have a headache. I’m on var­i­ous tablets for this and I’ve done ev­ery type of ther­apy known to man, with­out any luck. I wan­der around un­til the headache goes. I might have a cof­fee, and then I drop our son, Sean, to school in Dalkey. Our other son, Finn, is in Clon­gowes.

On the way, while drop­ping Sean to school, I pick up my mate De­clan. We go to a gym in Glasthule which we have chris­tened Mikey’s House of Pain. The trainer is called Mike. Over the last few years, I’ve lost a couple of stone. Now I have this very un­usual con­di­tion of be­ing skinny and flabby at the same time, so I de­cided to do some­thing about it. Our goal is to try and make the trainer fat, but that’s never go­ing to hap­pen. I go to the gym three morn­ings a week, and I go for a run twice a week.

Ex­er­cise is really im­por­tant for writ­ing be­cause if you’re run­ning or do­ing some par­tic­u­larly ar­du­ous ex­er­cise, you’re only think­ing about the next 10 or 15 min­utes. You can’t worry about what’s due and what you need to do next week. I’m al­ways wor­ry­ing about stuff and I over­think ev­ery­thing. It’s just my na­ture.

Af­ter the gym, De­clan and I go for our version of the mid­dle-aged chin­wag, with a smoothie in­stead of cof­fee. The two of us go­ing around in shorts is not pretty, but we think we’re great. Af­ter that, I go home, have a shower and then I get down to work. I like to be at my desk by 10.30am. I ig­nore emails and any phone calls un­til af­ter lunch. For the first half hour, I edit the pre­vi­ous day’s work, and then I get into the swing of writ­ing. I work on my main project, but I like to have two or three other things go­ing on. I try to get 1,000 words done in those three hours.

Then I go for lunch with Jackie. Hav­ing Jackie in my life has made an enor­mous dif­fer­ence. At the end of the day, I’m try­ing to please her with my work. If she really likes some­thing, I’m really chuffed, but if she doesn’t like some­thing, I’ll sulk. We’ve been to­gether since we were 16, and at piv­otal mo­ments in my life, she has given me good ad­vice. When I showed her the first Artemis Fowl book, she told me that it was time to get an agent.

If I’m hon­est, I think the writ­ing is ac­tu­ally get­ting harder. I find it harder to sit down and spend the time writ­ing. In the af­ter­noon, I usu­ally have dis­trac­tions, in that I’m col­lab­o­rat­ing on a few things. I of­ten have to go into town to meet some­one. I used to re­sent any­thing that would take me away from my desk, but now as long as I can get my three hours done in the morn­ing, I don’t mind. I like to hit the sec­ondary projects in the af­ter­noon. I’m do­ing a graphic novel with a guy in Lon­don, and I have a mu­si­cal part­ner. I write lyrics for him and he does the mu­sic. I did a disco mu­si­cal, which we’re re-work­ing now.

I never sit back and re­lax. I’m al­ways think­ing about the next thing. Jackie says that I’ve done an aw­ful lot, so I should re­lax a lit­tle. Ev­ery time I’m in the mid­dle of a quag­mire, which I get into with ev­ery novel, I al­ways say to my­self, ‘OK, I’m tak­ing a year out’. But that has never hap­pened. I al­ways ei­ther get an idea that I can’t leave alone or I get an book. When I was asked by Dou­glas Adams’s widow and daugh­ter to do the se­quel, And An­other Thing. . ., I couldn’t say no.

Also, I’m Lau­re­ate na nOg at the mo­ment, which is the am­bas­sador for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. My project has been this book, Once Upon a Place. I be­lieve that Ire­land is a really mag­i­cal place, and most of the sto­ries and po­ems in the book come from very spe­cific places in Ire­land. We gath­ered a road­show of sto­ry­tellers and we go to places where you wouldn’t nor­mally get a bunch of sto­ry­tellers. We’ve been to halt­ing sites and Tory Is­land and Hook Light­house.

Ini­tially, I started writ­ing for adults, but af­ter I started to teach, I re­alised that I had an affin­ity with kids. I was able to get through to them by do­ing things that you’re not sup­posed to do. I was an aw­fully sar­cas­tic teacher and boys es­pe­cially loved this. If you in­sulted them hor­ren­dously, they thought it was fan­tas­tic. The girls would be of­fended if I wasn’t be­ing nasty to them as well. I think in Ire­land we use that sort of slag­ging as a type of af­fec­tion.

We pick up Sean at 4.30pm from school, and then he might have soc­cer. The evenings are given over to fam­ily stuff — din­ner and then clear­ing up af­ter it. Then, Jackie and I sit down and watch tele­vi­sion. We used to love all the Scan­di­na­vian crime stuff, but I’ve had enough of it. There was a new se­ries last week, and the first thing you saw was a pretty girl walk­ing in the dark and then heavy breath­ing be­hind her. I’m ac­tu­ally un­com­fort­able with it. Some nights we might go to a gig in town, but it has to be seated. I like to sit down and lis­ten to the mu­sic. I’d like to say that I’ve be­come like that as I’ve got older, but I’ve al­ways been like that.

I go to bed at around 11.30pm and I try to read for about 20 min­utes. That’s prob­a­bly the only time that I read. I’m ne­glect­ing my read­ing, and I feel guilty about it. At the mo­ment, I’m en­joy­ing Pa­trick deWitt’s Un­der­ma­jor­domo Mi­nor. One of my prob­lems is that I don’t sleep well at night. Be­cause I know I’m go­ing to wake up with a headache, it takes me about an hour to get to sleep. I try to use that time to plot. That usu­ally sends me off to sleep, which is quite a good thing. ‘Once Upon a Place’, new sto­ries and po­ems for chil­dren by Ir­ish writ­ers, com­piled by Eoin Colfer, is pub­lished by Lit­tle Is­land Books, €15.99

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