New Chris' Interviews about writing!

The Writing Life: Chris Colfer of 'Glee' inspired by fairy tales
Chris Colfer

When Chris Colfer was just 20, he'd already been named one of GQ magazine's men of the year, having sung and acted his way into the hearts of America as Kurt, the high-pitched, openly gay brunet who is unabashedly himself on the hit TV show "Glee." Colfer's star had risen so fast in the year he'd starred on the Fox comedy that a literary agent asked him to pen his autobiography — an endeavor Colfer had the good sense to decline because it was so premature.

Instead, Colfer offered "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell" (Little, Brown: 448 pp., $17.99 ages 8 and up) — an idea he'd been percolating since age 10. His fairy tale mash-up, about twins who fall into story land and embark upon a scavenger hunt through the kingdoms of Goldilocks and other legendary damsels in distress, will be published Tuesday.

"I've been obsessed with fairy tale characters since my mom started reading stories to me as a kid," said the now-22-year-old actor, adding that the book his mother read didn't have illustrations but photos of dolls in various positions. "It was very creepy," said Colfer, who nevertheless found inspiration in the morals and characters of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Colfer's favorites were "Snow White,""Sleeping Beauty" and"Cinderella" "because they're like a fairy tale sampler platter" with the castle, the curse and the prince who saves the day. All three beauties, and at least a dozen more, are present and accounted for in "The Land of Stories," which begins with "Once upon a time…" and follows a 12-year-old brother and sister as they attempt to collect strands of Rapunzel's hair, a strip of bark from Red Riding Hood's basket and other seemingly impossible items for a wish that will let them return home.

Like any tale worth its fairy dust, "The Land of Stories" is infused with a moral: "There's a whole world out there just waiting for you to discover it," Colfer said. "'Happily ever after' is something that you make. It's not given to you."

Colfer's professional success offers living proof. "With 'Glee,' I've had my own 'Cinderella' story," he said, though he acknowledges that fame isn't the happily ever after it's often portrayed to be. "God, no. It used to drive me nuts when people said, 'So. You used to be bullied. Now you're famous.' That only opens me up to more bullying. Yes, I'm very lucky I get to do what I love — to act and be on TV. I'm very fortunate, but once you're out there, you're out there, and it's like fame is standing on a pillar in a crowded room and giving the whole world a chance to go at you."

Colfer, who is openly gay, was so severely bullied in middle school that he was home-schooled for a couple of years in his native Clovis, Calif. Is it coincidence, then, that the twin protagonists in his middle-grade authorial debut are roughly the same age when they escape into a land of make-believe?

Only subconsciously, he said. Twelve "is a very crucial age when kids realize, 'Oh. This is the real world.' It's the age when kids stop believing in magic," said Colfer, who grew up reading "Harry Potter," "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Alice in Wonderland, "The Wizard of Oz,""Peter Pan" and other escapist classics about alluring alternate realities. QuotingJ.K. Rowling, Colfer said magic is so appealing because it's the belief of power in oneself.

"It's believing in whatever ability you possess on the inside," he said. "There's something magical about believing there's magic in you."

The desire to escape into a book was largely inspired by Colfer's childhood. He was in and out of hospitals with his epileptic younger sister and was himself confined to a hospital bed for three months after surgery for an infected lymph node. "I remember being trapped and hooked to an IV and being miserable and wanting to go outside and play and be a kid and I couldn't," said Colfer, who hopes his book will be enjoyed by readers of all ages who appreciate the C.S. Lewis sentiment that opens the book: "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."

Colfer describes himself as "a major fairy tale purist. I can't stand it when people adapt them into something they're not supposed to be," he said, before admitting, "I'm a total hypocrite." In "The Land of Stories," Colfer takes major liberties with the many classic fairy tales he fuses together.

When one of the twins wants to climb Rapunzel's tower as if it were a tourist attraction, her brother takes the stairs. And Jack, of beanstalk fame, couldn't care less about the giant. He's caught in a love triangle with Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood.

Colfer's real life oblivion-to-everywhere story has allowed him to add more realistic, psychological perspectives to classic fairy-tale characters who, after the original stories ended, seemed to have gone on to live happily ever after. Cinderella, it turns out, had a difficult time transitioning from servant to queen and earning the common people's respect. Snow White's Evil Queen is also worthy of compassion. "A villain is just a victim whose story hasn't been told," he writes.

In "Land of Stories," Colfer showcases his talent for crafting fancifully imaginative plots and multidimensional characters. His writing, however, borders on the blasé. It lacks the natural charisma and quick wit he regularly displays in TV interviews — a talent he honed as a defense from being relentlessly bullied as a child.

A high school thespian, Colfer auditioned for "Glee" at age 17 for the paraplegic role eventually given to Kevin McHale. But "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy was so impressed with his audition that he created the Kurt character to cast Colfer in the show that was nominated for 19 Emmy awards in its first season and won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy television series last year — the same year Colfer himself picked up a Golden Globe for supporting actor.

"The Land of Stories" is just the most recent example of Colfer's quiet transformation from a TV star idolized by 14-year-old girls and the homosexual media into something of a Renaissance man. While penning the book last year, he also wrote, produced and starred in the film "Struck by Lightning," a comedic, postmortem recounting of the exploits of an unusually ambitious teenage journalist. The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and will be in theaters this December. Colfer is already writing another screenplay about a 1930s mental asylum that, he says, "is completely different from anything I've ever done." He'll publish a second novel this year and plans to write additional titles for "The Land of Stories" series as well.

And then there's "Glee." Season 4 starts filming this month and will see Colfer's Kurt character "mentored by Sarah Jessica Parker in some capacity," he said.

"People are wondering why I'm going from acting to writing a children's book, but to me it's all playing pretend," he said. "I was just born wanting to be a storyteller, so as long as I get to entertain someone, whether it's writing a book or screenplay or being in front of or behind a camera, I'm happy. That's where my bliss is."



Cat's out of the bag: Chris Colfer plans to release second book this year

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Actors Amber Riley and Chris Colfer attend 'Struck By Lightning' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 21, 2012 in New York City.
Glee star Chris Colfer has talked with news outlets across the nation this month to promote his first book, The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell. In the process, he's let slip that he's releasing another novel later this year.

"I actually have another novel coming out this year," the young author told Examiner last week. "I’m not sure when they're going to announce it, but it’s coming out this year as well. I don’t know how top secret it is yet."

If the publisher was hoping to keep the book secret, they'll have to go back in time. Examiner was keeping quiet until the full interview with Colfer is posted next week, but the 22-year-old also mentioned the book to the Los Angeles Times and, and both have released their own interviews.

"By the end of next week - well, a bit after that - I have to write a novel," Colfer told MrPorter. "I haven't started yet. I'm not even joking."

The Land Of Stories series hits shelves July 17 with The Wishing Spell. The series is meant for children, but The Wishing Spell runs the length of some Harry Potter books and may appeal to older audiences.

Colfer told Examiner that the new book is in no way connected to The Land Of Stories and is for young adult readers.

"I got a bunch of stories in me," Colfer said. "I feel like I was born with, like, a major to-do list of stories to tell. I’ll have a new story to tell as long as people want to listen to me."


At just 22, Chris Colfer has made a career centered in storytelling via acting, screenwriting and now fiction. Best known for his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of gay teen Kurt Hummel on TV’s “Glee,” Colfer has written The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (Little, Brown, $17.99), a fast-paced fantasy adventure that blends the modern world with the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Recommended for ages 8 and older, the engrossing story centers around 12-year-old twins Alex and Conner, who literally fall into the realm of fairy tales thanks to a magical storybook given to them by their grandmother. Here they encounter Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack (of beanstalk fame), Snow White, Goldilocks and various Prince Charmings, as well as a darker world filled with wolves, goblins, trolls and one very evil Queen. As they struggle to return home, the twins learn much about themselves and uncover some surprises they didn’t expect.

On the movie front, Colfer’s first screenplay, “Struck By Lightning,” will hit screens later this year. It’s a comedy about a young man (Colfer) who, after being struck and killed by lightning, recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine. Christina Hendricks, Dermot Mulroney and Allison Janney also are in the cast.

Colfer also has been hired by the Disney Channel to write a pilot for a children’s show called “The Little Leftover Witch,” based on a book by Florence Laughlin. And he’s not done yet with Alex and Conner. He’s already at work on a second book that he says “will be a little bit more personal for me.”Colfer recently took some time to talk about writing, fairy tales and what the future holds for his character on “Glee.”

Q. For someone so young, you have a long history with this book.

A. When I was 10, the overall concept came to me, and I began writing. Ever since then, it’s been in my head, festering and marinating and wanting to get out. After the success with “Glee,” I was approached to do an autobiography. But I was just 20 and didn’t want to do that just yet. I want to wait until I’m at least 25 (laughs). But I suggested the idea of writing a children’s fantasy novel, and they liked the idea.

Q. How did you become interested in writing at such a young age?

A. I loved playing with action figures and gave them very, very detailed story lines. So I think that was kind of my first taste of writing. I was bullied in school, so writing and storytelling became a form of escapism for me. Now I’m addicted to it.

Q. You dedicate the book to your grandmother. Why?

A. She was my first editor when I first started writing years ago. Every time I finished a chapter, I would go over to her house, and she would do the spelling and grammar check for me. If she liked it, she would keep it for her own collection. If she didn’t, she would throw it away and tell me I could do better. (His grandmother sounds like my mom and it makes me go AWWW everytime)

Q. What do you find so fascinating about fairy tales?

A. I love thinking that there is magic in the world, that there are people in the world with amazing abilities that we just don’t know about. And I wanted to make sure to incorporate the original Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen tales into the book. Over the course of time, with all the fairy tale adaptations and cartoons the morals the stories used to hold have kind of been lost. I hope the book inspires readers to take a look at the originals.

Q. What do you hope young readers get from the book?

A. There are a bunch of lessons and morals throughout the story, and hopefully, they can learn from them. But ultimately, my goal was to let kids who need an escape have an adventure with Alex and Conner.

Q.So, screenwriting vs. fiction, are they different challenges?

A. Screenwriting is much easier, because all you have to do is write the action and what they’re saying. You have a lot of help from the actors, the director, the set designer. They’re all helping you bring your vision to life. In a novel, you have to write the internal dialogue, the conflicts, and all that inner turmoil. You have to supply the reader with every single detail you can.

Q. Taking a turn to your other job, what does the new season hold for Kurt on “Glee”? His future was left up in the air after he graduated at the end of last season.

A. I really don’t know. I’m eagerly awaiting the script. All I know is he’s going to be mentored by Sarah Jessica Parker. So I’m very excited about that. And as far as I know, all the graduated characters are coming back

Q. How do you see your own future unfolding?

A. I just want to do everything. I’m really happy right now being able to do a movie here, a television show there, write a book, write a screenplay. So as long as I’m able to keep my whole storytelling addiction alive, then I’m good.

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