Our last gasp before some well earned rest took us to Preston for – I think – Eoin Colfer’s first UK event for his new and last (sob) Artemis book. Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian was published yesterday and has been so fiercely guarded that I only set eyes on it 24 hours earlier. Eoin told the audience that for this last book he put everything in, to make it special.
It was the wonderful SilverDell bookshop who hosted the event along with the local library service, and it took place in the grand County Hall. When Eoin arrived he was taken aback by the size of the venue and I suggested he’d have thought of a better talk if he’d known.
We were able to recognise him, even though he tries to disguise himself with a beard. Venerable, was the word Eoin used to describe it. He pulled his hat off to show a full head of hair. It’s greyer than it was, but it’s all there. So is Eoin, and there was absolutely nothing the matter with his talk.
He did the ‘talking to a cardboard box’ routine, which never fails to make us laugh. But mostly Eoin told us about his family, starting with brother Donal who disgraced himself in his confirmation photo, but lived to be the model for Artemis, on account of looking like a small James Bond villain in his confirmation suit. Donal boasts about this in pubs, but funnily enough the brother who’s the inspiration for Mulch Diggums never mentions his ties with the farting dwarf.
We have Irish education to thank for Artemis. They teach children about fairies as though it’s fact and history. (Of course it is!) And had it not been for that fateful first night at a dance for young Eoin, we might have had to go without the deliciously bad Opal Koboi. She wore pink converses with dolphins (he’s making this up, isn’t he?) and it’s her face that he still remembers when he writes. ‘I only dance with humans,’ she said to his bumbling efforts of asking.
Eoin’s other little brothers are goblins, and his sons are Myles and Beckett. If pushed, Eoin will admit to being Foaly. Sort of. And you can just see Foaly with his head in that cardboard box, can’t you? Julius Root was based on a teacher. And none of this would have happened without an early James Bond experience. They were deprived in those days.
Nowadays Eoin can only write in his own room with the right music from the 1980s and with the coffee in its precise spot. He likes battles won with brains, and quite fancies Midsomer style crime without the murders. Nothing too violent.
He finished by reading a short excerpt from the book where Juliet is holding the fort. Literally. Myles and Beckett are a challenge, even for Juliet. Both boys are lovely, though, and I can quite see why Eoin feels he will probably write a book about them at some point. The world is screaming out for more calculating little Fowls. Myles is a worthy successor to Artemis (should one be needed…) and Beckett’s underwear is unmentionable.
In answer to the question how he pitches his books at the right age, Eoin said he used to like not understanding all the words in a book. It made him feel more grown-up, and he wants his readers to have to look words up. Glad to see Eoin read and liked the same books as a child as I did. So thank you to Ivanhoe and the Scarlet Pimpernel and Huckleberry Finn. And brother Donal, naturally!
There was a massive queue for signing afterwards, and we would have loved to stop and chat but exhaustion won, and we caught a more civilised timed train home.