Eoin Colfer is best known for his bestselling series, Artemis Fowl. Colfer's first name is pronounced "Owen". Both Eoin Colfer’s parents were teachers and young Eoin was taught by his dad Billy at Wexford’s Christian Brothers primary. Eoin remembers his dad’s presence in school as “witty...he made school fun.” Colfer junior’s first attempt at serious writing came in the sixth grade. “I wrote a play for the class about Norse Gods. Everyone died in the end except me.”
Eoin followed in his parents’ footsteps and trained to be a teacher at Carysfort College in Dublin. After qualifying, he returned to his home town to take up a post as a Resources and Learning Support teacher at Coolcotts National School. As a class teacher, he liked to end the day with ten minutes of reading to his students. “I’d find myself elaborating if I saw the interest flagging,” he says, “I’d add in gory bits. In the end I made up my own stories.”
Eoin is the author of five books prior to Artemis Fowl, all published by the O’Brien Press in Ireland. His first book, Benny and Omar, appeared in 1999 and instantly achieved bestselling status in Ireland. His next title, Benny and Babe, was another bestseller and was shortlisted for the Bisto Award 2000. Most of Eoin’s books are written for the early teens, but he has also written two stories, The Funny Feet and Going Potty, for six-to-eight year-olds. Eoin’s fifth title, The Wish List, for 11+ readers is packed with humour although it deals with serious issues of life, death and the hereafter. Eoin has also written plays for adult audiences, including The Lords of Love, created for his actor brother Donal. Fantasy is a strong theme in Eoin’s work. He feels that here he has a strong advantage being an Irish writer – “our well of mythology is so deep and rich – we are steeped in shape-shifting and magical folklore”.
Eoin’s writing career was building very satisfactorily in Ireland, but no-one could have predicted the worldwide furore that surrounded publishing rights to Artemis Fowl. The book was the subject of a fierce bidding war, which was won by Puffin after ten days. Worldwide publishing deals followed, along with a movie deal from Miramax and Tribeca (the production company of a certain Robert de Niro). All this has been accompanied by a chorus of approval from those who have read the manuscript of Artemis Fowl. Influential children’s bookseller Sonia Benster’s reponse was typical – “It’s so refreshing to have a different take on the fantasy genre. Such a gifted writer cannot fail to make a huge impact”.
At the centre of Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old criminal mastermind from North Dublin who attempts to raise money by holding a leprechaun to ransom. Artemis is an anti-hero with definite edge. Eoin says he has always been attracted to dark characters, from Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories to Darth Vader. “I had the idea of creating an anti-hero,” says Eoin, “a boy who was witty and sarcastic, always out for his own good. Once or twice he is mistakenly accused of a noble motive but, in fact, he’s always in it for the money.”
For Artemis Fowl, Eoin decided to bring the portrayal of leprechauns radically up-to-date from the old legends, rendering them “streetwise… neurotic, psychotic, sarcastic” creatures, who experience both racism and sexism. In fact us humans have got it wrong, “LEPrecon”, actually stands for “Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance”. The LEPrecon have such advanced technology that the book has been described as “Die Hard with fairies”. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident toppled J K Rowling from the top of the bestseller lists in June 2002.
Eoin cites influences as diverse as Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, graphic novels and The Simpsons. “I’ve always collected comics – Batman is my favourite - and enjoyed the dynamic characters. I think children can cope with sophisticated humour.”
Eoin is married to Jackie, also a former teacher. They have a son, Finn. Eoin wrote Artemis Fowl, like his previous novels, while still working full-time as a teacher. Writing was sandwiched in, after work, between 3pm and 4pm and then after 8:30pm (after Finn had been put to bed). Eoin took a break from teaching to focus on writing the next book in the Artemis Fowl series. Nevertheless, he says “teaching is my first love and my first career choice”.He recently wrote his first book for adults titaled "And Another Thing"