While the world is most familiar with Chris Colfer for playing Kurt on Glee, there's more to the 25-year-old than singing and acting. Colfer is also the author of a New York Times best-selling children's series, The Land of Stories.
In the first book in the series — The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, which was released in July 2012 — we meet twins Alex and Conner Bailey who accidentally teleport into different fairy tale worlds when they read their grandma's book of fantasy stories. The fourth installment in the series, The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms, was published July 7, and now readers get to follow their favorite characters as they embark on even more adventures.
BuzzFeed had the chance to catch up Colfer and talk about his writing process, the possible movies based on the books, and the advice he'd give to his younger self. Here's what he had to say:
1. Chris Colfer came up with the idea for The Land of Stories when he was very young.
When did you first come up with the idea for The Land of Stories?
Chris Colfer: I first came up with the idea for The Land of Stories when I was about 7 years old. I loved fairy tales and reading and I so desperately just wanted to jump into the stories that I read.
Seven years old is very young.
CC: There’s a thin line between creativity and insanity.
2. The goal behind his fantasy series is to escape reality.
Do you remember what your inspiration originally was for those stories?
CC: I had a pretty complicated childhood because I had a sister that was constantly sick and going in and out of the hospital. I think I used reading and fairy tales as a way of escaping, and I so desperately wanted to truly escape and magically travel into a magical world where problems weren’t real.
3. There isn’t just one main character in The Land of Stories — there are two.
Why did you decide to have two main characters — Alex and Conner — instead of just one protagonist?
CC: I’m a Gemini, so the main characters represent both sides of me. I thought that would be a great, unique way of portraying the protagonist.
4. Colfer’s feminist beliefs influence how he writes certain characters.
Do you have a favorite character?
CC: Of course! I hope it’s not obvious, but I love Mother Goose. I have a lot of strong female characters in my series because I’m a bit of a feminist. They’re always really fun to write for, and none of them are alike.
5. The actor enjoys writing fiction because of how much freedom it gives him.
Do you prefer writing books or screenplays for TV and film?
CC: It’s funny because whatever I’m doing at the time, I always think the opposite is much easier. When I write books, I’ve been lucky enough to have complete creative control and I can tell the exact story that I want, whereas sometimes when I’m working on a film script or something for television, I’m constantly getting notes from studio executives. I have more freedom writing books.
6. There are a number of different fantasy worlds included in The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms.
How do you decide which fantasy worlds you want to include in The Land of Stories for your characters to explore?
CC: This is the first book where the characters travel into literary worlds rather than just general fairy tale worlds. I selfishly decided to use Oz, Neverland, Wonderland, Camelot, and the Sherwood Forest because those were my favorite books growing up and I also think they’re some of the most recognizable worlds in fiction.
7. Even though the books are fiction, the author puts a *lot* of himself into the novels.
How much of yourself do you put into the novels?
CC: Being an actor has actually made me a stronger writer because with each character, I’m able to put myself in their shoes and almost take it on as a role. I act out what they would say, what they would feel, and how they would go about expressing themselves. Not only is there a little bit of me in each main character, but I also put myself into the villains, too. Writing the Enchantress in book two — The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns — was basically how I got out all my frustrations about relationships. There’s this great chapter where she has all these souls of the men that she loved in jars and I always thought that’d be wonderful, just to jar up your exes and bottle up your heartbreak.
8. Colfer channels all of his emotions into fiction writing.
What kind of creativity does this outlet provide you with compared to other artistic mediums?
CC: I’m able to channel whatever I want into writing The Land of Stories, whereas when you’re on TV there are so many days — especially when you’re on Glee — when you have to be happy. There’s lots and lots of happiness, and there are some days when you’re just not happy. If you’re in a terrible mood, sometimes you have to do the exact opposite of what your heart wants to do. When you’re writing books, you’re able to channel whatever emotion you’re going through at the time.
9. And he loves hearing from his readers.
What’s your favorite part of writing for children?
CC: Hearing from the children. I love hearing from the kids about how much they love the books, how they share copies, how they play pretend with the characters, and how they want to see a movie because they fall in love with the characters so much.
10. We’re probably going to see The Land of Stories adapted into equally lovable movies.
Is there going to be a movie?
CC: I think so, yeah. We’ll see. I’m really particular about it because I’ve always said from the beginning that I’d rather it be a good book that 100 people read than a terrible movie that 100,000 people see. The offers have started coming in and I’m trying to find the right people to do it with.
11. But Colfer doesn’t want the actors who play the two main characters to be known.
Have you thought about who you want to play Alex and Conner, the main characters in the story?
CC: In a dream world I’d love for it to be Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis, but they might be busy or they might not want to play 12-year-olds. But I actually really want them to be unknown actors. One of the reasons why I did not label the city that they live in is because I wanted all of the kids who read the books to be able to relate to them and see themselves within the characters. I would hope that with no familiarity of the actors playing the characters, kids would also relate to the movie.
12. Readers are going to find a lot of important messages in this latest book.
What do you hope readers take away from The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms?
CC: I unexpectedly wrote so many lessons throughout the book, but I honestly just want the readers to have an adventure. I want the book to be something that they can escape into and just be entertained for a little bit. Hopefully along the way, readers might take away some messages. Whatever messages they find are theirs to keep.
13. Colfer thinks other young writers who have ideas for stories shouldn’t hesitate to write them.
What piece of advice would you give to a young writer who doesn’t know how to get started?
CC: Just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to even be legible, just get it out of your system and then go back and perfect, perfect, perfect. But don’t be intimidated by other writers or other authors because if you have a story that you want to tell, then you deserve to write it.
14. And he has some advice for his younger self.
If you could go back in time and say something to your younger self, what would you say?
CC: Do something with your hair. Anything at all, just do something.