But I like funny books, so when a panel at the Bouchercon Crime Fiction Conference in St. Louis this fall promised a panel about the subject, I was in. I expanded my reading list in direct correlation with the members of the panel, with Colfer at the top of the list. The man was hysterical, but also charming and knowledgeable. He mentioned that he had a brand new book out, his first for adult audiences. I picked up Plugged that very day.
The book lived up to such lofty expectations. It is funny, yes, but also a tale well told, with plenty of grit and action and heart. That’s a difficult mix to pull off, but Colfer does so seemingly without effort.
The story is that of Daniel McEvoy, an Irish ex-pat bouncer at a small New Jersey casino. His girlfriend is murdered, he fears his best friend may be as well, and the search for the killer(s) puts him in the direct line of fire of the Jersey mob and the cops. Add to this that Dan is babying a new set of hair plugs (thus the clever title), and the man has his hands full.
Eoin (it’s pronounced “Owen” was kind enough to answer a few questions for Grift.
G: What did Ken Bruen say to get you to take a stab at adult crime fiction?
EC: I have known Ken for a few years now and obviously respected the hell out of his work. A while back Ken asked me to do a short story for a collection he was editing called Dublin Noir. I was a little reluctant because I thought I wouldn’t be up to the task and Ken said to me – you already write crime fiction – with leprechauns. So, thus encouraged, I went ahead and wrote a story called “Taking on PJ,” which went on to get some good reviews. I had tasted the blood of grown up readers and it was good. So it was only a matter of time before I gave a novel a try.
You’ve made your career writing children/young adult books, so this is definitely a shift for you. How great a shift was it? And I’m asking you to speculate here, but do you think it is more challenging for you to write for an adult audience or for someone writing for an adult audience to take a stab at YA?
I think it is a very individual thing and some people manage the shift really well, like John Connolly and Anthony Horowitz, but some people make a complete balls of it and I am not going to name those. I think the problem is that some unnamed people might think it necessary to dumb down their books for teens. This is a big mistake, as anyone with teens can attest to. Teens are just as smart as grown-ups. Or to put it another way: we are all as dumb as each other. I didn’t really have to make any huge changes to write an adult book, but then again maybe I should have.
Any concern about your younger readers grabbing this and being exposed to something they’re not ready for? At the same time, I suppose, for your readers who have aged out of the Artemis Fowl books (if something like that is even possible), they can now move on to Plugged.
I was concerned about that so we made sure the tagline and cover made it very clear that this was a book for adults. Having said that, a lot of the Artemis readers are in their 20s now and ready for Plugged.
This book is quite funny yet also quite gritty, which is not something easy to do. Did both of those elements come at the same time, or did you find yourself going back to inject one or the other in subsequent drafts?
Sometimes I had to go back and scale back the funny, as I tend to get quite slapstick and scatological, as you might have noticed. I always have to fight my urges to go crazy funny, which of course would damage the story and characters. My editor keeps a close eye and is not shy about telling me when I screw up.
What’s next? Perhaps a two-book-a-year schedule that brings both a YA novel and an adult novel into the world?
Something like that. I would like to do an 18-month schedule with one adult book and one YA. I also have many side projects that are more low profile. I did a musical and a play last year, and am working on a screenplay with my friend Ian Fitzgibbon, the acclaimed director of “Perrier’s Bounty.”