Fairy tales and worlds of make believe have been with Chris Colfer from the beginning.
The first story the New York Times bestselling author and Golden Globe-winning actor wrote in second or third grade dealt with an imagined world. It was a twist on Cinderella, involving an elderly woman named Seniorella whose fairy godmother didn't bestow upon her a dress or pair of glass slippers, but instead a pair of fake teeth.
"Ever since I was a kid they were the kind of stories that I really paid attention to," said the 25-year-old Glee star over the phone as he waits for a plane in Chicago. "There’s something about magic that I’ve been more attracted to than anything else I read. . . Pretty much any story where a kid went from our world into a magical realm I just devoured."
On Wednesday, July 15, Colfer will be at Dobson High School, 1501 West Guadalupe Road in Mesa, to share the latest book in his The Land of Stories series. The fantasy series, which has garnered fans of all ages though it's aimed at readers ages 8 through 12, follows twins Alex and Conner Bailey as they traverse worlds they thought existed only in story books.
Just like the characters in Colfer's favorite childhood books, including Harry Potter, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, in The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms Alex and Conner must stop their nemesis, the Masked Man, from assembling an army of villains from classic stories. Helping the Baileys are Goldilocks, Jack (you know, the one with the beanstalk), Red Riding Hood, and Mother Goose, and her gander, Lester.
Besides being entertained, Colfer hopes that young people reading his book will see a more relatable kind of hero, especially in Alex.
"You know, there’s a quote that Alex, the main character, says, and it’s about greatness and maybe greatness isn’t about being popular or heroic, maybe it’s about just fighting for the greater good for the world even when the world turns back on you," Colfer says. "I think every book has lessons and morals and whatnot sprinkled throughout, but honestly, I just want kids to have an adventure when they read [Beyond the Kingdoms]. It’s just as important to entertain kids with books as it is to educate them."
Having never taken a writing course, Colfer credits his love of storytelling to his absorption of television as a child.
He urges adults to not only let kids read what they want but also stop telling children they’re watching too much television or too many movies.
"I did nothing but watch TV and movies when I was a kid, and I think it’s really what made me a good storyteller," he says. "I learned how to identify a story and learned how to format one, so I think a lot of good can come from binge-watching TV and movies."
Since Glee, on which he played Kurt Hummel, ended in March of 2015, Colfer says he has had more time to work on his books, that is, when he can find somewhere to write that his cat hasn’t already claimed.
With three more books scheduled to come out this year and starring as Noel Coward in a biopic focusing on the early life of the Tony Award-winning playwright, Colfer has quite a year ahead of him.
But in the meantime, he’s looking forward to meeting new fans on his book tour.
Colfer says his fan base has changed as The Land of Stories books have come out, shifting from mostly teenagers who became fans because of Glee to younger children who only know him as an author.
"I’d say we have about 80 to maybe 90 percent of the book signings are all just little kids that don’t know me from TV and just know me from the books alone, and it’s just so fun to hear how excited they get when they talk about it," he says.
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Colfer can relate. He remembers the feeling he had when he met J. K. Rowling at the White House when the cast of Glee was invited to perform at the Easter Egg Roll in 2010.
"Honestly, I was just as excited to meet her as I was to meet Obama," Colfer says.
Share in the excitement yourself when Chris Colfer comes to Dobson High School, 1501 West Guadalupe Road in Mesa, with Changing Hands for his first book signing in the Valley on Wednesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. Will call opens at 6 p.m. and doors open at 6:30. Admission to the signing is free with the purchase of The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms ($18) through Changing Hands. To purchase the book and to get more information about the event, visit changinghands.com.