Clovis gave a warm welcome to “Glee” actor and New York Times bestselling author Chris Colfer when he returned to his hometown Tuesday to promote his latest book.
A few hundred fans purchased copies of “Worlds Collide,” the sixth and final book in his middle-grade reader series “The Land of Stories” and attended a reading and Q&A session at Mercedes Edwards Theater.
“This is so strange,” Colfer said as he stepped on stage, gazing out at a crowd of costumed fans, and former teachers and classmates. Colfer attended Clovis East High School.
“I cannot believe I’m standing on the stage where I did so many school plays. That is so crazy!” he remarked, joking: “Perhaps you remember my riveting portrayal of Chip in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ ”
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Colfer apologized for his late arrival; he rode in a tour bus from Los Angeles to Clovis, the 13th city in a 20-stop tour.
His books have sold millions of copies, and “The Land of Stories” series has been translated into 20 different languages. Colfer is set to write the screenplay and direct the film version of the first book in the series, “The Wishing Spell,” which will be adapted to film by 20th Century Fox.
Colfer read an excerpt from “Worlds Collide,” hosted a trivia game with eager fans and then answered questions. Several in the crowd grabbed the microphone just to thank him for writing, and to say ‘hi’ because they knew him before he was famous.
“It’s like a reunion!” he exclaimed, remarking later: “I should come back more often. This is such an ego boost!”
But it wasn’t only locals who showed up to support him.
Dressed in an elaborate Mother Goose costume, Mariana Marmolejo, 28, drove three hours from her home in Hollister to support Colfer on his tour. This wasn’t the first signing she’s attended.
“I made it to all of his book signings,” she said. “This is my own adventure coming to these. I get my courage from these books.”
She dressed as her favorite character because “Mother Goose is an old, beautiful broad that has had a lot of adventures and still has that spark for life. I hope that’ll be me when I’m old and I won’t lose my sense of adventure.”
Marmolejo said the books help bridge a generation gap between herself, her mother and her 8-year-old son, Leo.
“It’s a conversation starter. I can talk to my mom about this and I can talk to my son about this because he knows the Disney versions of these characters.”
Cousins Dominick Haupt, 11, Kaymbria Boice, 11, and Camille Haupt, 13 — all in costumes — traveled from Turlock and Hickman to attend the book tour event and participate in the costume contest. All three said they were inspired by Colfer and want to become writers when they’re older.
For budding writers, Colfer shared this piece of advice for dealing with writer’s block: “Get up and leave the minute you feel it coming. Don’t sit at your pad of paper or your computer and suffer over it. Just get up and distract yourself until you feel like it’s gone.”
Here are 11 things Colfer’s fans learned about him at the event:
- He doesn’t consider starring on “Glee” his biggest accomplishment. “My biggest accomplishment… a lot of people always answer that question for me. Usually it’s for being on ‘Glee,’ but I have to say for me personally it is being an author,” he said, which prompted a roar of applause and cheers from the audience. “I get so much credit for being on ‘Glee’ and saying words that were given to me, but I’m really happy to be contributing to the literary world and inspiring other kids to read and write.”
- “The Land of Stories” main characters are based on himself. “Alex and Conner are basically me,” Colfer said. “They’re the yin and yang of my personality.”
- Colfer’s grandmother was his first editor. “My grandmother was a huge, huge champion and cheerleader for me,” he said. “When I was a little boy, about 7 or 8, and I tried writing “The Land of Stories” the first time, I used to ride my bike over to her house and give her what I had written. She would grammar check it, spell check it, and if she liked it, she would keep it in a stack. But if she didn’t like it, she would crumple it up in front of me and throw it away and say, ‘Christopher, you can do better.’ And she was usually right. She really helped me get prepared for the writing world.”
- He gets asked to sing in every single city. He never does.
- Some of his “The Land of Stories” characters are based on people from Clovis. “I had some incredible teachers at Clovis East and there’s a lot of them in Mrs. Peters, the twins’ 6th grade teacher — by the end of the series she’s their principal,” Colfer said. “She’s based on a lot of the teachers I had in Clovis.”
- His goal was to attend University High School, not Clovis East. “But I did not pass Algebra 1 in time. I still never passed it. I’m really bad at math.”
- Colfer’s favorite book to write wasn’t in “The Land of Stories” series. “I really liked writing ‘Stranger Than Fan Fiction.’ I really got a lot of aggression out in that book,” he said.
- He wrote every word in his books himself. “I was very adamant that I was not going to have any ghostwriters for my books,” Colfer said. “So I had to write the first 100 pages to convince publishers that I could actually write and do it all myself.”
- His favorite character to write into the series is Mother Goose. “Mother Goose is based on an actress that I worked with, her name was Polly Bergen and she played my grandmother in ‘Struck by Lightning,’ ” Colfer explained. “She was just the crassiest, funniest person I’ve ever met... So whenever I’m writing Mother Goose I feel like I’m channeling Polly a little bit.”
- His favorite author is JK Rowling. “I was not a good reader when I was a kid, and if it weren’t for the Harry Potter books I probably would have never tried so hard to be a better reader, or be inspired to become a writer myself,” Colfer said.
- When it comes to directing the film based on the first book in his series, he’s most excited about the set pieces. “I’m very excited to bring the set pieces to life. When I see the Evil Queen’s evil lair, I think I’m just going to break down into tears.”