Chris Colfer is a busy man. Between making movies and playing Kurt Hummel on Glee, it’s a wonder he’s found any time at all to pursue a writing career. And yet, the 22-year-old is getting ready to release his second novel of the year next week.
Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal follows Carson Phillips, a high school outcast who blackmails his peers into participating in his literary magazine. It’s already been filmed as a movie starring Christina Hendricks, Rebel Wilson and Colfer himself. Though the film won’t be out until next year, the book hits shelves on Nov. 20. Colfer took the time to talk to EW about his first young adult novel, his own high school experiences and that one time he dabbled in extortion himself. Read the interview below and check out an exclusive print excerpt and audio clip from Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal afterwards!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you want to write a YA book? It started as a screenplay, right?
CHRIS COLFER: Right. It was actually my publisher’s idea. I had my first novel The Land of Stories come out this year and they were invited to one of my first screenings of the [Struck by Lightning] film and they fell in love with it. So they asked me if I would ever want to adapt it into a novel. I really thought about it because I wasn’t sure if I could pull off a generic novel about the story, but then I came up with the idea of writing it as his journal.
I don’t want to say this was inspired by your life, but I did notice some similarities between you and Carson.
It really is not quite as autobiographical as it may seem. There were many elements that I did base it off of my own experiences of adolescence. I had to publish a literary magazine every year and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Getting kids to write and inspiring them to write something other than a Facebook post was really, really challenging.
Did you blackmail them to participate like Carson does?
[Laughs] I did not, not for the literary magazine. I kind of blackmailed my friend a little bit into being in my high school senior show. I wrote and directed a spoof of Sweeney Todd called Shirley Todd. No one wanted to be in that, so I had to blackmail [people] to be in that for me. But I never blackmailed people into being in the literary magazine. So, I kind of combined those two [experiences] together to make the story. But Carson and I are very different people. Carson is the person that I wish I was in high school. I was very much a victim in high school, and Carson, even though he gets bullied, he never lets himself be a victim because of it.
This was a very dark book in some ways, more so than I expected. Everything doesn’t get all tied up in a neat bow at the end.
Well you know, I think there might be more of a resolution in the movie, but I think his story is tragic for a reason. It’s supposed to teach a lesson. He spent so much time trying to accomplish something that the whole world was telling him that he couldn’t accomplish. I think that the bow at the end, if you will, is him realizing that as long as he’s trying to get there, he’s learning. Teenagers are really tough these days. If you’re going to give them a lesson, you really got to almost teach it in a brutally honest, morbid way.
Was it difficult to write in a journal voice?
For most of it, it was kind of fun. I got to dive back into all my teenage aggression. I took a walk down memory lane to remember how I felt about things and what my biggest frustrations were.
That must have been dark!
[Laughs] It’s a very dark place to go to. All those hormones. I don’t know how I walked down the street.
You’ve done a bit of everything these days. Do you have a favorite between film, books and TV?
I love writing something and then getting to portray it, like I did with the movie. As an actor, you don’t have any questions because everything you’re doing is from your creation. You don’t have to ask the director, “what would he say here, what do I do here?” You just know because it comes from your imagination. I do love writing novels. It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it’s also the most rewarding. There’s nothing like holding a book in your hands that you’ve written.
Hear an audio clip from Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal:
Read an exclusive print excerpt:
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Also, for a chance to see Colfer in person, check out these two book signings:
Tuesday, 11.20 at 7pm at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ
Saturday, 11.24 at 6pm at B&N/The Grove in Los Angeles, CA
What are you thoughts, readers?