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Friday, November 06, 2009

Eoin Colfer at the Apple Store

I was surprised there were so few people at the Apple Store on Wednesday, October 28, to see Eoin Colfer, author of the much-anticipated sixth Hitchhiker’s novel, And Another Thing.... There were fewer than a dozen people seated in the theater portion of Apple’s flagship San Francisco location at One Stockton Street. Granted, it was 1 in the afternoon and most people would be at work, but surely there are plenty of Hitchhiker’s fans who work in downtown San Francisco and could’ve strolled over on their lunch hour.

The lackluster showing seemed to confirm my suspicions that U.S. marketing for and overall public awareness of the book has trailed behind awareness in the U.K.. Or perhaps it was just that it was such a strange venue for an author talk and book signing? It’s hard to say, since And Another Thing... has surfaced on the New York Times bestseller list at number 20,, which isn’t bad, although it currently isn’t even in the top 100 on (although it’s number 48 on

Colfer was funny and engaging throughout his talk, self-effacing about the turnout (a few more people trickled in throughout the hour), and went quickly to questions from the audience. Since the audience was so small, everyone who wanted to ask something had a chance. In fact, plenty of chance. I ended up asking several questions since most of the other people had run out of questions.

My questions were more or less as follows, but I won’t try to report his answers verbatim, since he went on quite a while for each one, often rambling into some funny aside or three. You’ll have to wait until Apple posts the podcast of the event on the iTunes Music Store (likely in a month), upon which maybe I’ll transcribe his actual answers here.

How many times so far in the U.S. have you had to explain to people how to pronounce your name? It’s pronounced just like “Owen,” and he said it’s just the old Irish spelling. I asked him this in part because I pronounced it “Ewan” for a couple months before I went to his website, where it helpfully says “It’s pronounced Owen!” right in the header : )

Tell us about Hitchcon. I asked this mostly so he’d tell everyone else about it, and to give him something to talk about. I’d already read a lot about it in the Guardian’s coverage. Hitchcon was earlier this last month in London, and it’s where the new book premiered, on the 30th anniversary of the original book’s release. It was also the first time Eoin was to face the skeptical Hitchhikers fans in person, and the first time he’d do a reading from the book. He was a bit nervous, to say the least. Among other cool things at the weekend event, a huge amount of the original cast members of the radio and TV series reenacted parts of the scripts live on stage. If it hadn’t been the same weekend on which I’d planned our anniversary getaway, I might’ve flown to London for a week.

What did you do before writing? He was a school teacher.

Have your books been translated into other languages? The reason I ask is because I heard recently that some uniquely British-type things in J.K. Rowling’s books have to be changed to make sense to other cultures, and I’m wondering how you’d feel about that. I’d heard a snippet on NPR about some of the people who do the translations, and was slightly appalled to learn they sometimes edit things completely out because they’re deemed too British, and changed to something more culturally understandable to a child in, say, Ethiopia or Malaysia. I felt this was ridiculous; how else would a child in Malaysia learn about the strange quirks of British private schools if it weren’t in books like the Harry Potter series? I didn’t go into that much depth with my question, mind you. Colfer said it wasn’t usually a big problem for his books, although he recalled the Russian translator had a tough time with the fairies in his Artemis Fowl series, as in Russian folklore there’s only one sort of fairy, and in Irish there are all sorts, from dwarves to elves to trolls, and so on.

After the talk and Q&A, a couple people milled around talking with Colfer and a gentleman who must’ve been with the publisher or PR firm or something, as he’d quite clearly been Douglas Adams’ representative in the Bay Area years ago as well. Together we recalled the last two times Adams was in the Bay Area on book tours for So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless. The former was the tour on which I met Adams, which I’ve talked about before, and on the latter I only caught his appearance on the Jim Eason program on KGO AM.

I haven’t read the new book yet, as I’ve been meaning to reread the last few Hitchhiker’s books (I’ve read the first two or three many, many times, but it’s been a long time since I re-read either of the last two), plus I was in the middle of a couple other books. I’ll post a review when I’ve gotten to And Another Thing..., and I’ll also get around to posting my mini reviews of his Artemis Fowl series which I started reading early in 2009.

Photos from the event.

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