First Encounters: Eoin Colfer and Pierce Turner
‘He makes me laugh the whole time’
True Wexford boys: Eoin Colfer and Pierce Turner. Photograph: Mary Browne
EOIN COLFER is the author of the Artemis Fowl series of books for children and young adults. Before the first was published in 2001, he was a teacher in his home town, Wexford. The Reluctant Assassin, the first book in his new Warp series, was published in April, while the second of his adult noir thrillers, Screwed, was published in May. Eoin lives in Wexford with his wife Jackie and their sons, Finn and Seán
Pierce and I did an event together in White’s with Billy Roche . . . that’s really where we met. He introduced a song called Life in a Day, it’s almost an apology for idlers . . . at the end of it, when he was introducing me, he said “sometimes having the old BMW is not all it’s cracked up to be”. Then I had to say, well I have a BMW . . . my first introduction and I’m being chastised! I thought he was a great fella and then he hit me with that. I cried for a while.
I knew of Pierce, had seen him in gigs. But we got to know each other at a local kettlebell [weights] class. Our coach threatened to separate us because we’d just stand there talking, and take long breaks. We’d joined the class separately. Then I started going to all Pierce’s gigs.
The first gig I saw Pierce doing in recent times was at a house party on his Parlour Tour, about five years ago; the house was jammed, people sitting around on flowery sofas with a short in their hand. What I love about Pierce’s performances is that he sets up his songs: he’ll tell a story, say, about killing a turkey in the back yard. It gives such an extra dimension. I get very emotional at his concerts. He’s a Wexford chap, just so true and honest.
Ours is a hothouse relationship, we do 20 seconds of the bells, then it’s [breathless] “how’s the tour going?”. We both have blood on the brain, sweat flying. Meanwhile, the coach is saying “when are you going to stop using the girly weights?”
Pierce understands where I’m coming from. We’re both in the arts, both international – Pierce has lived in New York half his life. So in a way he is the only man I’m allowed to complain to. I could say “I was at this event upstairs in this place in New York and, oh my God, the acoustics were terrible . . .” We have a licence to moan, but just to each other.
When you’re writing your first book and you’re in the pub, you can tell everyone about it. Once you’ve done it, you can’t be going on about it, but I can go on about it with Pierce. I’m inordinately worried about appearing bigheaded.
You wouldn’t lose the run of yourself in Wexford. One of the best put-downs I ever had came as I was walking along the main street here, feeling pretty good about myself. There were two young fellas lounging in a doorway and as I passed one said “Look at him . . . and his books”.
Our friendship’s like a mixture of male and female – we have the casual male thing, then we talk about feelings a little bit, in concentrated three-minute bouts.
PIERCE TURNER is a singer/songwriter who moved to New York in the 1980s. He has recorded eight albums, one produced by US composer Philip Glass. ‘Songs for a Very Small Orchestra’, his latest CD, includes a duet with Glass. He lives in Manhattan and Wexford with his wife, Clare
A company in Dublin created an app for my last CD and one of the things on it was Eoin interviewing me about the writing of a song. I figured it would be interesting to have someone who wasn’t a music journalist ask the questions and it was. He had me laughing so much. This is what happens with Eoin when you try to be serious.
I’d known Eoin from a distance for quite some time but we met at a gig we did together in White’s [hotel] with Billy Roche, who’s my cousin. I got to know Eoin properly when we joined a kettlebell class. I was surprised at how quickly we bonded, astonished at how funny he is; he makes me laugh the whole bloody time when I’m at the class.
Eoin’s the real deal, there’s no ego issue. I left this town when I was 17 and I wish there had been more people like Eoin here then, to set an example – that you should aim for the highest goal possible, and that it’s possible to reach that high goal. He is appreciated in Wexford. He’s such a generous spirit, he supports everything, goes to any event he can go to.
It warms your soul to have a friend like Eoin in Wexford. Billy Roche and I bond, our conversations are exciting, and I get the same feeling from Eoin. There’s an unwritten law in Wexford: thou shalt not show off. You have to be careful not to get too fancy with your conversation.
I write a lot about Wexford in my songs, but if I’d stayed here, I probably wouldn’t have ever written about it. I write easily in New York: the tempo of the place is fast and noisy and colourful. But I never expected to see Ireland so clearly from afar. I live in the East Village. That’s where I met Philip Glass. I was in a rock band but also writing dance music; my girlfriend was a dancer and I found that Philip Glass was god in the dance world. It turned out that he lived nearby; bit by bit I got to know him and he started listening to my music. I’m really proud that he’s playing on my new CD, it’s quite an honour.
I’m just reading Eoin’s new book, Screwed . . . it’s very interesting. It’s so New York, which is amazing, as he doesn’t live there.
It reads to me like a 1940s black and white movie. I’ve lived in New York for years, although I’m here in Wexford for four or five months of the year.
When I’m reading Eoin’s books, I can hear his sense of humour, the way he speaks. Even though his lead character’s speech pattern is authentically American, I can hear Eoin saying some of these things.