Between Glee and other projects, how did you even find time to write a novel?
When I was writing the book, I was on tour with Glee, planning a movie that I shot, and going into filming season 3. I would write between scenes on set, and I have pictures of me walking off the stage during a performance totally covered in sweat and sitting at the computer. They’re touching up my makeup and doing my hair while I write.
The Land of Stories is about a set of twins entering a storybook world where all their favorite fairy-tale characters have grown up and changed. How did you come up with that idea?
I was obsessed with fairy tales when I was younger. I thought about the logical next steps for all these characters. For Cinderella it was obvious, because she married the prince in the end, and naturally they would start a family. Then I figured Snow White would have issues with her own stepmother trying to kill her, and we try to resolve those somehow, which leads to the whole evil-queen story.
Are the twins kind of based on you?
Yes! They’re based on me, period. Because I’m a Gemini, they represent both my personality traits. [Laughs] Alex is my people-pleasing, bookworm, smarter-than-my-own-good side, and Conner is my sarcastic, doesn’t-give-a-crap side.
What do you love about books written for kids?
There’s an innocence to the kids’-lit world. I wouldn’t put it past myself to walk into a bookstore now and pick up a book that’s meant for 8-year-olds. I’m obsessed with magic and different worlds and the endless possibilities of what could actually be out there. Sometimes when you get into young-adult novels, it all becomes about sex and blackmail and extortion. I get enough of that in real life.
So you’re very much connected to your inner child.
Absolutely. I’m an old soul with a young heart. I had a very rough childhood, so that’s probably part of it. I like being excited, I like being positive. I try not to look at things with too much of a critical eye. Some of my favorite childhood memories are waiting at bookstores at midnight for the next Harry Potter.
What are some of your other favorites?
Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz. The Narnia books. I wish some of those authors were still alive. They could write a book about Peter Pan’s midlife crisis.
Did being on Glee influence your book in any way?
Novel writing is completely separate in my mind, so I never tried to connect the dots. But a lot of The Land of Stories is based on experiences I had because of Glee. I was able to understand Cinderella’s story, having had a bit of a Cinderella story of my own. Or Snow White’s story, because sometimes I look for affection in the wrong places too.
So none of your castmates need to worry that any of your characters are based on them? Like the evil queen, perhaps?
No, definitely not. [Laughs] Can you imagine?