Interview with Neil Gaiman

Q: There is a rumor that you have a new collaborative project with artist Lisa Snelling. Any truth to this?

A: It's certainly true-ish. Lisa's doing a new project and I'm one of the people who'll be helping out with words. But it's Lisa's to talk about in her own time.

Q: What did you read during your formative years?

A: Anything I could get my hands on. I was the kid with the book.

Q: Which writers shaped your world view?

A: All of them, from Enid Blyton and C. S. Lewis and Gardner Fox to R. A. Lafferty and Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny. That's the thing about formative years—they're the years that form you, and everything you watch or read or encounter or hear plays its part in that process.

Q: Do you see a correlation between the declining interest in (some would say death of) the short story and today's media and entertainment-saturated lifestyle?

A: Not really. I haven't seen a decline in the short story since I've been writing them—which is at least the last twenty years. If anything there seem like more places printing them, and, given the web, a much larger readership than I remember. Obviously there's not the enormous short story readership that there was in the days of the pulps and of Colliers—but that was a long time ago. On the other hand, I wonder how many people have read "Goliath" (the short story at the Matrix Website), and I really ought to go and see how many people have read "A Study in Emerald," up at my site . . . Just checked and between March and now "A Study in Emerald" has had about 35,000 unique views.

Q: How close is Anansi Boys to completion, and how is it similar / different from American Gods?

A: I've finished it in handwriting. That's the zeroth draft. When I've typed it out that'll be the first draft, which will go off to my editor at Morrow, and when it comes back from her I'll know how much more I've got to do. It's got a number of things in common with American Gods, such as for example the alphabet and the way I divided the book up into chapters. Also it shares a character, or it would do if he didn't die on page 1. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess, really. The tone is much lighter than American Gods. If American Gods was me trying to write a big American novel, Anansi Boys is mostly me trying to write a Thorne Smith book.

Q: How different, generally, is any given final book of yours from the submitted draft?

A: Depends on the book. Stardust was exactly the same. American Gods was cut by the editor for reasons of space and pace (which was the text that was restored in the Hill House edition). Neverwhere, the editor wanted more to explain stuff to Americans that was obvious to UK readers. The UK edition of Smoke and Mirrors has a few stories that aren't in the US edition, partly because one of the stories ("Eaten") was considered unacceptable, and partly because I'd written a few more by the time the UK edition came out, but nothing in any of the short stories was changed. Coraline gained a chapter because Sarah Odedina at Bloomsbury wanted to know what happened to the Other Father . . .

Q: How did the MirrorMask film with Dave McKean come about?

A: Sony offered Hensons $4 million to make a fantasy film like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, films that cost $40 million to make over 20 years ago. Lisa Henson came to me and asked if I thought Dave might be interested in directing. Dave and I put our heads together and came up with MirrorMask. Then Dave made it. It took him about a year longer to do than he had thought it would, and it was hard and painful for him. But he made something quite amazing on the way.

Q: Do you think you'll ever do an epic series of novels, a la King's The Darktower?

A: I doubt it. I already did Sandman, which was well over a million words of script, was ten volumes long and is, collected, over 2,000 pages. It sort of satisfied my desire to do something epic. Maybe in a decade I'll find another story that'll do that to me, or maybe Shadow's story will evolve into one of those. But I'm happy right now writing books that you can finish and they're done.

Q: How much of an influence on your work was/is Clive Barker, if any at all? You both have a certain eloquence with words rarely seen in the horror/fantasy realm.

A: That's very kind of you. I've been a fan and a friend of Clive's since 1984. We got mistaken for each other a lot back then, when we were practically kids. I don't think he was much of an influence, only because I read him too late: I was already a writer, and already a writer who wrote more or less as I do now (perhaps rather more ineptly). The formative writers had already been encountered and digested by my mid-twenties. But I loved the passion and the craft and the vision that he brought to areas of genre in which they tended to be lacking.

Q: Many authors don't bother keeping any sort of journal, never mind an online, oft-upated, public one. What about the journalling process attracts you to it?

A: I like the immediacy, mostly, and the fact that having the journal means I'm rarely at the mercy of publishers or bookshops in the same way I was without it. I once did a signing tour of a country where the person bringing me in was so certain I'd cancel, he didn't tell anyone at all I was coming, and I sat in empty shops, while the people who would have loved to have got their books signed didn't even know I was in their country. The journal means that that sort of thing doesn't happen any longer. And in theory it means I don't have to answer the same questions over and again.

Tomorrow is the fourth year anniversary of the blog, and I keep telling myself I could give up any time. Easy. I can stop whenever I want to.

Visit Neil's website.

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