Last Wednesday I drove down to Santa Barbara just to see Neil Gaiman speak. And let me say, it was totally worth it. If you ever have a chance to see him speak, go. He is as much performer as author. He’s an outstanding extemporaneous speaker, relaxed, like he’s just having a chat with a few (hundred) people. And listening to him read his stories is amazing, as they truly come to life.
Gaiman spoke for almost an hour and a half. He read two stories, and chatted about a variety of things (including twitter, which he mentioned a lot), then answered audience questions at the end. And I read later that he signed books until 1:15 in the morning! No, I didn’t stick around for the signing…the crowd was huge.
So here are my notes and memories from that night. I hope they make sense.
Gaiman started by saying “I have planned nothing, so nothing can go wrong.” He added that he wanted to talk about what fiction is for and to also read a few things.
He referred to the first story he read, “My First Landlady” as “a spoken thing that might be a bit poemy around the edges.” It was set in an English seaside town, which are “strange, wonderful, depressing places.” The description of the landlady included this line: “Her face could have curdled beans.”
He loves doing his own audio books, and considers audio books to be “magical things,” as they force you to have a slightly different relationship with the text. Audio books keep to the same speed, unlike readers. You can’t skim. They are more intimate. But as a narrator, there is always a point where you curse the idiot who wrote the book.
He likes book signings, as the numbers turn back into people.
He talked about his peculiar year…going on a date, winning the Newbery Medal, the Coraline movie, his father’s death, and his engagement to Amanda Palmer. But he realized in the middle of the year that he had stopped writing fiction. Then a story crept into his head, one that he wrote for Amanda when she had the flu. It grew into a set of stories about love and identity and loneliness.
The second story he read, “The Thing about Cassandra,” was part of this group of stories. It starts out with a stag weekend in Amsterdam involving Starsky and Hutch wigs and goes places you’d never expect.
After the story was finished, he jokingly said “if you do something 2-3 times you’re repeating yourself. After 5 or 6 times, it’s a theme.”
Questions from the audience:
Favorite children’s book: James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks.
Will the Other Mother’s Hand ever makes its way out of the well: “You should hope not.”
Are logistics and research needed to be a writer, or is imagination and reading enough: Living is necessary, you need to have something to write about.
Do you write characters or do they write themselves: Said he loves the idea of a world where characters would write themselves…then he could just sit there and drink tea.
Did you choose writing or did writing choose you: “I chose writing. I love the idea of a world where…”
Favorite books/movies as a kid: Narnia books where his “favoritist.” Wizard of Oz, although he was terrified of the witch. Hobbit/Lord of the Rings.
What book are you the proudest of: The Graveyard Book, as it did “everything I wanted it to do in my head.”
Will “The Thing about Cassandra” appear in print: It will be in an upcoming anthology entitled Star-Crossed, or Star-Crossed Lovers.
Any nicknames: No, but he did think that as a kid, if only he had a nickname he’d be cool.
Why get up in the morning: Because staying in bed is boring, nothing to do but lie there and twitter.
Will there be a Bod/Silas reunion: After a long pause, he admitted there is a book in his head. It would be the
Lord of the Rings to The Graveyard Book’s Hobbit. What was actually happening v. what was in the book.
Is the graveyard in The Graveyard Book based on an actual cemetery: 3 cemeteries. The chapel is from Stoke Newington. The topography is from Glasgow’s Necropolis. And other bits he liked are from Highgate Cemetery West.
A question from someone pursuing a PhD in Super-Hero-ology (really, that’s what they said) – How would you characterize America’s relationship with super-heroes: “I love living a world where someone can get a PhD in Super-Hero-ology.”
Favorite Amanda Palmer Track: “Trout Heart Replica” is his favorite song, as it was written after they visited a trout farm. The owner picked out a trout, bashed it over the head, and then showed them the still beating heart. But he considers her best song to be “The Bed Song.”
So there it is…the highlights from probably the best author talk I’ve ever attended. Even if you’re not a Gaiman fan, I’d encourage you to go see him speak.
And since this week’s Weekly Geeks asks us to talk about author fun facts, I figure this post works.