Smoke and Mirrors (Part Two)

Neil Gaiman press conference in Paris (I)

By Azadeh Nafissi

The press conference was held in English/French and covered various topics. I asked two questions at the end and enjoyed listening to the rest of the session.

His favorite form of writing:

Neil Gaiman considers himself the luckiest person in the world because nobody stops him from writing anything he wants. He remembers when he was a 25-year old journalist interviewing celebrities and authors. Usually not during the interview but afterwards when they were having a drink or a meal together, they would tell him about the books their publishers would not let them publish even if they were best-selling authors because they wanted to do something different and it seemed tragic to him that anybody could be stopped from writing a book they wanted to write.

Ray Bradbury inspired him to become a writer; a writer who writes everything such as short fiction, long fiction, screenplays, poems, comics etc in several genres, for adults and children. He wanted to be like him. Gaiman says that his favorite of all media is radio plays because they take strengths from different media such as theatre. They take having real actors acting in real time from theatre and they take building a world in your head from novels. When you watch a film you do not build a world in your head (I think it is true somehow as the film audience enter into a world which has already been built by a filmmaker and probably that’s why film adaptations are enjoyable for many screenwriters) he believes that in novels the reader takes a handful of letters, punctuation marks and creates characters and a whole world with the author. He loves radio plays because when they are done well, brilliantly and beautifully, both things are happening. He thinks that there have been a few great radio plays and certainly ‘Under Milk Wood’ by Dylan Thomas is his favorite among those examples. He has not written as many as he would like, four radio plays so far and he wishes to do more. ‘They do not pay anything and I would have to send my daughter to play violin in streets then to earn money.’ he says jokingly

On Biography:

He has written two biographical books in his life: ‘Duran Duran’ which was an exciting experience for him as he was able to buy his first electric typewriter and a book about Douglas Adams ‘Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. After that he was contracted to work on a book about the life and works of Alan Moore which was going to be called ‘The Left Hand of God’

Malcom Mclaren wasn’t sure about hiring Alan Moore for a project and asked some street kids if they knew Alan Moore and one of them said “Alan Moore, The Left Hand of God”

He decided not to write it after the success of his book on Douglas Adams, because at that time he was obsessed with not being put in a box, and he didn’t want to be labeled as someone who writes books about writers. He is losing his interest in biographies little by little because he believes that when we finish a biography the person and his/her works are less interesting than when we begin the biography. He prefers to think that a great poem is about all men and women rather than being about the moment when the poet wrote it in anger or after having a fight with his family, because in that way the poem is only about one thing and before it is about everything. He likes to write biographies of anyone as long as it is all unreliable and imaginary.

Neil Gaiman’s biography:

Hayley Campbell has recently written a fantastic book, ‘The Art of Neil Gaiman’, not a very good title, he believes, as it is about the works of Neil Gaiman, heavily illustrated, big and heavy which is all the biography he needs for now. If someone wants to try writing his biography, he/she must take some of his graphic novels and short stories and assemble a magnificent work of unreliable biography. You can begin with violent cases, and include stories like ‘Troll Bridge’, ‘The Price’, ‘Mr. Punch’ and ‘Ocean at the End of the Lane’. He says although they didn’t really happen, he had to recreate certain times of his life in order to write them. They are not true in terms of what happened but they always have an emotional truth in them.

Traces of authors in their stories:

He recalls Amanda Palmer’s metaphor regarding how each of them work; it is like a blender, she sets her blender very low when she throws the body in the blender afterwards she can still see the eyeballs and the fingers, but he normally sets his blender much higher. For some works of arts you set your blender higher again as you are adding sugar and green color, yes every piece of art is made of an author who throws himself/herself into that blender but sometimes the taste is well disguised and you won’t be able to see any eyeballs or heart.

His writing ritual:

His ritual before starting a book is usually filling his pen, then refilling his other pen with a different color of ink because he wants to see what he writes each day. No ritual for finishing a book but worry because there is never a clean line when you are finished. As soon as you hand in your manuscript, there is some editing and proofreading before the publication.

Neil Gaiman’s new collection of short stories ‘Trigger Warning’ will be out in the beginning of next year. Originally it was going to be called something which is said in planes before they take off ‘please adjust your own mask before helping other people’ but he finally picked a shorter title.

His funny feminist fairytale ‘The Sleeper and The Spindle’ illustrated by Chris Riddell is out now in UK and his version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti is out now in US.


Check out the last part of the press conference in my next blog…..