On Writing  / On Coraline / On The Graveyard Book / Advice to Authors / On Neil / Influences / Translations / Misc .


On Writing

Q Which book was the hardest for you to write?

ANANSI BOYS. I got stuck for months in the middle.

Q How do you keep yourself motivated to finish a story instead of hopping off to a fresher idea?

I quite like having more than one thing on the go. Then when I get stuck on one thing I can go and mess around with something else.

Q Do you have any unfinished novels? If so, will you finish it?

There’s a book set in the STARDUST world called WALL, which I began before STARDUST and will finish one of these days, really.

Q If you could write a book with anyone in the world, who would you write with?

I’d love to write a book with Roger Zelazny, or with my friend John M. Ford, but I would want them alive again so we could collaborate. I don’t know. I love what Diane Wynne Jones does.

Q Which of your books was the most fun or interesting while writing it?

AMERICAN GODS was the longest. So it probably had more interesting bits and more bits that made me wish that I wasn’t a writer any more and that I could go and get the kind of job that didn’t involve making things up.

Q When writing a story, do you prefer to write it first, then transpose it onto the computer? or do you entirely write your stories on the computer?

Depends on the story. I often use the computer for the second draft, so that what I type in is slightly better than what I wrote by hand.

Q Would you ever consider writing another book with Terry Pratchett? Because Good Omens was great!!!

Glad you liked it! Terry and I like it too. I can’t imagine that we’d ever do it again, though.

Q Are you ever worried that you will introduce a world to children that is too horrific for them to handle?

Q Would you ever consider co-writing something with Jane Yolen?


Q Have you ever thought about writing a book with Stephen King?

I think that would be a bit intimidating. When I read his last short story collection I thought it might be fun to write an audio thing.

Q I think it might have been a short story of yours that got me thinking this way but I always connect cats with angels? Do you remember a story like that? And how many cats do you have?

You may be thinking of a story of mine called THE PRICE.

Q Are you going to have a continuation to AMERICAN GODS?

Maybe one day. And there’s a book called ANANSI BOYS which may sort of do some AMERICAN GODS things in a different direction.


On Coraline

Q: Have you ever thought of writing a sequel to CORALINE?

A: Not really. It would have to be as good as CORALINE, for a start, and not something we’ve seen told again.

Q: How can the Other Mother see with button eyes?

A: Very well.

Q: How did you come up with button eyes from the story CORALINE?

A: Argh. I do not know. They just seemed right.

Q: I’ve noticed that with CORALINE and MIRROR MASK, both stories have to do with girls in a world unbeknown to them. Do the two stories relate?

A: Not really. The story in MIRROR MASK is Dave McKean’s, a dream he had that he wanted to tell as a story.


On The Graveyard Book

Q: Did you know all along what kind of creature Silas was, or did it come to you as you were writing? Miss Lepescu?

A: I knew them, and what they were, pretty much before I knew anything else. Originally I thought that Miss Lupescu would be there from the start, but when I wrote the book she didn’t turn up until Chapter Three.

Q: Besides Bela Fleck’s “Danse Macabre,” what other songs would be on your Graveyard Book playlist?

A: What a great question. Here’s another nine songs for a ten-song playlist:

  • “Walking After Midnight,” Cowboy Junkies version, or Patsy Cline original
  • “Born on a Train,” Magnetic Fields
  • “City of the Damned,” Gothic Archies
  • “We Are the Dead,” David Bowie
  • “Graveyard,” Tori Amos
  • “She’s in the Graveyard Now,” Earl McDonald’s Original Louisville Jug Band
  • “My Death,” David Bowie (again)
  • “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” Amanda Palmer’s cover of Death Cab For Cutie’s song
  • “Cemetery Polka,” Tom Waits

Q: Besides the ghoul gate, are there other special passageways to be found in a graveyard?

I think every graveyard, and every grave, will take you somewhere.

Q: When you made the 33rd President of the United States a ghoul, did you know it was Harry Truman? If so, then why Harry Truman of all the American Presidents?

A: It’s not that the ghouls actually were the people they call themselves after. Each ghoul names itself after its first meal, once it has become a ghoul, and they like to make it someone important, so they can boast about it.

Q: Now that it’s been several years since you wrote The Graveyard Book, what are the events or characters that stay with you the most? What parts of the book do you find yourself re-visiting, either on the page or in your imagination?

A: The last few pages. I wonder what happens next.

Q: I always cry when I read the end of The Graveyard Book. Do you ever cry when you read your own books? Is there any other book that makes you cry?

A: I got pretty sniffly on the last few pages of The Graveyard Book, when I wrote the first draft in longhand, late at night down at the bottom of the garden in the February cold. I used to get angry when books made my eyes sting, as if the author or the book had somehow taken advantage of me. Now I think it’s wonderful that I can be made to care.

Q: What is Silas in THE GRAVEYARD BOOK?

A: Silas is a Very Important Character in THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Also, he is Bod’s Guardian.

Q: Could you write a sequel to THE GRAVEYARD BOOK? I just finished it and I want more!

A: I will, yes, but it will go to very different places—and it may not get back to the Graveyard.


Advice to Authors

What’s the best advice you have for aspiring writers?


When thinking of a story premise, where do you get your ideas from? And, for quite sometime, I’ve been wanting to write a novella, after reading THE SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS, and I was wondering, how do you start off your stories, and how do you think of your clever dialogue?

A: I start off a story when I know where it begins; and the dialogue is something I mostly do by being quiet and listening.

What do you do when you have writer’s block?

A: I cheat and write something else in the meanwhile.


On Neil

Q: What makes a good graveyard and do you have a favorite real-world graveyard?

A: I think trees and wildness make a good graveyard, and the feeling that nature is out to reclaim its own. And peace. The best graveyards are such peaceful places. My favorite graveyards are Highgate Cemetery (West), Abney Park (Stoke Newington) and Glasgow Necropolis.

Q: What is the most frightening book you ever read?

A: Strangely, books never frightened me. Short stories frightened me, I think because so much happened before or after the story, and there was so much to know. I was terrified as a boy by Charles Birkin’s story “The Harlem Horror” (about a couple whose daughter had been turned into a circus freak by a mad scientist), and Manly Wade Wellman’s “School for the Unspeakable,” which I read in one of the Armada Books of Ghost Stories, published for children.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I just finished a book called The Irregulars, about Roald Dahl’s wartime exploits as a British Spy in America. Great fun.

Q: What other books would you recommend to a young reader who really loved The Graveyard Book?
A: I’d point some of them at The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. I’d point them at anything by Diana Wynne Jones. And Terry Pratchett’s books for children, as well.

Also, if they haven’t read Coraline they should. I forget who wrote it, though.

Q: If you could be a character in another author’s imaginative world, where would you want to live?

A: I’d like to go on a road trip from Narnia to Oz. I could stop off in Ursula K. Leguin’s EARTHSEA and Roger Zelazny’s AMBER on the way. But, I don’t think I’d want to be anyone else’s character.

Q: How do you feel about seeing film or stage adaptations of your stories?

A: I pretty much always enjoy them. Sometimes I shake my head and wish they had done something a different way, but mostly they just make me happy—it’s a wonderful thing to see creative people take an idea of yours and try to make it real.

Q: Which character from your books is your favorite?

A: I don’t think I can answer that. But I love Delirium and Merv Pumpkinhead and Silas and Anaesthesia and the Little Hairy Man in STARDUST—the kind of characters who never stand in the spotlight, but who make the book work.

Q: Why do you look different all the time? In every picture of yours you look like a different person.

A: It spooks me too.

Q: How do you pronounce your last name? Is it gay-man or guy-man or something else?

A: It’s Gaym’n.

Q: What is your sign?

A: It’s a painted piece of wood with Beware of the Mongoose on it… oh, you didn’t mean that sign. I was born on November the tenth, 1960, which makes me a Scorpio Rat.

Q: Do you have a fan club? How can we join?

A: There used to be a sort of unofficial fan club and info service called the MAGIAN LINE, but once the web started and information was easy to find it drifted out of use.

Q: Are you Lemony Snicket? I promise I won’t tell if you are.

A: Come close. Closer. Okay. Lean over here. Now…. I’m going to whisper. Nope, closer, so only you can hear…. …nope. I’m not.

Q: Why does it say ‘critically acclaimed and award winning’ every time your name is mentioned on your books?

A: It’s a formal title. Like The Honorable, or Mister President. My full title is Critically Acclaimed and Award Winning Author Neil Gaiman. But because we’re friends you can call me Neil for short.

Q: What was your favorite place to explore as a child? And now?

A: As a child I liked to explore the gardens and grounds of old, empty houses in the town I lived in. Now I like exploring stories best.

Q: What’s your favourite monkey?

A: Probably the colobus. It’s something in the eyes.

Q: Why do you and Clive Barker and my dad look similar and not appear to age?

A: I could tell you. But then Clive Barker and your dad would have to kill me.

Q: Are you friends with Clive Barker? How did you meet him? Ever read his book, THIEF OF ALWAYS?

A: Clive and I have been friends for about eighteen years now. We met because people kept mistaking us for each other, which puzzled us as we don’t look much alike. I put off reading THIEF OF ALWAYS for years, because I was afraid it would be too much like CORALINE, and finally read it a few years ago when I was asked to get involved in the film adaptation, and was relieved that it wasn’t. Good book.

Q: Dear Mr. Gaiman, How do you know Lemony Snicket because he is one of my favorite authors?

A: I don’t know the mysterious Mr Snicket, but I am fortunate enough to know his associate, Mr Daniel Handler of San Francisco, who is charming and delightful and the accordion player for the Magnetic Fields.

Q: If you could be any of the characters in your books, which would you most like to be? Which one has been most like you?

A: Well, there are a lot of them who are pretty much me — lots of narrators of short stories, are as me as you can get. But there’s bits of me in all of them. I’m not sure I’d want to be any of the ones I’ve written. But there are a few in books I’ve not yet written whose shoes I’d like to inhabit for a while.

Q: If you had the opportunity to turn into a piece of fruit, what kind would it be?

A: A pomegranate, I expect. Or a mango.

Q: I was wondering if at any time do you think you could come to Peoria, Illinois for a book signing? I hope you say yes. You are my inspiration, Neil Gaiman

A: I don’t know. When it comes to signings, I go where the publisher sends me. If they say ‘Go to Peoria’ to Peoria I shall go.



Q: From what I gather the atmosphere of this book has a Tim Burton air to it. In fact, to me, and possibly me alone – though I doubt as much – you as a creator have a Tim Burton air in general. Have you been influenced, or inspired by him? Could you maybe list off some of the folks who have inspired you?

A: Tim Burton came along much too late to inspire me. I think the people who influence you probably did it before you were twenty – in my case the list would have to include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harlan Ellison, Lou Reed, R. A. Lafferty, E. Nesbit, David Bowie, Jim Henson, Roger Zelazny, Will Eisner, Dr Who (the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee incarnations), Jules Feiffer, Noel Langley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Michael Moorcock, Hope Mirrlees, Margaret Storey, Robert Heinlein, Al Stewart, Charles Addams and the people who did the black and white episodes of The Avengers… and that’s just for starters…

Q: What sparked your Myth interest?

A: I think it was always sparked reading the Roger Lancelyn Green Legends of the Norsemen and Legends of Ancient Egypt when I was seven certainly fanned the flames.

Q: What part of the day does most of your ideas come from?

A: Teatime.

Q: What was your favorite book when you were a child? What is your favorite children’s book now that you’re grown up?
A: When I was growing up… probably the Narnia books. Probably The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Now I’m grown up I’ve got to read the Narnia Books out loud twice, about a decade apart, and I still think they are astonishing, although I’m more aware of the things I don’t like about them. As a grown up, I think Richmal Crompton’s William books are better than I thought they were as a kid, and I loved them, most of them, as a kid.

Q: Do your imaginings ever get lost? I’m ashamed to admit I quit believing, but I guess the real question is: Do you ever have a story suggested to you by a piece of artwork (such as a painting, illustration, or sunset)?

A: I get stories from everywhere, and yes, artwork is one of those places. I wrote a number of stories inspired by Lisa Snellings statues, for example.

Q: Many of your books feature doors, walls, and other structures. Do you have a fondness for architecture? If so, what is your favorite city?

A: I think my favourite city is Venice. I like architecture when it evokes something interesting.

Q: Why do all your books contain scenes, in which you tell us about what they’re dreaming?

A: Because dreams are important.



Q: Do you have any contact to the people who translate your work, and if so, who do you think does it best? Thanks for taking the time to read this and maybe even answering it. Martin (Germany)

A: Depends on the translator – many of them send me e-mails asking me to clarify things for them, and I’m always willing to help.

Q: What differences are there, if any, between the US and UK editions?

A: A few words here and there — the UK edition is metric, so it has centimetres, while the US edition is in feet and inches.

Q: Hi, how are you Neil?… We´re two girls from Argentina. We want to know where can we find your books here… Thank you very much….! Good luck!!

A: I’m not sure — I do know that they are out there, because I’ve signed them in Buenos Aires. The publisher of most of the books in Spanish is NORMA EDITORIAL.



Q: Hi Neil! here is a poem for you. If your mind is in a muddle – Or your brain’s caught in a thicket – Don’t just moan or scream or yell – Read some Gaiman or some Snicket!

A: Cool! There’s lots more Snicket than Gaiman to read, of course. For kids, anyway. For adults it’s the other way around.

Q: Hi, i’m Brazillian and I have a comic book, your name ‘Os Dois Mundos de Olívia’ or, in english, ‘The Two Worlds of Olivia’. I think that the two ideas so near each other. The yours and mine. ‘A girl in a sad world, looks refuge in a diabolic fairy tale, to runaway of your father’s death.’ This is my story. A story about witchcraft and lost of inocence, like the Yeats’ poem. This is a problem, Mr. Gaiman?

A: I don’t think so. Ideas are often very similar. It’s what you do with them that makes the magic.

Q: I think Dave McKean’s artwork really complements your stories. Will you continue to work with him (please)?

A: As long as he’ll let me.