Neal & Neil

September 20th, 2008 by

Carrie alerted me to this Goodreads interview with Neil Gaiman.

GR: Let’s talk about your new book. What inspired the story for The Graveyard Book?

NG: Twenty-three years ago, we lived in a little Sussex town in a tall house across the lane from a graveyard. We didn’t have a garden, and our 18-month-old son loved riding a tricycle. If he tried riding in the house he would have died because there were stairs everywhere, so every day I would take him down our precipitous stairs, and he would ride his little tricycle round and round the gravestones. As I watched him happily toddling I would think about how incredibly at home he looked. I thought that I could do something like The Jungle Book with that same equation of boy, orphaned, growing up somewhere else, but I could do it in a graveyard. I had that idea when I was 24 years old. I sat down and tried writing it and thought, “This is a really good idea, and this isn’t very good writing. I’m not good enough for this yet, and I will put it off until I’m better.”

And I’m glad I waited. I think it’s a better book than I set out to write 23 years ago, and I feel like the gods smiled on me, and I got very lucky. Normally, in anything I do, I’m fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce. And then there is The Graveyard Book, which is, I think, the first time I’ve felt really satisfied.

GR: Let’s go back a few years to The Sandman comic series, which took 2,000 pages and almost a decade of your career to date. Do you have any plans or aspirations to take on a project of this scope in the future?

NG: No! I’m so proud of Sandman. It really did take about 10 years of my life to do. It’s collected in The Absolute Sandmans, which together weigh about 30 pounds, and if you drop them on somebody you will do serious damage. It definitely didn’t leave me thinking, “I need to write more giant things.” Depending on how long I get to live, I will probably get to do another two, maybe even three, more American Gods books, and they are all great, big things, 500 to 600-page books, so it will probably be that length. But I can’t imagine doing anything that takes up my life and my headspace in the same way that Sandman did. There were times when what was going on in Sandman was much more real to me than anything that was going on in the world outside, just because I was spending more time with these characters.

The same site also posted an interview with Neal Stephenson.

UPDATE: Neil Stephenson will be at the Edina Galleria Barnes & Noble next Friday.

Leave a Reply