Neil Gaiman interview about “Coraline”

originally published in 2002


Writing can be a solitary job. That’s why Neil Gaiman enjoys speaking tours to promote his writing.

“There is no audience,” Gaiman said during a recent stop at Stuart, Fla., for the Martin County Library System’s BookMania! program.

“You can write something funny, you can be sitting there chortling on your own. And if you write something sad, you’re sitting there being depressed on your own. Just sort of you and the piece of paper.”

Gaiman spent 18 months writing his latest novel, “American Gods,” the first section of that at a friend’s house in Stuart.

“I had lost most skills at human interaction,” Gaiman said. “I talked to my kids, but I pretty much forgot how to communicate with people. So it was very nice that I can get out on the road by myself, talking to 200 people.”

Gaiman, the British author of the graphic novel “Sandman” and such books as “Stardust” and the short-story collection “Smoke and Mirrors,” will release “Coraline” in September. Gaiman describes the book featuring illustrations by Dave McKean as “a really, really scary book for little girls of all ages and genders.”

What’s unusual about this book is that it’s taken him more than 10 years to finish it. Gaiman put 8,000 words down and sent it off to his editor.

“She wrote back and said, ‘It’s great. What happens next?’,” Gaiman said. “I said, ‘Send me a contract and I’ll tell you.’ And she did.

“Then I was writing it, literally, 50 words here, 50 words there,” he said. “Instead of reading before bed, I’d write a paragraph or two paragraphs.”

He wrote a bit more during a train ride to San Diego, Calif., and finished it off when he hit a roadblock on “American Gods.”

For those who attended his reading in Stuart, he provided a glimpse into “Coraline,” although he had preferred to have read the whole thing.

“That’s not fair to all of you,” Gaiman told the audience. “I like reading whole things to people. It doesn’t matter, you’re doomed.”

In terms of freeing the story from his mind, Gaiman has leaned toward writing in a notebook with a pen instead of typing it into a computer.

“It’s more intimate,” he said. “I can’t e-mail that. Nobody can read my writing, so I can’t show it to anybody.”

“If you’re writing directly onto a computer, you will never get to a second draft. What you will get is a rolling and improving first draft. You’ll write a sentence, you’ll look at it, you’ll put a word in the middle of it. You’ll look at it some more (and) take out the other sentence.

“You’re going to be treating (the handwritten draft) differently, because you know that the real draft is when you take it on the computer,” Gaiman said.

Throughout his career, Gaiman has enjoyed floating through various media, whether it’s comic books, short stories, television shows, movies, novels, or radio dramas.

“It makes me feel like I don’t really have a job,” Gaiman said. “I just get to make stuff up.”