I was in Wellington on the weekend in the Town Hall waiting for Neil Gaiman to come out on stage when it occured to me that we weren't waiting for an author. We were waiting for a rockstar. When he did come out, accompanied by chair, Kate de Goldi, the applause was so loud I'm surprised that bits of the ceiling didn't come raining down on us. An impressive reception for someone who hadn't even spoken a word.
Gaiman is an accomplished speaker who seems as if he enjoys being interviewed in front of hundreds of people. He carefully considers each question then comes up with an answer that is usually personal and funny. The interview was bookended by him reading some of his work. Poems at the beginning and an excerpt from American Gods at the end. (He said he would edit out some of the strong words and invited us to "put them back in".)
I found it interesting to discover that he likes to write to order. He noted that he was the kind of writer who could put off finishing something. If a publisher said 'Here's a bunch of money, write what you like, give it to me whenever' then they would be waiting for the rest of their life. "All art needs boundaries. Art needs walls; boundaries to chafe at." He says that it "focuses his head in a certain way."
He's interested in the ideas that we take from fiction. He used the example of the C.S. Lewis books which he loves. 'People will tell you that it's about Christianity. I didn't get that when I was a child. If it is about Christianity then C.S. Lewis is doing a terrible job. He put everything he loved into the books. I got my love of Greek myth from the books." His favourite myths are the Norse myths. Within that he likes the story about when Loki gets drunk and starts insulting the other gods. "They are grumpy and so incredibly human".
He considers that he's lucky to 'hang-out with writers from different genres. People seem to be good at one genre.' He says that he's a storyteller who is 'interested in what makes something more powerful' in a particular medium whether it be books, comics, screen or stage. There's a 'huge difference between them all.'
He had some advice for aspiring writers. "Write. Finish. Publish. Don't wait to publish before you start writing again." Repeat.