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Fantasy author Neil Gaiman talks about his favorite books

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check the article list for more interviews and reading suggestions.For this issue I went along to see fantasy author Neil Gaiman at the last appearance during his most recent world tour. I managed to ask him about his favorite books. Also, I interviewed Danny Fingeroth about his magazine, WriteNow!, which teaches about writing for comics. I asked him about his reading favorites and his recent trip to the San Diego Comics Convention. So read on...

What struck me about Neil Gaiman, who spoke in Brisbane, on July 21, was the way he went about his writing.
He seemed to allot an amount of time to a book he was working on, wrote it, and then moved on to the next project.
It’s a simple concept, sure, but it’s easy to forget.
He always tried to do something different from his previous work, too. He said this meant that if you liked one of his books, you would not necessarily like the next one – although you might like the one after that.
The result was a prolific and varied list of stories, rich with myth, fairytale, and fantasy.
These included novels like American Gods, and Coraline.
He has written children’s books, too, like Wolves in the Walls, and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.
And there are film scripts like MirrorMask which he co-wrote with Dave McKean; and the script for Beowulf on which he recently worked with Roger Avery for the Robert Zemeckis film (which starts shooting in September).
And then there is his famous comic The Sandman; this was a series he started in 1988 about the eponymous ruler of The Dreaming – the realm of the collective unconscious.

The Sandman was the first comic to win the World Fantasy Award (1991), and it amounts to a 2000 page story, in 10 volumes, written between 1988 and 1996.
I went along to see British author Neil Gaiman speak in an arcade near the Pulp Fiction book store in Brisbane on July 21, the last stop in a world tour (he starts another tour, the official Anansi Boys book tour, in September).
Neil Gaiman spoke about his latest novel, Anansi Boys, and read from Chapter Four.
“I actually came up with the story for this book in about 1996 and then didn’t write it because I wasn’t really sure what it was,” Mr Gaiman said at The Atrium, in the Anzac Square Arcade.
“I thought maybe it was a film, maybe it was a television play, maybe it was a novella, I thought. I didn’t think it was a novel…
“So a few years later when I came to write American Gods I thought of Mr Nancy…a little old man who was also Anansi, the African spider god.
“And I thought of him from Anansi Boys which I hadn’t written yet. And as a result of this some people think this is the sequel to American Gods, but it really, really isn’t.
“It’s just a sort of book that happens to share one character who actually dies on page one.”
In the novel, Fat Charlie Nancy is getting married.

His fiancé persuades him to invite his father to the wedding, but the father dies (singing I Am What I Am in a karaoke bar).
So there is a funeral, and after the funeral Fat Charlie talks to a family friend about his father.
She tells him allowances had to be made for Mr Nancy because he was a god.
This is news to Charlie; then she tells Fat Charlie he has a brother (Spider), who was the one in the family who got the magical powers from his father.
“And Fat Charlie makes the mistake of inviting his brother into his life,” Mr Gaiman said.
Mr Gaiman said he made Anansi Boys a humorous novel, for something different from American Gods.
He said that he wrote American Gods to try to understand small-town America, and places like The House on the Rock (a tourist attraction).
“The reason I wrote about small town America was because through no fault of my own I found myself living there.
“And after a couple of years I was realising more and more that the place where I was living bore very little resemblance to what I saw on the tv shows and in movies and read about in books.
“And it just seemed like a very interesting place that nobody had heard about. Most of American Gods was just me trying to make sense of America for myself.”

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