Monday, June 27, 2011

Neil Gaiman Reads Aloud

Last night Mighty Reader and I (along with 800 or so other Seattle folks) went to Town Hall where Neil Gaiman read from and was interviewed about his latest release, the 10th Anniversary edition of American Gods. It's the "author's preferred text," which means that Mr Gaiman's publisher gave him the opportunity to add in all the stuff his original editor made him cut a decade ago, plus make whatever other changes he wanted to. The current edition, if I understand Mr Gaiman correctly, now clocks in at better than 200,000 words.

I'll come clean right up front and say that I am not a huge fan of Mr Gaiman's writing, though I enjoyed Neverwhere and I've read all the Sandman comics and I follow Mr Gaiman's blog. He's very charming and funny and he seems like a Really Nice Guy and I wanted to go last night because a) Mighty Reader is a NG fan and she bought the tickets, and b) Mr Gaiman has attained nearly legendary status as a fabulous reader and I wanted to see what that was all about. Plus, you know, he's funny.

It was well worth attending, and my advice to you is that if you ever get the chance to see Mr Gaiman in person, go see him. He reads aloud, frankly, beautifully. The biggest lesson to learn from Mr Gaiman's reading? Read Slowly And Distinctly. When he began I thought, "Gosh, he's moving at a snail's pace" but after a minute you fall into his rhythm and maybe it's his dreamy English accent or the dreamlike mood of the piece he read, but time really did stand still. The second bit he read was more dialogue-heavy and he did American accents for the characters and he also read slowly to great effect. I should note that these were pretty long excerpts he read, too. He could have skipped the interview and the questions from the audience and just read all night and that would've been fine with Mighty Reader and me.

Except, of course, Mr Gaiman's reading all night would've deprived us of his "advice to a novice fantasy writer." That was good stuff, and I'll paraphrase for you. First, his general advice to writers: "Write. Finish what you write." More specifically, his advice to genre writers: "Write. Stop reading your genre; read everything else and become influenced by the whole world of fiction. If you are interested in a specific mythology/religion/time period/alternate reality, then read primary sources, not other genre fiction about it. Read the Book of Kells or the Vedas or Homer or Dante or the stuff that Bram Stoker read when he was researching Dracula. Don't be one of those people who fall in love with Lord of the Rings and then decide to write Lord of the Rings, because Lord of the Rings has already been written, a lot better than you could ever write it. Tell the stories only you can tell." There was more, and it was all funnier than I relate it, but in sum Mr Gaiman gives good advice. Write a lot. Finish what you write. Read widely. Rinse and repeat.

Mr Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley are apparently going to be together in Seattle, back at Town Hall, on 11/11/11 for a Big Event of some kind. Mr Gaiman and his wife, pop chanteuse Amanda Palmer (ex-Dresden Dolls) are maybe going to do some kind of tag-team tour up the west coast between Halloween and November 11th, so for those of you who live along the Pacific Ocean, there'll likely be another chance to hear Neil Gaiman read aloud. You should go.


  1. Neil Gaiman is pretty dreamy.

    I always appreciate his advice. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I must say that, "Stop reading your genre; read everything else..." is one of the boldest, and most on pieces of writerly advice I've heard in a while.