Neil Gaiman: American God (By Way Of Britain)

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Neil Gaiman

An introduction of sorts will go here, for which I am completely and utterly far too immersed in Gaiman-speak to get into right now, for fear I'll present the whole thing up as some sort of unintentional parody. Suffice it to say, I'll give it the short introduction, something a bit longer than "Ladies and Gentlemen: Winston Churchill." And I'll probably be rather emphatic that the interview was conducted over the phone on May 5, 2001, for purposes of putting into perspective certain things like where the writers' strike talks were, and how this all fits into events surrounding the recent Miracleman brouhaha, and so forth. It will be a dandy introduction once it's finished, and it will actually mention, at least once, that the whole thing was done largely to talk about Neil's new novel, American Gods, which will be released on June 19th. So there's nothing really left but for the writing of it.

Which, oddly enough, it seems I have now done.

The concept of old gods making new livings in a post-worship society is something you first explored in Sandman: Ishtar was a dancer; Pharamond was a travel agent. How long has the idea that eventually became American Gods been fomenting?

It definitely started while I was doing Sandman. I remember writing a big speech for Loki about halfway through "The Kindly Ones," just after he reveals himself for the first time, where he starts ranting about the old gods and new gods and gods of car crash and hospital and so forth. And I remember at the time going, "This is something really nice and interesting, but I do not have the time or space to start exploring at this point. I think that was definitely one of the starting points, was Loki's rant.

I think the Ishtar sequence would have been perfectly at home in American Gods, although it was enormous fun for me to write the Queen of Sheba stuff, the Bilquis stuff, which is very different, and of course is much more extreme in a way that you can do in prose and could not hope to get away with in comics.

In Sandman, Good Omens, and now American Gods, you provide quotes from G. K. Chesterton. Can you elaborate on your fascination with this author, and why you enjoy him so much?

(wistfully) Why do enjoy Chesterton so much... Actually, Chesterton gets in there as the opening quote in Neverwhere as well. For some reason he never crept into Stardust, although I probably could have found a quote from him.

He's one of those authors of whom I am incredibly fond, as an author, and have been since I was a small boy. I love the way he paints with words, and I love his use of paradox as an engine to move through a story. It's one of those things that I don't do a lot of, myself. Somebody once pointed to Delirium's line about "His madness keeps him sane," in the "Three Septembers and a January" story as a paradox of Chestertonian proportions.

He's one of those authors I'm distinctly fond of, and he's one of those authors that I rather like the idea that a certain type of character has read, if that makes sense at all.

Oddly enough, the Good Omens Chesterton quote, where Crowley sees "a livid light on London, and he saw the end was nigh," which is a lovely old quote, I think was Terry Pratchett wrote that at that point. Which is why we dedicated the book to Chesterton--less because of that, and more because we felt that on a very fundamental level, we were doing The Man Who Was Thursday. The idea that Chesterton's book, The Man Who Was Thursday, in many ways underlines so much of modern fiction: the idea that the spy catchers and the spies are the same people is one that's a sort of chiefly postmodern idea, that underlies an awful lot of fiction. And indeed, you'll find it creeping around the edges of American Gods.

What did you read growing up, and were your peers reading similar material?

No, no, I was weird. I was weird, but I was lucky. The thing that I was lucky is that was between the ages of nine and thirteen. I was at a school where they'd obviously had the money to put together the school library in about 1926. That was obviously the year that they'd had a lot of money to put together the school library, or they'd inherited the old school library, or something like that. The school was about 150 to 200 years old.

But it was really, really good on late Victorian / early Edwardian literature--and then you could tell the people had still been buying books through the thirties and forties. It was a nice quiet, peaceful place, and I used to head on up there whenever I had a little lunchtime or a break, and I'd sit in this little quiet, out-of-the-way room, and I would read my way through the school library.

Which meant--and it was only, literally, five, six, seven years ago that I realized, talking to people--that I wound up getting a peculiar kind of education from that library, and that it meant that I was immensely well-read on the literature of three generations back. I could have been a very well-read person in 1926.

And it wasn't just the good stuff. I read my Edgar Wallace, the complete Leslie Charteris, and stuff like that. But I always felt that that, growing up, was an incredibly useful, sort of weird little base. So on the one hand, I had all the SF, all the fantasy I could find, all the weird interesting fiction that one hunts for at that age (not to mention all of my comic books); but on the other hand, I had Chesterton and all of these guys.

What books do your children read?

It depends which of the kids. When last sited, Mike was reading The Fountainhead, Holly was reading something about Japan, and Maddy, who is six-and-a-half (and the reader who actually resembles me at that age) is working her way through the entirety of the Bailey School Books, which have titles like Werewolves Don't Buy Popcorn. Gremlins Don't Chew Gum is what I think she's currently reading.

Do they read what you write--or is Dad not cool?

No, Dad is cool now! Dad was very not cool when Mike was twelve. I was teasing him the other day about this. When he was twelve, going on thirteen, I remember he once sort of looked up at me one night, and he said, "Why don't you write cool stuff? Why can't you be a cool writer?" I said, "How do you mean?" He said, "You could write Spider-Man. Why can't you write Spider-Man?" I said, "You just wait three years, and I'll be cool."

It was fun. The kids both read American Gods. Mike read it as I was writing it. I emailed chunks to him. Holly, who is a little younger--Mike was seventeen going on eighteen, and Holly was fifteen going on sixteen--I said she could read it but she had to wait until I was there and the book was finished and I was around to explain stuff.

And Maddy, of course, quite likes some of the stuff I write for her. I just wrote her a poem a few weeks ago. I had to go to Florida for a few days, for an academic event--the International Conference on the Fantastic and the Arts. I went down a few days early to work on copy editing and trying to get the Death movie finished in first draft, and I wound up sitting and eating sushi by myself for a couple of evenings, because I didn't have anybody there. And when you're sitting, eating sushi by yourself, you try to do things to entertain yourself. So I wrote a poem for Maddy called Crazy Hair, which I sent to Jill Thompson the other week, and she wants to do with me as a book, so that should be fun.

Speaking of what kids are reading: You created Timothy Hunter and The Books Of Magic. How do you feel about J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, which is incredibly similar yet wonderfully different?

People have been trying to get me... there was a very peculiar time about eighteen months ago, I did an interview with The Scotsman. The Scotsman newspaper tracked me down, and we had a very awkward interview, during which they were trying to get me to say, "Oh, yeah, J. K. Rowling has ripped off Harry Potter," and the most they could get out of me was, "Well, it makes things a little awkward for a Books Of Magic movie."

I was astonished that about six months later, to be sent a copy of... English newspapers started, for a period of about three days--as they all ripped each other off--did an article about this madwoman who's been accusing J. K. Rowling of stealing Muggles and things like that, and then finished off with "...and Neil Gaiman has accused her of ripping off Harry Potter of Tim Hunter."

At that point, I wrote a little thing, sent it out to a few places, that just basically said, "This is absolute bollocks." And it is absolute bollocks! I mean, the thing about genre fiction--it's like a great big bubbling stewpot: ingredients go in, and stew comes out. And as you go, you add stuff to the stew. If you're a good writer, you keep popping stuff into the stew while you're going.

I was certainly not the first writer to create a bespectacled kid who had the potential to be the world's greatest magician. To create a kid with magical power--and more important, magical potential--and to use owls and so on, it's all stuff that's fairly obvious going on what went before. J. K. Rowling was not the first person to send a kid to wizard school. From Jaime Olan and Diane Duane in recent years--Diana Wynne Jones is marvelous! (Witch Week and Charmed Life.)--going back to T. H. White and E. Nesbitt.

When I was eighteen, I started trying to write my first book, and I got nine pages into it, and they're still mucking around. And because I didn't really have any experience of anything other than school, I was writing a story about a kid who was sent to wizard school, and Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar (who wound up in Neverwhere) were going to be the baddies. I was cleaning up and doing some tidying in the basement, and I came across these pages, and I thought, "Now if anybody ever found these, they'd be going, 'Cool! Look at this Harry Potter rip-off!'" Which is fine, except it was a Harry Potter rip-off I was writing in 1978. And, of course, as an eighteen year old, I never finished it, and didn't actually think that I really wanted to write a school story, so I left it behind. When I went back to try another school story, it was a few years later, and it was a much, much more sick and peculiar and twisted thing called The End Of The Third Form At St. Andrew's Eve, which was much more about how I hated school than trying to romanticize it. That was in a periodical that never appeared, and its still probably knocking around in a file somewhere, and I've never gone back to it.

Which is a very long and blabbery way of saying that ideas are public domain.

What I do wish, with the Harry Potter stuff, is that we could get DC Comics to re-issue Books Of Magic with a much more Harry Potter-like cover to appeal to the kind of people who like Harry Potter. Every other comic company in the world's going, "Oh, wouldn't it be cool to have our own Harry Potter?" And with DC, I've been, "Well, actually, you've had your own Harry Potter now since 1990! Why don't you do something with that? Why don't you get him into bookstores?"

Tim Hunter is one of your creator-owned characters.

Ahh... -ish. He's not actually creator-owned. Ownership involves, I tend to think, the ability to pick somebody up and take him somewhere else if you don't want them. There are many creator owned characters who have moved from comics publisher to comics publisher. Tim was created by me and John Bolton, who was the first artist to draw him, and he modeled him on his son at the time. Well, still his son, but that was what he looked like.

What it actually means is, I get a small royalty and in the Books of Magic movie, I will get a chunk of money, and stuff.

What about appearances of Sandman in current DC Comics? When he shows up in JLA -- is that something you even wanted to happen, let alone got paid for?

No, I didn't get paid for it. I didn't get any credit for it, either. I got a message from Grant Morrison saying he'd like to do it. I'm an old friend of Grant's, I like Grant very much, and I like what Grant does, so I said, "Fair enough." And it seemed fair enough because, when I was writing Sandman--in Sandman #5--when I wanted to use the JLA, they were very, very kind and let me stick Mister Miracle and the Martian Manhunter into Sandman.

But I thought it was a little odd that, when the issues came out, there wasn't even a created by credit, or anything like that, which--contractually--they should have actually given. And I phoned up the editor and said, "Hey, this is a little bit... shouldn't you put a 'thank you' somewhere?" And he said, "I don't do that. That's not my policy." He said, "JLA... so many characters... we don't do that." And I said, "Fair enough," and got a phone call from DC about three week's later, saying, "Hey, that editor who did the JLA stuff--he wants to do a lot more of Sandman and stuff like that," and I said, "Ohhhh... sorry. Tell him that's not my policy."

That was how we left it.

You bring up in several of your writings--Books Of Magic, Sandman, and now in American Gods--this concept of names having power. In American Gods, the main character is called "Shadow," but his real name is never given to the readers.

Yes. His real name... actually, you can put it together like a crossword puzzle. (Chuckles) There's 180,000 words, and probably if you read it your fourth or fifth time just to try to figure out what his name is, you can do it. The clues are all there.

But yes, I had enormous fun in American Gods naming characters, and always loved--or at least felt it was incredibly important how you named characters: who they are, what they are--all of them, from Mr. Wednesday, through to Easter, to even the smallest characters in there. In each case, you try to use names, as a writer, to say more about the character than you normally can.

And I love the way that actually goes on in real life, too. Gene Wolfe--who is on the surface--a most mild mannered author (except that one definitely feels there are wolves running in the text underneath) once wrote a whole article about this, looking at the names of fantasists and writers, going all the way up to Stephen King. You look at writers, and you look at who they are and what they are: you have Clive Barker, who is standing there like a carnival barker, calling people in; you have a field bestrode at the top by the King, which I think is rather wonderful. So I think names do it in life as well.

Speaking of nameless people in the book: Who's the god we can never remember after speaking with him?

(Laughs) Yes, I could tell you more about him, but then when you came to replay your tape, you'd find that was the point where stopped recording.

Fair enough. Later in the book, two old gods learn of a new one, Media. One says to the other, "I remember her; she's the one who killed her children." To which the other replies, "No, that was Medea. Different person, same concept." That's a very interesting point that you just walk right away from.

(Laughs) Thank you. And there's a lot of stuff in the book that I had to do that with. The book that I sat down to write in the middle half of 1999 was a book that I figured would be finished by January 2000. I thought it was six months writing at the most. I had this cool idea for a book, and I would just go away and bam-bam-bam, and it will probably be about the length of Neverwhere, which I think is around 90,000 words.

Instead, that book--I started actively writing it in about January/February of 1999, on the Stardust tour. I finished it in January of this year. I put to right the end on the second draft, and it was a book that--at its longest--was about 200,000 words. I actually went in and, my final edit, which I was doing in late January, early February, was just cutting--trimming, getting it down to where it is now, which is about 185,000 words.

I could still be writing that novel. It, as far as I'm concerned, could quite happily have turned into... Right now, it's a big book. It could have turned into something the size of Lord Of The Rings, with very, very little effort. All it would have meant is I kept writing it and kept filling it. There were so many things I wanted to put in there, and some of them only get hinted at. Some of them I merely alluded to, and many of them aren't in there at all.

But there's a level on which, a) you can't write anything forever; b) I had publishers who were incredibly patient--deadlines came and deadlines went, and publication dates came and publication dates went, on both sides of the Atlantic. This was meant to be a book that came out last summer, so it's a year late. And it wasn't a year spent sassing around, that was a year spent solidly writing a book that I realized needed to be bigger, needed to be longer.

It's a fascinating thing. At least with Sandman, which took eight years to write 2000 pages, there was a level on which, because it was being published serially, at least people knew that I was still alive. And I knew I was doing something that was working, because I was getting feedback from it.

With American Gods--which is the closest thing I've done to Sandman since Sandman, and I personally think is the only thing that I've done that actually stands up head-to-head to Sandman and may well be better than Sandman--I was off on my own writing it. There was definitely a kind of, toward the end, "What Happened To Neil" quality to it. It became a standing joke. I remember at one point, a short story of mine was picked up for one of the "Best Of The Year" anthologies in England, and they asked me to write a little biography to go in it. I said "Neil Gaiman used to have a life, and now he just has a book called American Gods." (Laughs)

In American Gods, I'm touring with Shadow and Wednesday in San Francisco. And I look to my left, and I swear I see Delirium and Barnabas.

I think you may well be right on that one. And if you don't, you see two people who are very like them. I wouldn't be at all surprised on that.

Should I have recognized anybody else? Any trees that were actually famous singers?

Nope. No, that was the only moment where, having written them, I looked down and went, "You know, I wonder...?"

You write a lot about gods and myths this has made you a very prominent personality in the Goth subculture, which is an odd, quasi-religious thing. Let me turn Mr. Wednesday's question back on you, the one he asks the pagan waitress: Whom do you worship?

I don't--or at least... the joy of writing something like American Gods... somebody asked me that question while I was on tour, when I was doing one of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund gigs. One of the things I always did on the Guarding Angel tour was questions and answers--people would just write questions on a piece of paper, and at the beginning of the second half, I would see how many I could get through. And somebody sent a thing up asking, "What gods do you believe in?" I said, "I'm currently writing American Gods. As a result of which, currently, as a writer, I believe in absolutely everybody." Absolutely everybody. Except, for some reason, the Roman and Greek gods aren't in there. I don't know why not, but they're not. So I can actually, officially say that I believe in everybody, except the Roman and Greek gods.

And I think by the time I got to the end of the book, you had one late-period, tiny Roman god who had crept in for a tiny cameo, which was Antinous, the emperor Hadrian's boyfriend, and after he died, Hadrian proclaimed him a god. And I think he's it. And I have no idea why that is there weren't any of that lot. Possibly because I think they've become so much a part of cliché, and they are so common, that there wouldn't have been the same sense of wonder bringing on Hermes or Zeus or whatever, whereas the joy of bringing on Easter or Mr. Ibis or Mr. Nancy.

The other thing that I love is people who run into some of these characters, and immediately want to find out more about them. In some cases, I have to disappoint them. I mean, Czernobog, or the Zorya sisters--by the end of the book, you know pretty much as much as any mythologian does. There isn't an awful lot to know.

I was glad to see that there were largely obscure gods in the book. I want to say I hated that, because it's forced me to put my own Gods and Services on the back burner, which was a personal project I was working on, but it will keep.

(Laughs) There were books that I... Tim Powers is an author whose work I love, and Tim is an author whose last few books I wasn't able to read. I'd look at the back cover and go, "Ooooh, to close to my territory," and put them down. I was talking to Tim about this at the Nebula Awards ceremonies this weekend, because I was emcee there, and toastmaster, and he said, "That's funny, I couldn't read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon for the same reason while I was working on my new novel."

You get it both ways. You either get books that you're writing that get completely derailed because you read something and go, "Oh, bugger, they moved into that territory. Now I need to rethink." Or you just wind up with... There are books on London that I still haven't read that I'd love to read. I've never read Chris Fowler's Roofworld. I've never read Michael Moorcock's Mother London. Books that you don't read, because you figure, "One day..."

At the time, it was "One day I'll do Neverwhere," and these days it's, "Maybe one day I'll return to Neverwhere." And the last thing I want is to feel I'm stealing actively from anybody now. If I'm stealing, let me steal from a sort of strange, homogenous mass of stuff I read as a child that has composted down into my back brain. Let me steal from history and geography and dry books of biography, and old books of folklore that nobody reads but me.

How much first hand research went into American Gods? Did you have to go to all these places?

Sure! I made a road trip, and had enormous fun doing so. And what is weird about that, I find that particularly with scenes set in the Midwest, people will assume that I made stuff up that I didn't. Somebody--and I forget who it was--who read it in an early draft was commenting that one of the best things I made up in there was the House On The Rock. And I had to say, "I didn't make that up." And he said, "You must have made it cool and magical," and I said, "No, actually I downplayed it. I underplayed it. It's much, much stranger than the thing that I wrote of. But you're seeing it through Shadow's eyes. He's into it a lot less than I am."

But it was fun. I got to get in the car and go on the road, and drive the back streets, which I think is easily the best way to see America. The problem with seeing America, I think, is that the easiest ways to see America do not show you any America, which are either driving on freeways or getting on a plane.

And we don't know whose side the freeways are on.

Exactly! Not only that, but they're all identical. I love traveling by train. I love driving back roads. You tend to get where you're going not much after you would have... The difference between traveling by the freeways and traveling by the little roads beside them that nobody drives on anymore is five minutes on every hour. And traveling by the freeways, you travel by freeways; traveling by the little back roads, you have fun.

Does American Gods conclude your contractual obligation with Harper Collins?

No, it doesn't, actually. Last year, when Avon Books was bought out by Harper Collins, Harper Collins came to me and said, "We love you, please stay in the North--at least don't go anywhere. We want to show that we love you and that we do care and that even though we just bought your publisher, you're not going to be forgotten and ignored." I said, "That's very nice to hear," and they said, "Could we contract you for another book, and we'll pay you an awful lot of money." So I said, "Alright, fair enough," so they did.

So actually there are another two books--one written, one not--to come out from Harper Collins. The one that's written is a book called Coraline, which is a very strange children's book, which I handed in last May, and will published next May. There's nothing like waiting twenty-four months for your book to come out. That will come out at the same time that American Gods comes out in paperback.

Then there's another book--and I have no idea what that is. I'm trying to decide what the one after that will be.

Knowing how book rights are bought and sold long before the book hits the stands, have the movie rights to American Gods been bought up yet?

No, they haven't. Furthermore, I'm currently keeping them off the market, which my agent may find a little frustrating. But what I've said is, I would much rather wait until...

With some books, you know exactly who should be doing them before they come out. Coraline, for example: there were only two people on the face of the planet who could have done Coraline. Having finished it, I looked at it and went, "You know, the only people who could film this would be Tim Burton or Henry Selick, who did James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. That's really it." So we got copies of the book to both of them, and I don't know if Tim ever read his, but Henry read his immediately, fell in love with the book, bought the rights, and is currently working on the screenplay. And if he keeps moving the way that he's currently moving on the project, it'll come out before the book does.

So with Coraline, I knew it was Henry's book. And all it was, was a matter of we sent it to him, and it was. With American Gods, I have no idea who the director is for that, what the proper place is for that. So rather than sending it out to people and doing that kind of thing pre-publication, I thought that I would much rather wait until the book is out, and see who comes to us. I feel better that way. I want to know who responds to it, and what they respond to. I want them to be able to come along and say, "I really liked American Gods, and this is how we want to do it." So we'll wait and see what happens in June.

You have other stories being produced into movies as well: Sandman, Death, Neverwhere.

Well, Sandman is something I have no control over. I think they're on script number nine through number ten for it right now. I have no idea who will do what for it, or how it's going to work.

The last script I saw was atrocious.

You saw the Bill Farmer one?

I saw the one with melodramatic dialogue like, "Foolish mortals, mua-hah-hah!"

Wasn't that appalling?

That was terrible!

That was like a bad Hulk script! Initially, I thought, maybe the guy had never read Sandman. But then he actually made some public statement to SFX or Aint-It-Cool or whatever, about how Gaiman would obviously not be satisfied by... that Gaiman was just showing the petulance of any writer who couldn't see all of his details on the screen. And I'm going, "No, I'm not. I'm showing the petulance of a writer whose work has been adapted by an idiot."

I remember having one very embarrassing conversation with one of the producers who had commissioned that script. And that really was the script that John Peters wanted. And he kept saying things like, "Well, what did you think of it?" and I said, "I thought it was terrible." And he said, "Well, there must have been something about it you liked," and I said, "No." And he said, "Well what about that thing about having the Corinthian being the Sandman's identical brother? Wasn't that brilliant?" And I said, "No, that was stupid." Then he said, "Okay, but we really did something cool in the way that we banish him to Earth on page one and we strip him of all his powers, so he has to get a girlfriend. Wasn't that great?" And I said, "No, that was stupid." Then he said, "Well, what about the end?" And I said, "I never got to the end. I felt sick around page forty or fifty, and stopped reading." True story.

Anyway, there have been some Sandman's on the way, and I, for my part, just happily had nothing to do with them.

There's a lot of much more interesting things happening on a lot of other fronts.

Books of Magic: There's a lovely script by a guy called Matt Greenberg. They have a director signed, and I don't think I'm allowed to say who it is, because I don't think it's been officially announced. I'm actually signed up as an executive producer on that, which, actually, I've been earning my money in talking them out of things, all through the writing process. Every few months, he'd ring me up. We just had long talks about Books of Magic and what I was trying to do, and what things meant, and why I did things the way I did.

Death is going great. I handed in the first draft script, which was done a little bit tight and weird, because we were all terrified of the writer's strike, which meant that I had to get a script in on April the 1st so that enough people could read it and comment on it, just in case there was a strike. Which was a little bit frustrating for me, because I really wanted to be... you know, it's that moment where you finish the script, and you tight-fade to black, and you know at that point what you've done and you know what it was about, and all you want is start going back in and start doing the second draft. And, of course, at that point I had to stop. But, seeing as it doesn't look like there's a strike, I get to start the second draft immediately.

Will that be an adaptation of The Time Of Your Life or The High Cost Of Living?

Death: The High Cost Of Living. It's very, very much The High Cost Of Living. It's The High Cost Of Living with more stuff in it, really. It's what The High Cost Of Living might have been if I'd had six comics to tell it in, instead of three, I guess, or if I'd had a 150-page graphic novel to do it in, rather than the 90 pages that I had. If you simply took The High Cost Of Living and put it on a screen, you'd have a 45-minute film; so twice as much stuff happens.

Then there's bunches of short stories that keep getting bought for screen, the latest one of which is Murder Mysteries, which was just bought. Chivalry was bought by Harvey Weinstein of Miramax. Terry Gilliam is currently adapting Good Omens to direct.

Neverwhere is currently looking for a director. They had a director signed, and they were not happy with the script that he brought in or the way that he was working on it. So they've let him go, and they're looking for somebody else.

Is this still in the hands of Jim Henson's company?

It's still Henson's. And it's still very much an active project.

You mentioned how long it took to write American Gods, and then you spent--and will spend--all this time touring. You have a wife and three children, and I'm wondering how you manage to divide your time fairly between writing and family?

Mostly, the writing is fine. Because mostly, for me--except for starting things and finishing things--writing is a day job. The only time things get a little weird for me is... Sometimes, if I get stuck on starting something, or I get stuck on finishing things, I will get in a plane and go to a hotel or go to a house somewhere and just hide out, and be as far away as I can from the telephone and everything and just write. But mostly, with American Gods, of the two years that I spent writing it, probably nineteen to twenty-two months was probably spent at home writing. I wound up taking a little cabin on a lake nearby, and driving out each morning to the cabin and coming back for dinner, and that was my working day. So that worked very well.

The hardest bit coming up is this summer, which is going to be really hard. Two years ago, I did the Stardust signing tour, which lasted a little over a month. But it lasted a little over a month, and what I'd do is, I was basically on the road from Tuesday morning until Saturday afternoon, and then I'd fly home on Saturday evenings, and I'd be here for Sunday, and I'd have Monday here, and the Tuesday morning I'd get in the car and go off to the next signing.

This summer, starting on about the seventeenth of June, when I get to do a rock-and-roll gig with The Magnetic Fields where I read and they play, at the Bottom Line Club in New York, and two days later is the nineteenth, which will be the very first signing--which is also the day the book comes out. At that point, I'm actually on the road with maybe two days home for about a month. I'm on the road until the beginning of July, get home, have maybe two days at home, get on a plane, go to England, do it all over again in England for two weeks, get on a plane, come back, have a day at home, go to Canada, and have three or four days signing in Canada, and come home a wreck.

So I just hope they remember who I am when I come home.

I've seen the tour, and it's a very aggressive, despite seeming quite deliberately to go nowhere near where I am.

I'm sorry. It's a very weird tour in that...

I was about to apologize, for it, but I did the Stardust tour, and that was a month on the road with more signing per day, and more than one city per signing, so I mean, that was thirty-five, forty signings. There were huge areas where I couldn't go anywhere near. So I figure, unless I want to go on the road for three or four months, and just sort of set it up myself, in order to sign in places I've never been--which might be fun! I love the idea of finding where do you go to sign in New Orleans?

Or hitting the small towns in American Gods?

It would be enormously fun, doing my signing in Cairo, Illinois.

Can you make any comments about Miracleman?

I'd rather not, at this point. I'm rather surprised, recently, to discover that apparently Todd McFarlane, despite having stated in writing several times in various agreements made over the years that he was actually giving me Miracleman is now trying to bring it in print. Which has left me rather puzzled, because currently he seems to be not paying me for any of the... You know, he's got all these Angela books in print all over the world, that he sends me no money for; he's got characters of mine that he uses and does not pay for, despite various agreements, and now apparently he's bringing Miracleman into print. So, I'm rather bemused by it all.

In the grand tradition of fan fickleness, what are you doing for us after American Gods?

(Laughs) "Yeah, what are you doing next?"

Well, to be honest, there was a level on which, until yesterday, I wasn't sure. And today, I'm still not sure, but I'm not sure in a bunch of different directions, because a lot of stuff depended on the writers' strike. People were talking about going out on strike for a year. So, at this point, it doesn't look like there's going to be a strike. The studios have come back with a bunch of stuff which really looks very sensible and grown up.

Yes, I just saw on the news last night that the strike had been settled.

Well, the bit that they're missing on this is that, whatever was agreed, the membership has to vote. So you still have eleven-and-a-half thousand people who need to vote on whether or not we go to strike, just as if they had come back and said, "Oh, we can't reach an agreement," you would have had eleven-and-a-half thousand people who would have had to have voted on whether or not we go to strike. But it looks very, very unlikely. I think they've come back with a package that obviously shows change.

As of yesterday, I really didn't know what I was going to be doing. As of today, I have to assume there will be no strike, and figure things out sort of working backward. There were several big comics projects that people have been asking me to do, and if we had been on strike for a year, I probably would have done them. As it is, I probably won't do them, not for any other reason than I won't have time, given getting Death into its second script and then getting it into pre-production, because I'm going to be directing it too.

But there is a short story collection--one for each of The Endless--which is not The Endless graphic novels that I was talking about some years ago, which still I may well do. But this would be a little sort of side project, as a 'thank you' to Karen Berger and Shelly Roeberg for having been so incredibly patient with me. We're talking to a bunch of different artists right now, about each artist doing a twenty-page story. So it would actually be about the equivalent of doing six or seven comics, but it will probably come out as a book.

I'm very keen right now on doing a few novellas. I haven't written any novellas in a while. There's a story about Mr. Nancy and his sons, which I think will be enormously fun to write, and I'm not sure it's novel length, so that may just be a novella. It might be fun just to get that one written.