Author Neil Gaiman has earned many accolades for his books and graphic novels, including Hugo and Nebula awards for American Gods and The Graveyard Book. Two of his books, Coraline and Stardust, were made into blockbuster movies.
Gaiman will be one of the featured speakers at the West Virginia Book Festival later this month. West Virginia Public Broadcasting is one of the festival’s sponsors.
Gaiman is primarily a fiction writer. He has crafted vivid characters who inhabit worlds that straddle the familiar and the fantastical. Strands of ancient and modern mythology run through much of Gaiman’s work.
Gaiman’s love of fantasy is evident in his decades-long collaboration with Abingdon, Virginia, artist Charles Vess, who illustrated the novel Stardust, among others. Gaiman says that’s not his only connection to Appalachia, though.
“But also in books of mine, like American Gods, in some ways began with my readings of the Appalachian folk tales,” he said. “The strange things that happened, or to my mind, the strange things that happened, to folk tales as they moved from England across the water. And the things that they would keep – a wit, they would keep wits, they would keep the triumph of intelligence and of craftiness. But they’d lose, they’d lose magic. And that fascinated me and that actually was in some ways the starting point for writing an entire novel – American Gods. And don’t think that people would ever point to that and go ‘Ah, this came out of the Appalachian Jack Stories,’ but in a lot of ways it did.”
Libraries in the Digital Age
Gaiman has spoken at length in the past about his love of libraries and shared some thoughts about the future of libraries in the digital age.
“I think the heartbreaking thing about libraries is, in this era of new technology, is that they are becoming more important, not less,” he said.
Gaiman said libraries are often the only places that people who don’t have access to the Internet can go to connect with the digital world. He also points to the changing role of librarians, who used to serve as navigators in an ocean of printed knowledge.
“And information was hard to find. And it was hard to find because it was like a flower growing in a desert – you had a long way to walk, but a librarian could take you to the flower. Now it’s more like flowers growing in the Amazon jungle and you’re trying to find a specific flower,” Gaiman said. “Anyone who has spent 5 minutes Googling for information and just sees the amount of noise out there starts to realize that actually someone who knows what they’re doing is incredibly useful. And librarians know what they’re doing.”
Every Audience is Unique
Gaiman is one of the featured speakers at the West Virginia Book Festival next week in Charleston. He said he prefers a question-and-answer format for his talks because every audience is unique.
“It would be easy to get up and give a talk, or the same talk, over and over again. It’s so much more fun for me to find out what people want to know and answer those questions, because they’re always different,” Gaiman said. “I love it when people ask questions, I love getting questions on cards, that’s always fun, because at that point you can look at them and you go, ‘Oh, there’s two dozen people here who want to know about ‘Dr. Who’.”
Gaiman wrote two episodes for the popular British TV series — “Nightmare in Silver” and “The Doctor’s Wife.”
The author said that while he has traveled to and through West Virginia, he hasn’t had the chance to speak here and is very excited about the opportunity to do so.
More Audio from Neil Gaiman's interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Gaiman also shared some stories about a close friend and collaborator Terry Pratchett, who died earlier this year from early onset Alzheimer's disease. Gaiman and Pratchett wrote the novel Good Omens together. Gaiman also spoke about his book The Sleeper and the Spindle, which Chris Riddell illustrated.
The Sleeper and the Spindle
This story was edited on Oct. 21, 2015, to reflect the fact that illustrator Charles Vess is from Abingdon, Virginia.