First of all, I just read "The Problem of Susan". I loved it! The Narnia Chronicles have always held a special place in my heart, so it was particularly cool to see you go back to that and write such a smashing story.
If it's alright, I'd like to ask a few questions. I'm curious about the "family life" aspect of a writer, and since you're married with kids, I thought you might be the person to ask.
In your estimation, how important is it for a writer to have an understanding, supportive spouse who believes in the writer?
In terms of children, I'm aware that writing isn't usually a 9-5 job. I know if one wants, they can make it that way, but that's not necessarily in the job description. How does being a writer, in your experience, affect your children and the time you spend with them? How about your spouse? How about responsibilities around the house?
I know that these can be quite personal questions. I'm happy if you answer them just generally, based on your experience and the experience of other writers you know.
Thanks a lot. I appreciate your time.
I don't think that an understanding supportive spouse is important. I do think not having a spouse (or significant other) who doesn't believe in you is probably very important: you're already fighting a small war just to get published and to write, there's no reason to fight it on two fronts. But I can't recall ever having met a writer who said that their Person didn't like them writing. Mostly, we marry people who believe in our dreams.
When I was first married I was practically nocturnal, and my wife was diurnal, which made splitting the baby-work fairly easy (if Holly cried in the night, she was mine to look after). Over the last few years there's been the occasional trade-off of me going away on a book signing tour for a month here or a month there, or going off to write somewhere for a bit, but then, when I come back, I'm at home all the time. It works out.
I just went off to answer the phone. This was on my screen when I returned:
Sometimes my family gets annoyed because I'm the kind of writer that is very interested with other writer's books. If they need my attention they'll have to say something good like, "Hey Neil, (Or dad) I made a wheat free strawberry pie; it's in the kitchen" then I drop the book and start running( If I'm hungry that is). But if that doesn't work...... Go get the cold water and pour it on my face( Just kidding)!!! Sorry that I didn't mention it before, but this is actually Maddy typing in dad's point of view. That's why everything is so whacko. Now, Back to dad. : )
I should probably point out that she's never yet poured water on my face to get me out of whatever I was reading. (She just asked, "Do you think they'll be able to tell it's me writing the last bit and not just you making an excuse?" "Yes, I think they'll be able to tell, Maddy. Go to bed.") I wish I were nearly-ten years old and up for multiple exclamation points...
Also, I'm not a big strawberry pie fan.
Anyway, I don't think writing means you don't do your share of the house stuff (it never got me out of anything significant). Does that help?
My friend, artist Kelli Bickman just sent me a link to a video and piece of music done by Fredo Viola, and I keep playing it, over and over, so I think I should probably put a link up here: http://aviola.com/the_sad_song.html The video was made with 15 second chunks from a still camera, reconstructed in Aftereffects. You can also follow the links to download an MP3 version.
Not sure if you've seen this before - http://grouphug.us/ It's an online (non-religious) confessional. (On an unrelated note, it could use a dollar in the collection plate)
I've seen it, and was fascinated by it. It's like driving down a road, passing car crash after car crash, and always having to slow down and watch.
Something I thought would perhaps amuse you for a bit. From my blog:
All that glitters
In a surprising turn of events, today was warm and sunny. So I took a dirty, grimy garden chair out behind the house and sat down to read Neil Gaiman's The Dream Hunters (with lovely illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano).
Halfway through, I put the book down on the ground, front cover up. I ventured down to eat some strawberries right off the plants, and to fetch something to drink. Revelling in the sweet strawberries, I looked up towards the house and saw a magpie hopping around the book, showing a great deal of interest in it. For every lap around the book, it dared closer to it, until it eventually stopped right next to it. It stood there for a while, looking at the book. Tentatively, the magpie then started pecking at the book, before nabbing at it and trying to drag it away.
I intervened at this point, and the magpie retreated back into the woods.
Judging from these events, there are two possibilities.
(1) The magpie had excellent taste in literature, but had unfortunately lost its library card.
(2) Many of the world's mysterious disappearances of books with silver lettering on their covers could be solved just by getting search warrants for the local magpie nests.
How odd. I've heard of many copies of Dream of a Thousand Cats destroyed by people's kitties -- I've signed quite a lot of cat-mangled copies -- but didn't know that magpies had any special fondness for Dream Hunters. Probably they're getting tired of waiting for me to write a book called WALL, which is a sort of a romance, and comes in time about a hundred and fifty years after STARDUST, and is about a writer named Jenny Curtin going home, and is filled with magpies. (I wrote the prologue long ago, before writing Stardust even, and it was printed in Charles Vess's lovely FALL OF STARDUST portfolio, along with Susanna Clarke's story of how the Duke of Wellington mislaid his horse.) I went looking for the link to it on Charles Vess's site, but all I could find was this link to the gorgeous Stardust Portfolio Charles has been doing.
In regards to your appearance at the San Diego comic-con: are you familiar with the site www.Penny-Arcade.com? They are a 'computer-game-geek' duo who have maintained the most well-known & influencial online webcomic to date. Gabe & Tycho will also be appearing at the Comic-con (all three dates of the convention). While you're down there on the 23rd (& since you're pretty sure you won't go back) why don't you hop over to the PA booth and get a free portrait from the comic's artist, Gabe? That'd be just sweet.
I really like Penny Arcade, but can guarantee that there won't be any time to hop over to any booths, alas. (And if anyone was hoping to grab me for five minutes at San Diego, I'm afraid I've run out of five minuteses.) I'll be doing the Mirrormask panel, there will, I believe, be a Dark Horse signing before the panel, and I'll be at the Eisners to present this year's CBLDF "DEFENDER OF LIBERTY" award to a very worthy winner, and to hear Michael Chabon's keynote speech.
The Fox Movie Channel's 13 Nights of Fright are printing some postcards to give to people at the con. I expect they'll give them out after the Mirrormask Panel, if Hensons don't mind, but I'll also suggest to them that they give some to the CBLDF booth, for people to pick up. (Charles Brownstein was sighing that the booth is located slightly out of the comics mainstream, so it may give some of you a reason to go and find it.) Not sure what'll be on the postcard -- me in a coffin, or me and Malena my undead assistant I expect. Either way it'll be something to send to a friend...
Can you actually DO any of the coin tricks of Shadow's? How far do you actually go into researching that kind of stuff, anyway?
Well, by the end of American Gods I was on very close, intimate and familiar terms with Bobo's Modern Coin Magic. I still couldn't back-palm a dollar coin to save my life, but according to Weird Tales I managed to impress Darrell Schweitzer by vanishing a coin during an interview., making a point about American Gods. I ran all the coin magic in the book past Jamy Ian Swiss -- I think I talk about it somewhere in the original American Gods blog. (A quick search shows that I did -- it was here.) On the whole I just follow the story along, often running along behind it making phone calls to people asking frantically how much flamingoes weigh and whether they can injure you if they peck you or not. I discovered in the first paragraph of American Gods that Shadow did coin tricks, and spent the next two years running along behind, learning how.