Saturday, June 11, 2005

storm warnings

A small, waking up thought: as an artist (of any kind) you make things for an audience, normally because you like them. You hope they'll work. (An analogy I used in the Locus interview, talking about short stories, was making clay pots at school. Sometimes you get a pot. Sometimes you get something only a grandmother could love.) And you hope, mostly, that people will like or enjoy or appreciate them. (Or sometimes, just that the story will prickle people or make them think.)

American Gods, for example, I discovered after it came out, slightly to my surprise, people tend to really like or really hate. A lot more people really liked it than really hated it (or it wouldn't have won the shed-load of awards that it did), but it was still rather an odd experience, compared to, say Neverwhere, which people either enjoyed or were indifferent to.

Now I've got Anansi Boys coming up, and I have no idea how people will react, so every reaction is interesting. This one just came in (it was a suprise to see it compared to Good Omens).

Hi Neil. I was one of the lucky 450 to get my hands on an advanced reader version of Anansi Boys this week (I am a children's bookseller at an independent bookstore, Harry W. Schwartz's, in Milwaukee). I read it as quickly as someone can who is very excited yet doesn't want the book to end. I wanted to let you know that it's fantastic. You're right of course; it is very different from American Gods and much closer in tone to Good Omens. I was particularly gleeful over the footnote, the chapter titles, and the Buddha-like lime. Now I'll be able to wait until September when it's released, and I'll enthusiastically recommend it to anyone. I had hoped that you'd come to Milwaukee through Schwartz's for a booksigning, as I believe you had a few years ago (before my time at the store). Good luck on the upcoming leg of your tour, and you might be glad to know I added "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" onto the Father's Day table in the kid's section several weeks ago. I think as a present, it's in the "really good" category. Thanks again for the stories! ---Colleen

You're welcome.

Holly just finished it as well, and she liked the lime too.

Meanwhile, over at eBay, I notice that a few people are starting to eBay the pamphlets (which I don't mind at all) and the UK proofs (which I would mind less if the one for sale wasn't proudly listed as "unread").

The US proofs are numbered -- I wonder if any of them will show up on eBay.


Speaking as a foreign national, in this post 911 world I find it hard enough to get into the US with a valid green card, and am always rather nervous about accidentally bringing fruit or suchlike contraband into the country. They don't like it if you bring fruit, and on several occasions at Minneapolis airport I've been taken aside and quizzed about whether I have any fruit on my person, or a cheese sandwich.

They seem to be loosening up on other things though:

Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday called for a closer look at border security after customs officials allowed a man carrying a sword, a hatchet, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. Two days after being allowed into the United States in late April, Gregory Despres, 22, was arrested in Massachusetts in connection with the beheading of his elderly neighbor and the stabbing death of his wife in the New Brunswick town of Minto.

(It seems that the US customs/immigration people are saying that because he was a naturalised American, they had to wave him through. I bet they could have stopped him if only he'd had an apple.)


Hello Neil,I'm 24 and I just finished the first draft of my first novel. Now I'm faced with the rather daunting task of going through and editing the whole thing, sorting out all the loose threads, figuring out what to cut, what to shorten, and what to add.My suspicion is that there is just no way to make this process any easier, and that I'll probably spend every night for the next three or four months sitting in front of my computer reading and re-reading the same passages to figure out exactly what I was trying to get at when I wrote them last June. I searched your archives but couldn't find any reference to my particular dilemma so here goes. This is my question:Are there any tricks you've found for keeping huge sections of manuscript in your head so that you don't have to go back and re-read the whole novel to sort out some small feeling that what you're reading doesn't quite fit with something you wrote earlier? Is this just one of those things that comes with time and experience?-benjamin

Actually, I'm a lot worse at keeping huge chunks in my head than I was -- I used to have to keep the whole of Sandman in my head, while I was writing it. But for novels, what I try and do in the stage you're in is print it out, then take a couple of days (I tend to go off to my writing cabin) and just read it, as if I've never read it before, at a sort of comfortable pace, with a pen and a packet of post-it-notes and read and make notes and use my post-its. I wouldn't try and do it on the computer at this stage. Just read it. That's when you'll notice that the pie shop on page twelve is a tie shop for the rest of the book, or that Mr Finnegan becomes Mr Ferguson for a couple of sentences, or that the complete world destruction machine is described on page 50 as being a blank piece of metal with not even an on and off switch to mar its glistening lines, so what the heck is it that your heroine clicks to turn it off in the final chapter....

Hi Neil!I have a question for you, since you do lots of signings. My friend has just self-published her first book (, and is having her first booksigning in her home town. We were talking about it, and she wants to hand out some bookmarks that she designed (she's also an artist!). She's not sure how many people to expect, since the buzz on the book is mostly word of mouth at this point.We were debating this: she wants to have enough bookmarks to cover any demand. I think she should take a very limited amount so she doesn't have a huge overstock on hand. I'm also thinking that if the book takes off, then she'll have created a sort of "limited edition" item.What, if any, thoughts might you have on the subject. I realize you've done tons and tons of signings, so you were the first person I thought of when the topic came up! Thanks bunches!--Sarah

What a nice idea! Where signings are concerned, hope for the best (as Mel Brooks once sang) expect the worst. The worst is you staring out at an empty shop. (Possibly the worst is the bookshop making the staff pretend to be customers, something I've heard about but haven't -- to my knowledge -- experienced.)

There were maybe twelve people at the first ever Sandman signing, for me and Mike Dringenberg, signing copies of Sandman #1 at Jim Hanley's Universe on Staten Island in 1988. (Someone sent me some photos of that signing fairly recently, which rather brought it all back.)