Sunday, February 24, 2008

At the end of a book...

Over the last few months people have written in and asked what kind of a book The Graveyard Book is, whether it's for kids or adults, all that sort of thing. And I haven't answered because it wasn't actually finished, and I figured I'd find out when it was done. And it's done now.

I think The Graveyard Book is a book for pretty much all ages, although I'm not sure how far down that actually starts. I think I would have loved it when I was eight, but I don't think that all eight-year olds were like me.

It has a protagonist who is about eighteen months old in the first chapter, four in the second chapter, six in the third, and so on, until, by chapter eight, he is all of sixteen years old. There's no sex in it and no swearing. There is some really scary stuff in there, and a few of the people (all adults) who have read it have written to tell me they cried in the last chapter.

But it's not a children's book. It's a book that I think children will enjoy, but there's also stuff that's there for adults too. It's a book about life and death and making families. It has ghouls in it, and the Hounds of God, and the Sleer, and the Indigo Man, and a lot of very dead people.

It's not that easy to describe. I'm reminded of Kim Newman's review of Anansi Boys, which began "Anansi Boys is one of Neil Gaiman's books for grown-ups, which means that it's a lot less ruthless than the material he produces for children", and it's a very true observation. From that perspective, it's definitely one of my children's books.

I finished writing it a few nights ago -- although I'm currently obsessively reading it and fiddling with it, cleaning up typos and places where what's written simply isn't what I meant, or where sentences are clunky, or where it needs help, or where I contradict myself, or where continuity goes a bit odd (the graveyard's Egyptian Walk was the Egyptian Alley the first time we visited it; I just noticed a character who doesn't smile grinning widely, and I am painfully aware that I start too many sentences with "And then" so I'm searching for them and leaving the ones I like and rewriting the rest (or, more usually, just deleting 'And then' from the start of the sentence.)

This came in yesterday and made me smile...

Dear Neil,

I was completely captivated by your short story, "The Witch's Headstone." Is this a one-off, or is there a full-length book about Bod and Co. upcoming at some point? I really hope so, as the premise and characters are wonderful!


'The Witch's Headstone' is actually chapter four of The Graveyard Book. So yes, the full length book about Bod and Silas and the rest of them is definitely on the way. 30 Sept 2008 in the US, a few weeks later in the UK.

And the next one was,

I was thinking the other day about the novel writing process. When you write a novel, do you start with chapter 1 and write all the way until the last chapter chronologically, or do you skip around. For instance, you're writing chapter 7, but you have a great idea for chapter 11, do you then go on and write your idea for chapter 11, eventually ending up in chapter 12 with the plan to eventually come back to chapter 7 and try to steer events toward that end?

Mostly I start at the beginning and keep going until the end, because it makes it easier to find out what happens next. Also I come from a comics tradition in which I can't skip ahead and write the last part because someone's waiting for me to write the first part right now so they can draw it.

The Graveyard Book, though, had a few false starts over the years, and didn't work. So I wrote Chapter Four first, to get a sense of what was happening in the middle (easier because each chapter is a self-contained story) and what Bod was like when he could talk, and what the voice of the book was (again, a bit odd, as each chapter has a slightly different voice, but it gave me a feeling for what I was doing that made starting at Chapter 1 easier).

If I have an idea for Chapter 11 while I'm writing Chapter 4 I'm likely to scribble down the idea (because I forget things) but less likely to write the whole scene. Some writers do. I don't.

The truth is, as the truth about so much is in writing, that there are no rules, and even a writer who normally does things one way doesn't have to be consistent. You do what produces pages. You keep moving forward. If I'm really stuck on a scene I'll sometimes skip to the next scene I DO know how to write, and often by the end, the solution to the one I was stuck on is obvious, or I can't even remember why it was a problem.


I'm glad to KNOW for SURE that you are working on a new novel. But I have just one question. Is it going to be scary, funny, action, or drama?

Write me back,

Joseph Deane - #1 Fan

All of the above.

Lots of scary. Some funny (some of the funniest stuff is also the scariest, though). A fair amount of action. Some drama. No kissing. Late nights. Fish and chips. A werewolf, a vampire, an Assyrian mummy and a small pig. A knife in the dark.


I just learned that my old friend Steve Whitaker is dead. Steve was a terrific artist and a good guy, kind, helpful, generous, all that -- he's best known in the US for his work colouring V for Vendetta.

He would have been the colourist on Sandman but he never turned in the sample pages he was given to colour, because they weren't quite perfect yet, and by the time he was nearly satisfied with them someone else already had the job. I learned a lot from that. I learned a lot about comics, about the history of comics, about strip cartoons, from Steve. I wish he'd been willing to draw more, to let it go, to feel more comfortable making mistakes in public. Mostly I wish he'd done more comics.

Here's a bio and tribute. He was 52. Too young.


Lots of you wrote to say,

Hey Neil,

John Kovalic's "Dork Tower" web strip features an appearance by a familiar pale fellow. I laughed my head off.

Oh, and frequenters of Amazon with purchase histories including your books should keep an eye on their Gold Box personalized section. Random stuff keeps popping up there at 10% off Amazon's normal price (5% off Gold Box discount + 5% off for pre-order), including Absolute Sandman Vol 3, The Dangerous Alphabet, and The Graveyard Book.



And although it doesn't officially come out for another ten days, Odd and the Frost Giants is now out there in the UK, as I learned from this:

Hi Neil,

I just finished reading "Odd and the Frost Giants" and find it a nice little piece. Clearly structured for the younger readers and I am already looking forward to reading it to my 7 year old daughter. I just wanted to tell you that I did thoroughly enjoy it.

Greetings from Edinburgh

Here's the Amazon Uk link. (The Amazon US listing is a mistake. It won't be out in the US this year.)

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