Neil Gaimon has shared his thoughts on lockdown, Good Omens and the US (Picture: Getty)
Author, Neil Gaiman, 60, on social media gods, colour-coding his writing and being stuck in New Zealand for lockdown.
You’re back with Series 3 of American Gods. Is the US a place you’ve always loved?
When I moved to America in 1992 I thought I understood it. I’ve been seeing TV shows and movies, and I’ve been reading American books for my entire life. And then I moved to America and realised it was so much weirder than I had ever imagined.
I’m in a little town in Wisconsin. In the winter, they drive a car out on to the ice of the lake and wait for it to fall through when the ice melts. And they take bets for charity on when it’s going to go through.
That’s weird, isn’t it? The Americans around me are going, ‘No, no, we always do that.’ I’m like, ‘No, it really is weird. You people have been living here too long!’ A lot of that gave me the impetus to write American Gods.
What do you think the gods would make of the Covid-19 pandemic?
In America, it’s 9/11 every day. Almost 3,000 people were killed in 9/11 and it changed the world.
Now 3,000 people a day – extra people a day – are dying because of Covid.
I think the gods that would be getting power from this are the little glass gods you stare into every day – the gods of Twitter, the gods of Facebook and of Instagram.
What’s changed since you moved into TV?
I haven’t changed the way I write. For me, it’s still the hell and the joy of, here is a blank sheet of paper.
There’s definitely a change in how I’m perceived further up the television and film-making food chain because I wrote and helped run Good Omens [starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen], and people went, ‘Oh, he knows what he’s talking about!’
Suddenly, I found myself listened to and taken more seriously.
The success of Good Omens proved Neil’s TV talents (Picture: Amazon Studios/Chris Raphael)
You went to school in Britain in the mid-’70s. Does that mean you were a punk?
I was as punky as any 16-year-old boy who had to face his parents and who was at school in Croydon, which was a long way from the King’s Road.
Also, the real punks weren’t 16-year-olds at school. They were 19-year-olds who had just dropped out of college, or they had jobs, or they could afford to look like punks.
Your first professional short story publication came in 1984. What are your most important tools as a writer?
Two fountain pens. I type my second draft but I will always go into a notebook for the first draft. I have two colours of ink always that I alternate so I can see how much work I did in a day.
It could be any two colours as long as it is two – so I know this is what I did today, this is what I did yesterday. Half a page, bad day’s work. Six pages, good day’s work.
Were you ever a night owl when it came to writing?
When I started out as a writer, I was a late-night writer. I would start writing once the children were in bed at nine and I would write until six every morning, then sleep until one or two in the afternoon.
That was me in my twenties and early thirties, and somewhere there I gave up smoking and coffee.
I discovered that if you give up both smoking and coffee, what happens is that you are typing at three in the morning and if you lift your head up, you discover it’s 6am and you have 800 pages of the letter ‘M’!
What’s the best thing you’ve learned over your career?
I’ve had lots of awards and sold lots of books, and some books sell very well and some don’t. Some films do well and some don’t. You can’t really control it.
The world will do what the world will do. Your job is to make the best thing you can.
Neil and singer wife Amanda were stuck in New Zealand for lockdown after her world tour was cancelled (Picture: Manny Carabel/WireImage)
You were locked down in New Zealand for a bit. Missing it?
New Zealand was a surprising sort of place for me. I’d been there two days because my wife [singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer] was on tour.
She was finishing a 14-month world tour that happened to be in New Zealand so I’d been there two days and the world went into lockdown.
I was like, ‘Oh, I’m in New Zealand!’ Wellington Paranormal became one of my favourite little hidden secret TV shows.
What other shows did you enjoy in 2020?
I loved I May Destroy You and What We Do In The Shadows. I completely missed out on Stath Lets Flats then I recently watched the first episode – at first I thought: ‘They’re just kind of doing The Office.’
And then by the end of the second series, I thought, ‘No, you’re doing something else and it’s lovely.’
Your comic book The Sandman is being adapted for TV. What can you say about that?
It’s really powerful. I think Sandman fans are going to be incredibly happy. And non-Sandman fans are not going to know what’s hit them.
American Gods Series 3 is available on Amazon Prime from Monday.