Interview – Pioneer Press

Washington, Julie, “Minneapolis author hopes the ‘Gods’ are with him as he takes a mythical leap”, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 18 July 2001, E4.

Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, 40, says his latest novel, “American Gods,” has a chance to be “something big and serious.”

Gaiman, who lives in Minneapolis, hopes this will be the book that propels him out of the fantasy and comics genres and into mainstream success. His previous books include “Neverwhere” and “Stardust.”

“American Gods” is about Gaiman’s two biggest obsessions, love and death.

In it, a war is brewing between the Old World gods and new gods worshipped today.

“People believe in television,” Gaiman said. “People believe in the future, the Internet, the media and Wall Street and ‘Monday Night Football.’ ”

In “American Gods,” the character Shadow is released from prison early when his wife dies in an accident.

Shadow gets a job working for Mr. Wednesday, a grifter, crook, liar and charmer; he is also the Viking god Odin.

Wednesday and Shadow travel the country, asking other gods to join Wednesday’s side in the coming battle.

Gaiman spent five years researching mythology and American folklore and visiting the weird tourist attractions that figure into the book.

“American Gods” works on two levels.

On one, it’s a thriller/murder mystery, elements Gaiman thinks will appeal to nonfantasy readers. On another, deeper level, it’s the British writer’s take on American culture as a polyglot of influences and beliefs from Europe, Africa and Asia.

“I was trying to explain (America) to myself” using myth and fantasy, he said.

He acknowledged that most readers are what he called “mythologically challenged.” But he says they’ll enjoy the novel even if they can’t pinpoint who the disguised god-characters are.

“You don’t have to know anything at all about West African spider gods to know (the character) Mr. Nancy is a funny old man,” Gaiman said. “If you recognize them, it’s brownie points.”

Gaiman first earned prominence with his Sandman horror novels.

Currently. he is working on a screenplay for a movie adaptation of the three-part novel series “Death: The High Cost of Living,” published in 1993. He also plans to direct the script, something he never has done before. “I’m pretty confident,” he said.

Gaiman sees good things happening in the fantasy genre and is heartened by the legions of children reading the Harry Potter books.

“It’s a place (young readers) can go that is unlike any other place, and it’s welcoming, and it’s a book place,” he said.

“And one day, when they’re old enough, I will take them by the hand and take them to my place.”