Questionnaire – National Post

Gaiman, Neil. “Avoid the Archerly-Claviot Hydraulic Plot Adjuster”, National Post, 4 August 2001, B12.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON? I’m on a signing tour, which means my writing is confined to occasional dispatches from the front — entries on the journal at neilgaiman. com. Luckily, my next book — Coraline, a strange children’s story — is already written.

IS THERE A SHORT SENTENCE FROM YOUR PREVIOUS WORK YOU FIND PARTICULARLY PLEASING? WHY? From American Gods: “Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine.” For a novel that’s fundamentally an American road trip novel it seemed like a quintessentially American sentence.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR? Depends on my mood. It’s often a toss-up between James Branch Cabell, Shirley Jackson, R. A. Lafferty, Gene Wolfe and Hope Mirrlees. But John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, or John Aubrey or David Quammen, or the lunatic Harry Steven Keeler can often leap to the front of the line. Robert Aickman was good enough to scare me.

WHAT BOOK DO YOU WISH YOU’D READ BY NOW? The Complete Short Stories of R. A. Lafferty — of course, that would mean that someone would have collected them and published it. Lafferty was a living national treasure while he was writing, and nobody ever noticed.

WHAT BOOK SHOULD BE RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY? WHY? The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, by Count Jan Patocki. He killed himself amid rumours of incest and lycanthropy, and the book is hugely flawed, but it’s a wonderful Arabian-Nights-like experience, filled with stories of all kinds that interconnect and flow, as we learn why a Spanish nobleman’s dalliance with two lovely sisters becomes a nightmare, as he wakes beneath the bodies of two dead robbers.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTATION? “First you dream. Then you die.” Cornell Woolrich said that. I want to keep dreaming as long as I can.

DO YOU HAVE ANY UNUSUAL WORK HABITS? Is it unusual to write novels in fountain pen and then do the second draft on the computer? I suspect it may be. I like to alternate ink colours while I’m writing a manuscript so I can see how much I did in a day.

WHICH PLOT DEVICE IS MOST OVERUSED? The Archerly-Claviot Hydraulic Plot Adjuster. As devices go, they can adjust a plot to within an inch of its life, but I think the books can suffer in the long run.