From today’s DC Examiner:
When he set out to write his latest novel, Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman traveled to Ireland to spend some quality time at an empty, gloomily Gothic haunted house owned by his musician pal Tori Amos.
He finds a place like that much more inspiring for his fantasy and horror literature than, say, a happy, sunshiny field somewhere.
“The trouble with happy, sunshiny fields is in a good happy, sunshiny field, what I want to do is go and walk around – I don’t want to sit there writing,” says the best-selling and award-winning writer. “A nice gloomy place with gray clouds rolling in, with maybe a light rain pattering against the window and a big fire puttering, makes you go, ‘This is the weather for writing.’
Gaiman hatched the idea for Anansi Boys, which hit bookshelves last week, nine years ago when he was working on the BBC adaptation of his screenplay, Neverwhere. (He was so disappointed in the TV miniseries that he wrote his own novelization after it aired.) He inserted as a guest star a character named Mr. Anansi, based on the west African trickster god Anansi, into the book he was penning at the time, American Gods.
Finally, a year and a half ago, he decided to give Mr. Anansi a bigger role: In Anansi Boys, Anansi’s dead after giving up the ghost on a karaoke stage, and his “normal” son, “Fat Charlie” Nancy, is introduced to Spider, the brother he never knew he had. Spider just happens to have scary magical powers and inherited his dad’s rebellious streak and ends up causing a heap of problems for his newly found sibling.
“When I wrote it, lots of things surprised me: It was much funnier than I expected,” Gaiman says. “I thought it would start off funny and then get really scary, and actually it’s basically a novel that stays pretty damn funny throughout.”
His works of prose speak for themselves, but Gaiman might be best known for his experience in the world of comic books. He won the Harvey and Eisner awards for his run with artist Dave McKean on the sprawling DC Comics fantasy The Sandman, which debuted in 1989 and featured Morpheus, aka Dream, who’s kidnapped by wizards aiming to capture his sister, Death. (Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium and Destruction just happen to be their other siblings.) The series has been collected in 10 volumes and spun off several comic titles and graphic novels.
Gaiman signed a two-project deal with Marvel Comics a few years ago – the first book out of the partnership was 1602, a 12-issue maxiseries that took such superheroes as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Dr. Strange and the Fantastic Four and reimagined them in the 17th century.
His next series will be an overhaul of The Eternals, created by Jack Kirby in the 1960s.
“There was wonderful stuff in them and stuff that didn’t work and then it got assimilated into the Marvel universe and then it sort of sat there not really doing much for years,” says Gaiman, who was born and raised in London but now lives in Minnesota.
“The huge advantage to having a bunch of characters who are hundreds of thousands of years old is you aren’t just limited to [a modern time frame]. But it’s a six-issue thing and it’ll take people to a lot of interesting places.”