It was at the University of Liverpool to celebrate the launch of its Centre for New and International Writing and as part of the Miriam Allott Lecture Series. He read two things from Trigger Warning – Down to a Sunless Sea and the October Tale from A Calendar of Tales, and I love listening to him read his own works out before I hear new things in his word choices, language use, and story rhythm. He also did a Q&A where he took questions submitted on cards and chose the most interesting to answer. Which is how we learnt that the sequel to Good Omens would have been about the second coming of Jesus, only the secret agent angels lose him and Crowley and Aziraphale go to America to find him.
He also had some great answers to advice for writers and on overcoming writers block, which I’ll try to pin down because I liked it and i’d like to share. Advice to writers: write, finish things, show them to people. (Simple, right? *grins*) I also like this reply he did on tumblr as well. On writers block he said that it’s a thing writers made up, because writers are good at that. That you don’t get salesperson block or cello playing block. That what it means is you’re either stuck or you’re having a bad day, and if you’re stuck then to work out how to fix it, find the problem, or show it to someone else to help you find the problem, and that if you’re having a bad day to write anyway. You can still write other things, like emails or blogs, but you should write anyway, and the next day it won’t look so bad, and by the time you’ve finished and you’re editing you won’t be able to remember which parts you wrote on a good day or a bad day because it’ll all sound like you. (I actually find that more encouraging than the idea of writers block.)
There wasn’t a book signing, because he doesn’t do those anymore and I can understand because the hall was packed. I did get a pre-signed copy of The Sleeper and the Spindle though. (And I was lucky enough to see him when he did The Ocean at the End of the Lane UK signing tour.)
I also got to see Gayle Foreman on Sunday in Liverpool’s Waterstones – author of If I Stay, the sequel Where She Went, the new book I Was Here, and a bunch of others including a fascinating travel journalism book called You Can’t Get There From Here. She did a dramatic reading from her new book with help from the audience (who did very good American accents!) and interviewed herself as ‘Dave’.
Forman says she she’s been asked why she writes about, and why young people read, dark subjects – the contents of her books include family members dying, a girl dealing with her best friend having committed suicide, depression, and grief. She said that it isn’t about the dark things, not really, but about ordinary people being put in extraordinary circumstances and showing that you can live through them; that ultimately it’s about giving hope.
When asked what the difference is between writing for adults and writing for younger audiences, Neil Gaiman said that when he writes for adults he’s not obliged to offer hope, but when writing younger books he is.
I find this interesting, the idea that the difference between adult literature and young adult literature is hope, not the content of the plot, or swearing, or other criteria that you sometimes see books ‘warning labeled’ for on the back. I’ve been trying to think if I’ve read any YA books without hope and whether I read YA differently to traditionally ‘adult’ books in terms of hopeful expectations. Does anyone else have thinky thoughts on this, in regards to reading and/or writing?