My girls and I had a lovely evening at the Neil Gaiman event last night in Boulder. I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan since reading (well really listening) to American Gods, and then seeing Mirrormask, so perhaps I came about my fan-girliness sort of backwards. By the time I became a fan, Neilhimself was already a seasoned and mature author. And while I had seen and marveled at (no pun intended) his graphic novels in the Sandman series, I’d never purchased or really read one. But apparently I’ve been misled.

When we arrived at the event a half-hour early, there was already a line of folks 2-3 abreast snaking all way round a rather large church building. As we passed by on our quest to find the end of the queue, I noticed that the first half consisted mainly of younger (under 40ish) people dressed all in black, gothic style. I expect that I was among those in the minority looking quite midwestern and matronly by contrast. I didn’t even know we had that many goths in Boulder. Perhaps they normally only come out at night.

Our position in the line was as it turned out was only about three-quarters back and later-comers (looking even more parochial than me) uncoiled out further into the back parking lot. But it was fortuitess in that Mr. Neil arrived and walked right through the line by us to enter the back door, slowing briefly to exclaim that we’d be let in directly after the sound check. And yes, he’s just as handsome in his way as his pictures.

Anyway at some point during the intro the Sandman books were mentioned at which point the goths cheered loudly, so that explained that. There were in this large church auditorium I’d guess around 600 people, perhaps more.

Neil began the reading by giving a brief “story so far” recap of The Graveyard Book because he is reading in a nine city tour all eight chapters of the book in order. I’ve never heard of this being done before. It’s quite ingenious—and he is video recording each chapter and posting them to Mousecircus where you can watch and listen to the entire novel for free! (For a limited time of course.) You can also purchase the audio or print version of the book there. If you’re going to buy it online, do it there rather than at Amazon, the author and publisher will get more of the profits that way. But back to the reading…

Neil explained that because chapter seven was so long that folks in L.A. got the first half and we’d be getting the second half. He explained that he’d ended in L.A. on a bit of a cliff-hanger and to appreciate this you really need to listen to the recording. Let’s just say that at the end the hero of the story was about to be very, very dead. Neil claimed that this was not planned, but the exact middle of the chapter ended with these words: He straightened up. The hand that had been in the hole in the floor was holding a large, sharp knife. “Now,” said the man Jack. “Now, boy. Time to finish this.” The response of the crowd was a resounding, Nooooo! And then Neil read to us for the better part of an hour more. The reading was very enjoyable, Gaiman reads with wonderful characterization and one can imagine him sitting his little writing gazebo staging his characters in spoken dialogue as much for his own enjoyment as for facilitating the writing.

After the reading, we were treated to excerpts from the new movie Coraline based on Gaiman’s book. The movie is being done by the people who did Nightmare Before Christmas and all in claymation. It looks like it will be very good—and fun to look at. Following that he answered a stack of audience questions. Mine was, “How do you find time to work on new work when you are out on tour?” To that he answered that he often finds snippets of time and it’s best for him to write on airplanes, because they do not as yet, have Internet service. Apparently the web is quite the distraction for Mr. Neil. I can relate. Another question that elicited lots of audience titters was “Do your fans creep you out?” He related a charming story about one particularly creepy, but so not scary fan at Comic Con…but over all says that no, you lot are quite nice, actually.

And after that, we were among the first to hear him read a new children’s book, Blueberry Girl, a poem he wrote for friend Tori Amos’ baby girl a few years back. The book was in page proofs not even bound yet! It is illustrated  by reknowned artist Charles Vess of Stardust and Sandman fame. The book is due out in February 2009.

So ended an evening’s entertainment that went on for three hours! Much more than I ever expected. Neil reads the last chapter and wraps up his tour in Minneapolis, his home city tonight.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of The Graveyard Book I picked up at BEA. My review will be posted later in my reviews section of this blog.

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