Neil Gaiman at Temple Judea

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to see Neil Gaiman speak at the Temple Judea in Miami as part of an event hosted by the fabulous local bookstore, Books and Books. I arrived at the event about 20 minutes before the start and it was packed. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given his popularity, but I couldn’t believe how packed it was. I had to drive all over just to find a parking space, as the parking lot at the temple was overflowing.

The whole event was really well organized. When you arrived, there were lines divided by last names and if you prepaid you got a wristband and your copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and could go right in. I was blown away by the number of people that I found inside. The place was pretty big, at least the size of a high school gymnasium, and rows of chairs went all the way to the back.  Lucky for me I was there by myself so I was able to grab a vacant seat about 7 rows back from the front of the room.

Mitchell, the owner of Books and Books, came out to thank everyone for coming and to introduce the opening speaker, Brad Meltzer. Meltzer is an American political thriller novelist, non-fiction writer, TV show creator and comic book author. He’s a Florida native (and had this event been for him, I would have wanted to ask him WTF happened in the Season 8 Buffy comics, but I digress). Meltzer provided a nice introduction to Neil Gaiman and then the man of the hour appeared.

Everyone was all aflutter when he came out on stage in his trademark black outfit and curly hair. Gaiman started out talking a little bit about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, telling us that the book was originally going to be a short story that he started to show his wife, Amanda Palmer, glimpses of his life as a child and ended up as a whole novel. He also mentioned, and which is explained very well in Amanda Palmer’s blog post about the book, that this novel reveals more of Neil the person than most of his books do. Then he read an except from the beginning of the book in his wonderful British accent and we ate it all up.

Next he answered some fan questions that were submitted in advance. I don’t know how one got to submit those questions, but I would have liked to think of some. I didn’t note down the questions that he answered, but I did jot down a few of the things I found interesting from his answers, which I will list for you here:

  1. When he was a young writer he was impacted by reading the introduction to Harlan Ellison’s Count the Clock that Told the Time, which basically said that if you want to be a writer you have to actually write stuff.
  2. When asked who he read to his kids he said Diana Wynne Jones and who he got to know very well before her death in 2011.
  3. I don’t remember what the question was, be he mentioned Tom Philips’ The Humument, which was created when Tom Philips’ took an old book and artistically altered each page into a new version. It’s fascinating and you can check out the Humument site here.
  4. Neil is not an actor and never planned to act, but will be acting for the first time in Blood Kiss. The author Michael Reaves had written a part specifically for Neil and he couldn’t say no, especially because of the struggles with Parkinson’s Disease that Reaves is facing (you can read his blog about it here).
  5. When asked about his use of mythology and favorite myth, he told the story of Thor in the land of the giants (which you can read here).
  6. When asked about his hair in Miami weather, he ventured onto the topic of his Crazy Hair poem that he wrote for his daughter and which later became a children’s book.
  7. Lastly, he mentioned being impacted by C.S. Lewis’s writings about escapism, which I believe is from An Experiment with Criticism.

Neil Signs Books

The reading was great and his Q&A was great. Sadly, I had gotten there so late that I had a purple wristband, which meant it was going to be a REALLY long wait to get anything else signed. I waited about an hour while starting the Ocean at the End of the Lane, but when I saw it was probably going to be at leas 4 more hours before I’d get up there I traded my copy in for one of the pre-signed books and headed home. I met Neil Gaiman when he was promoting his book Coraline and got my copy of American Gods signed then, so while it would have been cool to meet him again I wasn’t too upset about it. Next time I know to get there early!

Neil Signs Books Some More

(Apologies for the terrible pictures. I only had my phone and they didn’t come out too well.)

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