Small Talk: Neil Gaiman

What book changed my life? The Narnia books

What book changed your life?

Reading the Narnia books, aged about seven, was the first time that I was aware that a book was written by an author. Realising that a real person was standing there telling you stuff was the point when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Where do you write best?

If you’re going to be a professional writer you need routines. But I still love to write in new, slightly strange places. I like that faint feeling of uncomfortableness.

What is your daily writing routine?

I actually have to figure out a new one. Now, I get up in the morning and deal with e-mails before I write, but around 3.30pm my daughter comes home from school and I look up and go: “No, it can’t be – I haven’t finished the e-mails yet!”

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I once went to a long-abandoned temple in western China where this guy who had a souvenir shop tried to sell me a 1,000-year-old human elbow. The real problem was trying to tell him I didn’t need it, as his English was limited and I had very little Chinese.

Who are your literary influences?

I believe anybody you read before the age of 16 will end up being your literary influences, good or bad. I loved Edwardian novelists; Kipling was a huge influence. Lou Reed and David Bowie were huge influences too, but I never realised until I’d grown up.

What are you scared of?

Something bad happening to my children – or my eyes liquefying and rolling down my face like huge tears.

How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?

I would love to be a freelance religion designer. If people needed a religion, they could just call me up and I could design one for them.

What book do you wish you’d written?

I’m extremely envious of Gene Wolfe’s four-volume The Book of the New Sun.

What would you go back and change?

Nothing personally but I would love to suggest to John Lennon that he wear a bulletproof vest.

Neil Gaiman is the co-editor of ‘Stories’ (Headline), an anthology of imaginative fiction

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