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'The Sandman' Finally Makes it to the Screen

7 Compelling Facts About Neil Gaiman

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 16, 2022

Fans of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman have long waited for a screen adaptation of the comic book series. Netflix's sumptuous new show more than delivers. From the impeccable casting to the dazzling effects, it has been a treat to revisit Gaiman's early bestseller. Read on for seven compelling facts about the author.

1. Before writing books, Gaiman worked as a journalist.

Sometimes we can choose the paths we follow. Sometimes our choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.

After graduating from university in the early 1980s the British author pursued journalism, hoping this would help him to eventually get his own stories published. During this time, he interviewed some big names like Monty Python star Terry Jones, Divine from Pink Flamingos, British comedian Rik Mayall, and Richard O'Brien from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

2. Gaiman first met Terry Pratchett when he interviewed him for a magazine.

Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.

Gaiman was a young freelance journalist in 1985 when he interviewed Terry Pratchett for a magazine. Pratchett had just published his second Discworld novel. The two hit it off and became friends.

Several years later, Gaiman had an idea for a story about an unlikely partnership between an angel and a demon trying to save the world. After writing about 5,000 words he sent them to a few friends for feedback. One of those friends was Pratchett who phoned about a year later to ask Gaiman if he'd be interested in writing the rest of the book together. Gaiman jumped at the opportunity. Later he wrote about this moment saying, "that was the nearest I was ever going to get to Michaelangelo phoning to ask if I wanted to paint a ceiling with him." The resulting novel, Good Omens, was a colossal hit.

3. Gaiman was the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for a single book.

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard.

Gaiman won both prizes for The Graveyard Book, a children's book about a boy who lives in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts. The book, which was heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, also earned a Hugo Award.

Other celebrated books in his oeuvre include American Gods, which won Nebula, Hugo, Bram Stoker, and Locus Awards. In the story, two men embark on an epic and strange road trip across America in an effort to stave off preternatural disaster. The Locus Award-winning Anansi Boys, while not exactly a sequel, revisits the characters in American Gods.

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane started out as a short story for Gaiman's wife.

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.

While Gaiman's wife, musician Amanda Palmer, was away recording an album, Gaiman decided to write a short story for her. But as he wrote, the story "took a life of its own" and just kept going. After a while, he thought maybe it would be a novella, but it ended up being a full-fledged novel. The bestseller went on to win several awards.

5. Coraline, one of Gaiman's most popular books, almost didn't get published.

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

Gaiman's popular children's book, Coraline, almost wasn't published because his agent thought it was too creepy for children. She decided to test it out on her young daughter who read a segment of the book and told her mother that it was not too scary. Years later, the daughter admitted that the story terrified her, but she didn't let on because she wanted to know what happened next.

6. Gaiman had a talking cat.

Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.

It sounds like a plot point from one of his stories. In fact, there is a talking cat in Coraline, but Gaiman insists his cat, Fred, was a talker, saying, "I've never had a talking cat before. He wanders round the attic saying things like 'Hullo...' and 'Mimi'. Well, the 'hullo' is more like 'hurro', but it's still quite off-putting if you aren't used to it."

7. He started reading at age four.

Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you'd most like not to lose.

Amongst his early favorites was J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and, though his school library only had the first two volumes, Gaiman borrowed them frequently. Later he won the school's reading prize, which enabled him to finally acquire The Return of the King.

Although he hates choosing favorites, he did identify a list of books he'd take if he was marooned on a desert island for the New York Times Style Magazine. Here are five of them, along with his comments:

  • Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees: "My favorite fairy tale/detective novel/history/fantasy."
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: "Like Jane Austen's huge lost fantasy novel about the return of magic to England."
  • Horns by Joe Hill: "An immensely powerful writer. This, his second novel, is about a man who wakes up after a bad night with horns pushing out of his forehead."
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens: "From the highest in the land to the lowest, the court of Chancery destroys lives. A wonderful read even if you don't like spontaneous human combustion."
  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny: "On a distant planet, far in the future, earth colonists rule the world as the gods of the Hindu Pantheon. One of their number becomes Buddha to fight them. A mixture of religion and adventure and science fiction."

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