Neil Gaiman — The Interview I’ve Waited 20 Years To Do (#366)

“The biggest problem we run into is going, ‘This is who I am, this is what I’m like, this is how I function’ while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore.”
— Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) is the bestselling author and creator of books, graphic novels, short stories, film and television for all ages, including Neverwhere, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The View from the Cheap Seats and the Sandman series of graphic novels. His fiction has received Newbery and Carnegie Medals, and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and Will Eisner Awards, among many other awards and honours.

His novelistic retelling of Norse myths, Norse Mythology, has been a phenomenon, and an international bestseller, and won Gaiman his ninth Audie Award (for Best Narration by the Author).

Recently Gaiman wrote all six episodes of, and has been the full-time showrunner, for the forthcoming BBC/Amazon Prime mini-series adaptation of Good Omens, based on the beloved 1990 book he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett.

Many of Gaiman’s books and comics have been adapted for film and television including Stardust (starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer), Coraline (an Academy Award nominee and the BAFTA winner for Best Animated Film), and How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a movie based on Gaiman’s short story. The television series Lucifer is based on characters created by Gaiman in Sandman. His 2001 novel, American Gods, is a critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated TV series, now entering its second season.

In 2017, Neil Gaiman became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Originally from England, he lives in the United States, where he is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#366: Neil Gaiman — The Interview I've Waited 20 Years To Do


Want to hear an episode with another world-building dreamer? — Listen to my conversation with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky in which we discuss nomadic writing, how to navigate tough conversations over creativity and control, dealing with critics, and much more. Stream below or right-click here to download.

#263: Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky — Exploring Creativity, Ignoring Critics, and Making Art


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This episode of the Tim Ferriss Show is also brought to you by Hello Monday, a new podcast from LinkedIn’s Editorial Team filled with the kind of advice that stays with you — the kind you can actually use.

Each week, host Jessi Hempel sits down with featured guests, such as Seth Meyers, host of Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, to uncover lessons you can apply to your career.

For example, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about relieving creative pressure to get more done: As Liz was approaching her follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love, she tried to write for six million people and felt overwhelmed. Instead, she focused on writing for her 10 closest friends. She didn’t know how to please millions of strangers, but did know how to reach those 10 friends.

Find Elizabeth Gilbert’s episode and other episodes from Hello Monday on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Neil Gaiman:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • How long has this interview been in the making? [09:37]
  • An early interview failure that Neil resolved to never repeat. [10:47]
  • On separating home life from work life and the writing habits of Maya Angelou and Ian Fleming. [15:55]
  • Neil’s biggest rule for writing. [20:16]
  • Neil’s process for writing first drafts. [23:35]
  • What Neil aims to accomplish with his second drafts. [25:49]
  • Something Neil noticed when he first started writing and editing with the use of computers. [26:28]
  • What notebooks does Neil prefer for writing first drafts? [29:13]
  • Fountain pens Neil has known and loved. [35:21]
  • How many book signings does it take to get to the bottom of a Pilot 823’s structural capacity? How about Neil’s signing hand? How many such pens given in sacrifice by Neil’s three-year-old will appease his house gods? [39:39]
  • Neil’s journey from manual typewriter to electric typewriter to computer to notebook, and the power of trivializing weighty endeavors — whether they’re writing novels or going for gold medals. [41:49]
  • How Coraline went from being an unpublishable labor of love for Neil’s children to an award-winning novella. [47:48]
  • Does Neil tend to work on multiple projects at once? [53:22]
  • Why does Neil take particular delight in writing introductions to other people’s work? [55:24]
  • At what time of day does Neil prefer to work, and has this changed over the years? [56:50]
  • Advice to aspiring novelists about finding a routine: The more you can be like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, the better. [59:35]
  • The importance of understanding that just because we do something one way today doesn’t mean we’ll be doing it that way tomorrow. [1:01:28]
  • How a touching post on Neil’s blog (which I recommend everyone read) inspired me to adopt my own dog, Molly. [1:03:16]
  • What’s the genesis story of The Graveyard Book? [1:04:10]
  • Neil makes the case for giving the ensemble version of The Graveyard Book a listen. [1:15:29]
  • Who was Terry Pratchett, and how did he and Neil strike up a friendship? [1:16:24]
  • On working with Douglas Adams and the germ of the idea that became Neil and Terry’s collaboration, Good Omens. [1:20:12]
  • Neil shares his preposterous writing schedule from simultaneously working on Good Omens, Sandman, and The Books of Magic — something only someone very insane (or very young) could possibly handle. [1:23:08]
  • Why, after so many misfires trying to get Good Omens on the screen, we’ll finally see an uncompromising television adaptation soon. [1:24:30]
  • Where to find out more about Good Omens — the book and the series. [1:30:58]
  • What does Neil feel he learned most from his “apprenticeship” with Terry? [1:32:40]
  • How did Terry approach his own mortality when he learned he had Alzheimer’s disease? [1:34:45]
  • Before he passed away, Terry opened up a controversial dialogue around the right to die for people with terminal diseases like Alzheimer’s. What is Neil’s view? [1:38:14]
  • What would Terry think of the Good Omens series and its related fanfare? How might things have gone differently if he’d been directly involved in production? [1:39:50]
  • Time flies when you’re interviewing Neil Gaiman. (For the record, I hope to fly again sooner than later.) [1:45:09]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:46:03]