Last night, we went to see, hear and speak to Neil Gaiman at Books Kinokuniya. Guan and I drove in and had a coffee. Karen had gone home to change into her lovely velvet coat (which was commented upon favourably by me and others), but soon joined us and we saved a spot for Fish to join us after work. We sat on the floor in some semblance of a queue with a bunch of other black-clad fans; closer to the start time I looked up behind us and the store was swarming with people. I’m glad we had the presence of mind to line up early!
The woman who introduced Neil was nervous as anything. Her hands didn’t just tremble, they shook as she tried to read her speech, and she was worried he was making fun of her behind her back (he wasn’t…well, not really). And then Neil stepped forward to cheers and applause. His voice has a pleasing English lilt to it, and he is charming and gracious, so it wasn’t at all difficult to sit there on the floor for an hour, listening to him read from his upcoming book and answering questions that had been scribbled down by the audience. He said wonderful things about writing, which I forget the details of. He made us laugh contentedly. A large Moleskine was passed around by the organisers for the fans to write notes in for Neil; I wrote something blathery and gushy. But then, I think everyone did.
I was fading fast by this stage, desperately needing to eat and not be in a crowd, but thanks to our queueing skills, we only had to wait for about 15 minutes to get to the head of the line. We flipped through the well-thumbed proofs of The Graveyard Book while we waited, and then, there I was, standing in front of Neil. He blinked at me and smiled.
“Hello,” I replied. “I am well. How are you?”
“I also am well. We are both well and very polite.”
We chatted about sleep and food and not having enough of either while he signed Neverwhere and The Dream Hunters for me. Then it was all over. With probably another 450 people after me, I was never going to be able to have a conversation with him. Besides which, I never know what to say on the spot like that; it’s why I don’t think I’d make an especially good interviewer, because I can’t think of interesting questions under pressure (the funniest question Neil answered from the audience was the final one: “What do you think about Starburst?” He paused while the audience cracked up, and it looked as though he was toying with the idea of answering with his opinion on the candy, rather than discussing his book and the movie, called Stardust. In the end he said, “Someone, somewhere in this room, has just gone bright red.”)
We went to Sakura afterwards to have dinner. I couldn’t even focus on the menu so trusted the others to order, and the food was good. Miso soup is very refreshing when I am that tired! Once revived, I drove everyone home, then went home and lay in bed, wishing I was beyond these early stages of my writing career, or at least that I could enjoy it more, but being very glad to have finally seen Neil in the flesh.