Neil Gaiman in conversation with Claire Armitstaid

Hay Festival (year 2015)

May, 29th – h 20.30, Telegraph Stage ; Hay-on-Wye , Wales

  • for further information on the Hay Festival click here
  • for more blog post about the Festival and my trip at Hay-on-Wye, the city of books, click here 
  • for the official interview, published by the Guardian, here



Neil Gaiman joined Claire Armitstaid  on the Telegraph Stage. I was seated in the third line in front of the stage, and my heart was beating wildly. I had in my phone the ebook since february, but I bought the hardback copy of Trigger Warning only a few days before, and I had past my late evenings at Hay reading its short stories in the tent. So, I could not wait for this talk, I wanted to learn something new of the book that had me trapped and entertained so well in the past months. And, of course, I wanted to listen to the wise and charming mage of dreams and words that is Neil Gaiman.


The conversation was immediately focused on Terry Pratchett, (who died on 12 march, last year). Neil loved to share the most exilaranting memories he built with his friend and co-worker of the fantasy realm. He talked about Terry as a magnificent grumpy;  a man with valours that believed humans being worthy of respect and honesty, and who did not forget nor forgive trachery. He was keen to put all of those whom had misbehaved or illtreated him in his Discworld series, as bad characters. Gaiman talked about this grumpy man full of irony and with a great curiosity of how things function or are done. He – said Gaiman – was a fantasy author with the brain of a Sci-fi author. And everyone reads his books.

Gaiman and Pratchett


Neil recalled the year of Good Omens, he told us how this marvellous, funny book came to see the light – or for better saying – the publishers. One day Neil emailed Terry with the first five thousands words of the story, a fetus, really. At the time he was busy with Sandman and other things, and he didn’t imagine his mail would have been replied by Terry with a friendly phonecall : he was interested, yes, and why not writing this four-hands? … “I know what happens next!“, those were his words. Gaiman exposed how Good Omens was written, they write a part, they shared, revised and added some bits to the other’s part, and usually when Terry added at least one or two words to a Neal’s paragraph, it become 70% funnier. As demonstration, he read aloud a page or two of Good Omens (hardback copy  kindly offered by one guy of the public, and immediately signed!).  His voice has something of the ancient narrators, I think. I wanted just to close my eyes and listen with full attention. It was not an easy task for me, without the book open in my lap. Often, when I listen to an Audible performance in english, I help myself with a paperback or an ebook copy, just to understand every word. And, as Gaiman said, Terry loved to write about facts, he loved to write for smart people. Well, I consider myself sufficient smart for an Italian, but I need some time to get smart and well armoured with the english words, especially if I can’t read them, but only listen to. It was not a great problem. I listened, I laughed with the entire room and I also found what were the incriminated words. It was the delivery man passage :

“They’d come here to spoon, and on one memorable occasion, fork”



Then Neil recalled the best memory he has of Terry Pratchett. [See here, it’s perfectly reported]

From this relationship between old friend and co-authors, Claire Armitstead has moved on to Trigger Warning, his new book (published last year on february, the 3rd ). It’s a collection of short stories, some old, some new. In the first pages of Trigger Warning the reader will find an explanation, an introduction, about how and when these stories has come to life. He did the same thing in The Ocean at The End of the Lane, and in other works, because when he was young and he wanted to know how the writers do their work, he would often read similar introductions in sci-fi novels. As a young writer myself, I can say that I love to read these intro, and that I find them extremely useful and in some ways …reassuring.


Trigger Warning and American Gods


my signed copy of Trigger Warning


Talking casually to the public on the Telegraph stage, Neil Gaiman teased us with the possibility of a TV serie for American Gods. It was the end of May, and we were thrilled  just by the idea, without know that a few months separated us from an official statement by Startz. Imagine me, jumping full of joy, now that the casting has begun ! Meanwhile, we can read Black Dog, the last story in Trigger Warning, a new adventure with Shadow Moon.

Trigger Warning – Short Fictions & Disturbances, is a wondrous collection of stories. Neil discussed the origin and the meaning of some with Claire, as I said.  The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury – is about memory loss and lost friends. A lot of Neil’s works are on the problem of memory (see also The Ocean at the End of the Lane). How it is possible to forget of a friend you were close to for years ? Who collaborated with you ? Who, per sè, was so known, so famous ?

The Return of the Thin White Duke is a novel he wrote many years ago for the American Vogue Newspaper, a tribute to David Bowie, which should have had two parts. But only one was written, and ultimately Neil was fine with it.

From the public one girl asked how much is different the final product from the starting idea. And one other asked : how do you know when to finish ? The answer really surprised me, because usually I have an idea of when and how my story has to conclude is journey. He said : “When I can’t play much further with words. When I am interested more in the next thing, the next project “.  One asked : “How do you do the writer?” And he smiled, even if this is a question he answered many times. “You write” he said, very kindly. “You plot an idea, and then write until it is finished. You send your works out. You let your friends read them and you send them online as an ebook, or you send them to a publisher”. It is all very simple, but each of those steps is a milestone for every writer. Exspecially the “finish things” part.

On the importance and the contribution of social media : Neil is very present on Twitter and other platforms (like facebook, tumblr and his blog). The Calendar Tales come from a project with his twitter followers. For every month they were asked to post some ideas/prompt/curious fact. He collected the most interesting and worked on them, untill they become 12 short stories. He read aloud – as we were at Hay Festival it could not be more appropiated – the July Story. Funny, people laughed while he was reading, and I laughed too, but the story itself is very sad. The end is moving, I cryed the first time I read it. I loved listening to Neil Gaiman. It was worth the journey.

@neilhimself asked: “What is the most unusual thing you have ever seen in July?”

@mendozacarla replied: “…an igloo made of books.”


Footnotes :

  • This report was in part written last year, during the festival. If you notice any error, be kind and report them, please, critics and comments are always welcome. I will write an italian translation as soon as possible. I recommend to you all the Neil Gaiman books and The Sandman comics. I have yet to finish Good Omens and to start the Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett, and I can’t wait to read his books, seriously !
  • New release by Neil Gaiman : “The View from the Cheap Seats : selected Nonfiction”
  • You can read and listen to the July story and all of the others of the Calendar Tales project, narrated by Neil himself here
  • Pictures and fan arts are not mine, and I will cancel them imediately if required. I claim credits only for the two photos of my signed copy of Trigger Warning.









Bacheca Avvisi : Reviews II e Blog Tour Books

Buonasera, cari bibliofili !

Questo breve post per avvisarvi che sul menù qui sopra potete ora trovare una sezione intitolata Reviews II, perché effettivamente il primo elenco di recensioni non era più tanto scorrevole. I libri letti e commentati dalla sottoscritta nel 2015 li troverete, (prima o poi, ve lo giuro !), tutti lì, e approfitto dell’occasione per ricordarvi che se qualcuno di voi volesse suggerirmi ulteriori letture, resto con le orecchie ben aperte !



  • Luglio 2015 : The One Plus One, di JoJo Moyes
  • Agosto 2015 : Il Visconte Dimezzato, Le Città Invisibili, di Italo Calvino
  • Settembre 2015 : Prima del Solstizio d’Inverno, di Silvia Marchesini
  • Ottobre 2015 : Chi Teme la Morte : la profezia di Onye, di Nnedi Okorafor


A breve si aggiungerà al menù anche un’altra sezione, dedicata alla mia attività per  Blog Tour Books. Avete dato un’occhiata al nuovo sito e alla pagina facebook ? Io ve lo consiglio caldamente, è piena di iniziative volte a promuovere libri e autori molto interessanti !! Al momento, proprio per preparare il prossimo Blog Tour, sto leggendo su WattPad il libro “Ti Va di Rischiare?” (La Serie del Rischio, Vol.1) di Irene Pistolato, che avrò l’opportunità di intervistare per voi ! Lo trovate anche qui, su Amazon. Invece, il cinque dicembre, parte il Blog Tour dedicato al libro di Federica Martina, A Causa Tua, nella mia wish list già da un po’ !


Inoltre, la mia carissima collega e amica Sonia di Solo 1 Altra Riga, per festeggiare i tre anni del blog ha ideato un fantastico Giveaway, pieno di premi, messi a disposizione da ben ventiquattro autori !

Io mi sono iscritta, e sono qui  con le dita incrociate … Perchè non andate a dargli un’occhiata ? 😉


Bene, e così vi lascio, torno al mio romanzo ! Il National Novel Writing Month non mi darà modo di essere molto presente qui su Lovingbooks, ma ho quasi pronto per voi un articolo sulla conversazione di Neil Gaiman e Claire Armitstead, avvenuta in occasione dell’Hay Festival di questo maggio, a cui come sapete ho avuto la fortuna di poter partecipare . Si è parlato di Terry Pratchett e dell’ultima raccolta di racconti scritta da Gaiman, Trigger Warning, (consigliato, lo sto terminando e mi è piaciuto assai ! ).

A presto !

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Neil and Chris
29th May 2015, 11.30 a.m. – Tata Tent, Hay Festival

I smell of rain. I have found a seat near the stage, and I can see quite well. Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell have to arrive, yet. I have to tell, I am freezing. But I am also so excited ! Tata Tent is full of people. I suppose this is the measure of success. Angie and Catherine couldn’t make the Starlight Stage full together, and that was a smaller hall. (Now. This statement is not to say they aren’t great. Or that they are less good. I like them a lot, as you can perceive from my last post. But Neil Gaiman is like Mum Jo and Uncle Stephen. Or Killer George. The Kings & Queens of writers. Like, for the actors, Cillian Murphy versus Robert Downey Jr. They are both great, but you just can’t win over RDJ. And, for the love of Merlin in a pink bermuda, I love Cillian Murphy ! I need to watch Peaky Blinders as soon as possible!. End of the rant.)

29 May 2015, 16.00 p.m. – Riverside Camping, Hay-on-Wye

I am finally restored, under my tent. The sun is shining, and my heart is a warm, wild, beating creature. The “interview”, or for better saying, the conversation between Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell – with the (small) support of Daniel Hahn – was spectacular.

Those two really had their way in entertaining the public. £9 well spent, I should say. They have talked a lot about The Sleeper and the Spindle, a short story written by Neil and brilliantly illustrated by Chris, that has its beginning with the wedding of Queen Snow White. It’s impressive, the twist that Gaiman has produced in this story. At the very start of the discussion, he felt the need to explain himself, (it seemed to me like an apologetic introduction, so usual in the past, but I could be wrong). He told us about how old are stories and faerie tales like these two, and how many times and in how many ways they have been retold and rewritten. For example The Sleeping Beauty in Perrault‘s variant has a second part that we usually don’t remember in these retellings, because it simply has not encountered people’s favor, nor in the past, nor today. So it’s like that : some stories are to be retold and reshaped in many forms, some others are just forgotten. What about Cinderella and its Chinese origins, Ye Xian, or Yeh-Shen  with the golden slippers ? The small feet of Cinderella are a telling detail. Chinese admired small feet in girls, in the way an European probably would have looked to legs, or breast. Like other loved stories, that of Cinderella has travelled centuries and continents. So the golden slippers became glass shoes in Perrault’s tale. Neil reported the mistranslation* of the french term vair, in verre : the fur slippers of the medieval age have changed, apparently for an error, in glass ones. “And aren’t glass shoes ridiculous!?” said Gaiman, among the general laughter of the Tata Tent.

A lot of other things have changed between one version and another, through mouths and pens. It is something that need, to be well explained, of an 800-pages-long book* from my History of Popular Traditions exam, if you wish to go deep in the ancient phenomenon of retelling. Something that nowadays touches another phenomenon, in my point of view, that of fan-fictions.  There are fans that write new stories taking from stories and characters they love,  reshaping them and inventing new characters, sequels and prequels, and then they publish their works online, for their fandom to read, to love, to hate, to judge, to critic, to transform, to reinvent. Then there are well-known authors, like P.D. James, that write actual books taking from unforgettable classics, and that’s the case of Death Comes to Pemberley, a thrilling sequel of  Pride&Prejudice ! Many are the faces and the means of retelling a loved, popular story. It’s something that happens a lot.

So yes, Sleeper and the Spindle is a magic, dark retelling of Snow White and The Sleeping Beauty, with a different ending, or better, with the fanciful imagination of what could be happened after the Happily Ever After. “It is not to affirm that my story is the best version” said Gaiman. Just, this short story, like many other variants*, has its right to be written, and the people have the choice : what to remember and what to forget.    

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Chris Riddell, seated at his right, was not a silent spectator. While Gaiman was talking, he showed to us the book, with its beautiful illustrations. Then he told his opinion about his work as an artist and illustrator, and about the Sleeper and the Spindle. He is, in my opinion, very funny, a nice man and a great artist. He has been perfectly good at taking every possible space in the conversation and sometimes he has directed the attention on new topics.

They talked about what it means to work together, as writer and illustrator. They recounted some funny anecdotes about their past, and the work relationship they have built , so that many times Neil send Chris some new story, or description, and Chris send some new designed character to Neil (as for Fortunately, The Milk).

fortunately, the milk 

Chris said : “my work is to take the space that has been left blank by Neil, that space between lines without words, and elaborate from there. Mostly, it is about taking that little detail that makes the bigger picture. It’s a joy to find these details when I read a new story to illustrate, and the curious thing about illustrators is that we don’t find the same details, and that we can work in very different ways on the same project, but still, I always find the beauty and the inspiration I need watching others works“.  He made the example of Dave McKean, another great artist that often works with Gaiman; author, among other things, of the illustrations for the US version of The Graveyard Book,  The Wolves in the Walls, Coraline, all by Neil Gaiman. I could feel the sincere admiration for him and his colleagues.

He noted the incredible amounts of illustrations that in the years have been published for Alice in Wonderland. 150 years of illustrations for this classic story. All of them very beautiful, stunning retakes on the same concept, (minus the Johnny Deep – Mad Hatter , he said – laughter -).

Then, Neil Gaiman came back to The Sleeper and the Spindle. He answered a question about the absence of princes, men that save the day. It is like this, he said, because he wanted to tell a story with a strong and independent woman. So, at some point, when the dwarves are embarrassed, and I will not say when, the Queen takes the lead, again. And she kissed a Sleeping Beauty… No spoiler. I will laugh to anyone who will shout out at the scandal for that kiss. Oh joy…


Nothing to say, the illustrations are beautiful, amazing. I was a little sad, I could not buy the book there, (I had just bought The Graveyard Book, which I love, and Trigger Warning*, the new book of short stories by Neil Gaiman, I was alone in Wales, and my wallet was screaming in pain, literally starving),  or else it would be now in one of my bookshelves, signed.

Questions were many and interesting.

The audience took Gaiman & Riddell to recalled their worst work. Neil said it was the Duran Duran biopic, first and last commitment he has done for money only. ‘‘I spent three months writing a book that I would not like to read, then the company failed. I lost money, and time. I learned to never ever do something for the only sake of money“. Chris recalled a set of illustrations for a Japanese class of English. He needed the money, too. And as he talked, he began to drawing the frog-girl in manga style, protagonist of this English workbook. The pencil in his hand was moving without hesitation, fluid and precise black lines emerged on white paper. “Last week I received an e-mail from Japan, they ask me permission to reprint the book.” he said, and he was laughing, still slightly embarrassed.

One child asked why Coraline’s hair were blue in the movie, and black in the book. Neil answered sweetly that he was happy of this change, and that it was a last-minute decision of the director Henry Selick, in the making of the movie.

A girl asked one last question, about the women, independent and strong, that have inspired Neil Gaiman. The answer was well-known, because he told many time that his editor and his wife are the women in question. I was expecting it, really, nonetheless it was not so good for me the feeling that he has been leaded to talk about his wife. (I love infinitely Amanda Palmer as a person and as an artist, but that question was so obviously unidirectional …).

All in all, it was a funny, interesting and inspiring conversation. As a want-to-be writer with a want-to-be illustrator for sister, it was a pleasure listening to two professional discussing about their works. I put myself in a hour long queue, with frozen feet in still wet shoes, just to thank them in person. Again, thanks for the dreams and the inspiration, Mr. Gaiman. Thanks for the kindness and thanks because when I confided you my ambition, my own dream, you haven’t laughed, nor with you mouth, nor with your eyes, but you gave me some serious advice.

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell have said goodbye with a juicy news : they are working on a new story of Odd*, with Chris illustrations ! (*happydance*)

Infact, today, in Mr Riddell’s Tumblr – Sketckbook, I found these revealing sketches !!!

for more, see : Sketchbook, tumblr blog of Chris Riddell, with daily lives, funny and entertaining sketches ! Click on the pic, go go go !!!  

— — —

notes :
*The mistranslation of the french term ‘vair‘, fur, that became ‘verre‘, glass, as it was reported for decades, is apparently false. For more, see : World Wide Words : Glass Slippers
*variants : is a technical term for the many retellings of a classic folk story, or fairy tale. So you can read the Grimm variant of Cinderella, Aschenputtel, with the elder stepsister that cut off her toes in order to fit the slipper, but you have to know that there are many other variants that diverge from it. Or Little Red Riding Hood variants.  For more, see : Folklore and mythology Electronic Texts .    
*Storia del Folklore in Europa by Giuseppe Cocchiara 
*Trigger Warning contains, among others stories, Sleeper and the Spindle, obviously without illustrations.
*You can find an Odd and the Frost Giant version illustrated by Chris Riddell that will be published on 8 September 2016. I think that at Hay Festival Neil and Chris were talking of a different, original story of Odd, that has yet to be written.