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.









Hay Festival !

Howdy !

Many things happened since the last time I wrote here. Maybe you didn’t even notice the new reviews and Themes first post !  If this is the case, click the follow links  ! [Neverwhere/Nessun Dove; The Changeling/Il Bambino Scambiato; Gala Cox e il Mistero dei Viaggi nel tempo; A Single Man/Un Uomo Solo; La ricerca della felicità/ The Pursuit of Happyness]

Salve !

Sono successe tante cose dall’ultima mia puntata qui. Forse non vi siete nemmeno accorti delle nuove recensioni e del primo post nella sezione Themes*! Se questo è il caso, cliccate nei link qui sopra !

Torno or ora da una settimana pazzesca in Galles, più precisamente nella città dei libri, Hay-on-Wye.

UK map

Questo piccolo paesino vicino al confine con l’inghilterra, (tanto da essere stato in passato diviso in due zone, una gallese e una inglese), è il regno incontrastato di Richard Booth, autonominatosi King of Hay nel 1977. E’ a lui che si deve l’incredibile quantità di libri presenti in ogni angolo della cittadina. Un paradiso per ogni lettore, dai collezionisti ai cacciatori di prime edizioni, dai bibliofili agli esperti bibliotecari, che sapranno quando comprare un buon libro di seconda mano e quando invece starne alla larga. Trovo che la  Richard Booth Bookshop sia una delle librerie più belle, impossibile non fermarsi tra i suoi scaffali, anche se solo di passaggio.

E’ stato un viaggio in solitaria il mio, organizzato con pochi mesi d’anticipo, risorse risicate, abbondantemente rimpinguate dall’ entusiasmo. La sola idea di incontrare e sentire parlare autori che stimo da anni mi ha messo le ali ai piedi !

Un’esperienza unica e indimenticabile, passeggiare tra le vecchie case di pietra, le strette stradine, e gli scaffali delle sue innumerevoli librerie, (più di trenta, sparse per tutto il centro città); fermarsi a sbirciare tra gli honesty bookshops, specie quello del castello seicentesco;Visitare le librerie mi ha fatto una buffa impressione. Avevo quasi la sensazione di trovarmi in biblioteche vecchie e polverose, poi giravo l’angolo e vedevo scaffali e tavoli di ultime novità. Quasi mi girava la testa. Mi mancava il fiato. E’ come partecipare a una caccia al tesoro, entri, giri e non sai cosa potrai mai trovare nascosto in mezzo a tutti quei volumi con rilegature e copertine che hanno il triplo dei tuoi anni. Ci sono libri da 50 pence, e ci sono libri da 270 sterline. Triplicate per cento, per mille, la sensazione che abitualmente provate, o voi che vivete di libri, nell’entrare in una normale libreria, all’IBS o alla Feltrinelli ad esempio, e avrete un’idea di come mi sono sentita io.

Ma Hay-on- Wye non è solo “libri”. Visitare la città e i suoi dintorni significa anche passeggiare e fare trekking lungo il Wye Riverside, o perdersi attraverso l’Offa’s Dike Path, con le sue antiche cattedrali, i castelli, i cavalli selvaggi, le pecore al pascolo, i sentieri lunghissimi. E’ ammirare il verde delle colline e il cielo in continuo mutamento nel Brecon Beacons National Park;  è scoprire le vetrine di antiquari e rilegatori, di pub come l’Old Black Lion, che ha più di quattrocento anni, e di cianfrusaglie tra le più eccentriche e bizzarre che mi sia mai capitato di vedere. Hay-on-Wye, Y Gelli in cymraeg ( gallese), è un borgo antico e pacifico che sa riservare delle sorprese, e che improvvisamente a maggio si riempie di macchine fotografiche, automobili, passaporti da tutto il mondo.  Compreso il mio.

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E altrettanto unico è stato partecipare agli eventi organizzati dall‘Hay Festival di quest’anno. Non sapete cos’è l’Hay Festival? Il corrispettivo in Italia probabilmente lo troviamo nel Salone del Libro di Torino.

Bill Clinton definì l’Hay Festival come il “Woodstock della mente”: un’ autentica kermesse letteraria e culturale immersa nel verde, con incontri e conferenze di autori e personalità tra le più conosciute, su un range di argomenti estremamente variegato. C’era ad esempio Kazuo Ishiguro a presentare The Buried Giant, il suo nuovo romanzo, capace di dividere in due lettori affezionati e critica; c’erano studenti e ricercatori di famose università, come Cambridge, a parlare di come il linguaggio dia forma alla personalità di ognuno di noi; c’era Alan Bennett, che ha parlato del suo breve romanzo ‘La Signora nel Furgone’, pubblicato nel 1999, già opera teatrale, ora  trasposta in un film di Nicholas Hytner, che vede la straordinaria Meggie Smith nei panni della scorbutica quanto straordinaria Miss Sheperd. C’erano Angie Sage, Chaterine Fisher, Neil Gaiman e Chris Riddel, che hanno discorso di storie vecchie e nuove. C’erano Stephen Fry e Jude Law per il famoso evento di lettura pubblica con testi tratti da Letters of Note.

C’erano laboratori di disegno e illustrazione per grandi e piccoli, scrittura e recitazione. C’erano storici e ambientalisti. E c’era Bear Grylls a parlare di sopravvivenza nelle situazioni più catastrofiche, come sempre.

Sul sito della BBC potrete vedere la programmazione di diverse interviste realizzate durante il festival. Se siete residenti nel Regno Unito potrete anche ascoltare alcune registrazioni.  Purtroppo non potrò raccontarvi nel dettaglio tutti gli eventi, ma ho scritto il resoconto di quelli a cui ho potuto/voluto partecipare, quelli che mi interessavano di più come lettrice e fan appasionata. Nei prossimi giorni quindi pubblicherò un articolo per ognuno dei seguenti appuntamenti :

26 maggio 2015, 4 p.m. : Angie Sage and Catherine Fisher – Starlight Stage – £ 5.00

29 maggio 2015, 11.30 a.m. : Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddel – Tata Tent – £9.00

29 maggio 2015, 8.30 p.m. : Neil Gaiman talks to Claire Armitstead – Telegraph Stage – £8.00

30 maggio 2015 7.00 p.m. : Amanda Palmer – Telegraph Stage – £8.00

IMG_20150530_152614IMG_20150528_173331autografo Angie Sage