Neil Gaiman is one of the most popular authors in the world, but if you were to ask five random fans for their favorite Gaiman book the odds are good that they would each have a different answer. Some love the Sandman comic book series that launched Gaiman’s career in the 1990s; others swear by his blockbuster novel “American Gods;” still others were entranced by his creepy stories for young readers like “Coraline;” and some adore his less-categorizable works, like his brilliantly accessible adaptation of Scandinavian myths, “Norse Mythology.”

Gaiman spoke with The Seattle Times on the phone in mid-March, on the eve of his first world tour since the pandemic began, which includes a May 1 appearance at Benaroya Hall.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

How do you feel about returning to readings after a year away?

This tour is spring and autumn of 2020’s tours mashed together — all the postponed gigs from back then all done in one mad tour. I’m pleased to be doing it and I’m nervous about doing it. I’m very, very out of practice, and it’s going to be interesting to see what it’s like getting up in front of a whole new audience.

Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” during lockdown from the bubonic plague. Did you write your “King Lear” during lockdown, and how was your relationship to writing during that time?

I have two answers, both of which are true. I came out of essentially a two-year period, of which about 16 months was spent in full lockdown, going, “I wish I’d known that I was going into lockdown. I probably would have closed everything down and written a novel.”


But on the other hand, I came out of it with either having written or having supervised the writing of six episodes of “Anansi Boys,” six episodes of “Good Omens 2,” showrunning “Sandman,” which was actually shooting during lockdown, and getting a bunch of introductions and articles and various bits and bobs written. So it would’ve been nice to have written “King Lear,” but instead I wrote “Good Omens 2,” which definitely has more jokes than “King Lear.”

One of the things I find really interesting about your career is that you’re actively shepherding your work through the process of adaptation. Could you talk your philosophy of adaptations?

When I started, I was very much on the [“Watchmen” author] Alan Moore side of the fence. Alan was like, “I have written my thing and if somebody comes along and adapts it, then it is whatever it is and that does not affect what I have written.”

And then I watched Alan getting more and more hurt by adaptations that seemed a long way from the things that he’d had in his head, and that he’d cared about.

So I decided that it would be much wiser to be in a place where I could make them, or, at least affect how they were made. So, when I finished writing “Coraline,” I sent it to my movie agent and said, “please get this on Henry Selick’s desk, I would like him to direct it.” And Henry loved it, and I then spent literally 10 years supporting Henry — making sure that Henry had the rights to do it and so on and so forth — because I wanted to see Henry’s “Coraline.” I’m painfully aware that you can get bad adaptations of things. They just aren’t joyful. And I wanted something joyful.

So I’m loving being in control of “Anansi Boys” and I’m loving making “Good Omens 2,” and I’m loving being showrunner for “Sandman.” A lot of the time it just means you can say no when somebody has a really bad idea.


You recently tweeted your strong opposition to the banning of books in school libraries and the school curricula. As someone whose work has often been banned, do you feel like we’re entering a new phase of book banning? Do you think the problem is getting worse?

Yeah, I do. Because on the one hand you get the people who are banning books going, “there is no book-banning going on, you’re imagining it, all of these books are still out there.”

And on the other hand, you’re getting the assistant principal who was fired for reading a silly book about butts to the kids. That’s just wrong. And watching what happened with “Maus” — that hurt.

There’s a piece that I might actually read in Seattle which is my credo. It’s about ideas, and how repressing ideas spreads ideas. And what is important is getting ideas out from under the table and allowing them to be challenged, allowing them to be discussed, allowing people to think. That for me is the most important thing of all.

Is there anything that you think that lovers of books can and should be doing right now?


Honestly, I think right now, if I was going to recommend anything, I would just recommend that people get involved in your school boards, get involved in library boards — just get involved. The problem comes when the only people who are getting involved are the people who want to take things away from people. You run into enormous problems when library boards consist of people who think that libraries are dangerous and should go away, and when school boards are full of people who do not believe that children should be exposed to dangerous things like ideas.

Speaking of children, I mentioned on Twitter that I was interviewing you and Seattle novelist Kathleen Alcalá wanted to know if you think that children are wiser than adults.

I don’t know that children are wiser than adults, but I think a lot of the time children are smarter than adults. I have a 6-year-old who is smarter than I am, which is enormously fun on some levels and a daily challenge on others. Because he will absolutely think his way around me, and work two or three steps ahead, and I need to figure out ways to keep him engaged and keep him enjoying the world.

Does that smarter-wiser difference inform the way that you write children’s books?

It does, in a lot of ways, yeah. Because I also feel like kids are much more careful readers than adults. You can write a book for adults and you don’t have to know what every single word in your story is doing there. But you’d better know exactly what every word in a children’s book is doing, because that book’s going to be read by kids — hundreds of times, thousands of times. They will reread them, they will think about them, and they will write you letters pointing out where you got it wrong.

NWAA, KNKX 88.5 fm & The Stranger present: An Evening with Neil Gaiman

Gaiman’s reading at Benaroya Hall at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 1, is virtually sold out, but a limited number of tickets are still available through the Benaroya Hall box office at 206-215-4747.