Published: 25 March 2015

Neil Gaiman: “Popularity comes in waves”

School of the Arts student, Lauren Whittingham, reports on Neil Gaiman’s Master Class in creative writing.

“Neil Gaiman is an internationally renowned writer of fantasy and horror literature and is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the ‘top ten living post-modern writers.’

Students at the University of Liverpool were fortunate enough to learn from this inspirational writer at a special literary master class this month. Having such an esteemed writer come to visit our University was both exciting and enlightening, particularly hearing, first hand, his reading of two short stories from his latest published work, Trigger Warning.

It is always interesting to hear a writer read their own stories in their own voice; it gives us a unique insight into what the stories sounded like in their minds before, during and after they were written.

We also had the opportunity to ask him questions about his work and the process of writing to help us understand the inspirations and level of work that goes into producing a piece of original creative writing – here are some of the highlights:

Does the popularity of gothic texts lessen their literary impact?

“No – popularity comes in waves. Sometimes there is lots of material in one genre and others there’s not. It seems to be related to how dangerous the outside world feels; the more dangerous the more popular the dark stories.”

What advice would you give to budding writers?

“Write! That’s my first piece of advice, I’m not kidding. Finish things! Show your stories to people, circulate them around the world, publish them online, send them to publishers. And write as much as you can, not because the first novel will be amazing, but because you need to get that first one out of your system so better ones can come afterwards.”

How do you break writers block?

“I have a theory: writers block is made up by writers because we’re clever! I don’t believe in it. I think there’s just getting stuck. Perhaps you get stuck because something’s just wrong – your motivation is wrong, you’ve gone off the rails a bit… or you’re just having a hard time writing, but you can still write when that happens.

“You won’t write as much as you do on a good day, but if you look at it the next day you’ll find that it’s not so bad, it’s fixable. When your story is finished, some of it will be written on good days when the writing gods were smiling down upon you and some on bad; but you can never tell which sections were done on which days because it all sounds like you!”

What inspires you to write for children and what inspires you to write for adults?

“I have a story in my head I need to get out into the world. For adults, they are stories I would really like to read myself which I wouldn’t be able to unless I write them, which is kind of like the experience of reading. With children usually I have a specific child in mind; Coraline was inspired by my own children.”

Neil Gaiman’s lecture and master class was a perfect way to open the new Centre for New and International Writing. The Centre aims to encourage students to explore the creative world and to support and encourage new writing. Who better to launch such a venture than Gaiman, who makes the pursuit of a professional writing career seem less like a dream and more like a reality.”

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