A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I’d picked up Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels over winter break and read the entire series several times. I have to wait a few months for the next installment, so I’ve been reading her author blog in the meantime. As a long time Neil Gaiman fan, I got a big kick out of last week’s post:
“I did some lightning plotting last week about a book I want to write. I’m fascinated by cemeteries, and I thought it would be interesting to write a book set in a cemetery. I imagined the protagonist, a girl raised by ghosts in a cemetery, and I began figuring out how she’d live, how she’d avoid being taken in by the state and put in a group home, and what she would do to pass her days in such a lifeless place. Then I went on Amazon and clicked on Fiction, then on Cemetery, and found that Neil Gaiman has already written a book with a similar premise.
So, what do I do now? Let my lovely idea go? Buy the Gaiman book, and read it enviously? Purchase every copy on earth and burn it?
Can I salvage my own idea? I haven’t decided yet. I would have been happier if I hadn’t checked, I think.”
And in the wonderful way that the internet works, another crossover fan spotted her post and emailed Neil to tell him about it. He commented on his blog:
“Sometimes I think that ideas float through the atmosphere like huge squishy pumpkins, waiting for heads to drop on. I remember back in 1989 Terry Pratchett and I plotting a novel once about a serial killer who kills serial killers, and we had most of the pieces in place, and then both of us realised we'd have to actually write it, which seemed like less fun than making it up, and so we left it. I would have put him in the Serial Killer's convention in Sandman, but he just didn't fit. And I was pleased when I saw the Dexter books that that pumpkin had finally landed on the head of somebody else, who wanted to write them. Sometimes you're just lucky that the pumpkin lands on you first.
But the truth is, it's not the idea, it's never the idea, it's always what you do with it. I remember Jonathan Carroll telling me to "Write it new", when we talked about how I had thrown out a whole Sandman storyline on reading Bones of the Moon. And I'm pleased I went back and wrote A Game of You. Charlaine's Cemetery Girl, if she writes it and I hope she does, would be different in every way from The Graveyard Book, because that's how it works.”
This all left me with a case of the warm fuzzies…it’s neat when authors you like acknowledge each other.
Here’s a little video I took of Neil during The Graveyard Book tour. About three minutes in he talks a bit about where the idea came from…or at least where his main character came from: