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A Visual Companion
By Stephen Jones
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Book
Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. -G. K. Chesterton
Many years ago, in a house not far from the sea, a writer made up a bedtime story for his young daughter.
That's because that is what writers do.
This particular writer's name was Neil, and the little girl was called Holly.
The years passed, as years are wont to do, and the story was still not finished.
By now the family lived in another country-many hundreds of miles away from where the story was first begun. Then another little girl came along, and her name was Maddy.
In time, she also wanted to hear a bedtime story. So the writer decided to finish the tale that he had started all those years earlier for the other daughter.
And when, eventually, he did finally come to the end of his story, it was only then that the writer went looking for someone to publish it ...
Neil Gaiman was born in the market town of Portchester, Southeast England, in 1960. Five years later, his family moved into an old manor house with ten acres of ground in the East Sussex town of East Grinstead (he's on the town's Hall of Fame Web site).
As a youngster, Gaiman grew up reading the works of C. S. Lewis, Lord Dunsany, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock. After leaving school, he became a journalist, contributing articles, interviews, and reviews to a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. He sold his first professional story in 1984, along with a biography of 1980s pop idols Duran Duran.
"That's the kind of thing you do when you're a twenty-two-year-old journalist and somebody offers you money," Gaiman explains. "It was great. Not only did I pay the rent, but that biography bought me an electric typewriter."
Today, he is one of the most acclaimed comics writers of his generation, most notably for his epic World Fantasy Award-winning Sandman series (1989-96, collected into various volumes), The Books of Magic (1989), and Death: The High Cost of Living (1993). He is also the author of the novels Neverwhere (1996), Stardust (1999), American Gods (2001), Anansi Boys (2005), Interworld (2007, with Michael Reaves), Odd and the Frost Giants (2008), and The Graveyard Book (2008).
"People would say-like with Stardust-'Well, it's great, but it's not Sandman,'" he reveals. "And I'd say, 'Well, Sandman took me seven years to write, it's two thousand pages long, over ten volumes, it's enormous. Stardust was barely sixty thousand words. Why are you comparing these two?'"
Gaiman's other books include Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion (1988), Ghastly Beyond Belief (1984, with Kim Newman), Now We Are Sick (1991, with Stephen Jones), The Sandman Book of Dreams (1996, with Edward E. Kramer), The Dangerous Alphabet (2008, with Gris Grimly), and numerous graphic novel collaborations, most notably with artist Dave McKean. Angels & Visitations: A Miscellany (1993) is a best-selling collection of his short fiction that won the International Horror Guild Award. It was followed by Smoke and Mirrors (1998), Adventures in the Dream Trade (2002), Fragile Things (2006), and M Is for Magic (2007).
He created the 1996 BBC miniseries Neverwhere (with comedian Lenny Henry) and scripted the English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki's acclaimed Princess Mononoke (1999), a fifth-season episode of TNT's Babylon 5 ("Day of the Dead," 1998), and Robert Zemeckis's 3-D motion-capture epic Beowulf (2007, written with Roger Avary). Gaiman also wrote and directed A Short Film About John Bolton in 2003, while Mathew Vaughn's Stardust (2007) was adapted from his novel of the same name.
In the early 1990s, Neil Gaiman was beginning to make a name for himself as a writer of comic books. He had also recently collaborated on a very successful humorous novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990), with best-selling author Terry Pratchett.
"My daughter Holly was about four or five years old," he recalls, "and she used to come home from school and she'd see me sitting and writing. She would then clamber up onto my knee and dictate little stories to me.
"These were normally about small girls named Holly, whose mothers would invariably be kidnapped by evil witches who looked like their mothers. Then the evil witches would lock them in cupboards and other places.
"They were scary, nightmarish four-year-old girl stories. And I thought, 'Well, she obviously likes this sort of thing, and I like this sort of thing. Why don't I go out and find a book like this for her?'
"But I couldn't find anything even remotely like that. So, I thought, 'Okay then, I'll write one.' So I started writing this book."
"Coraline was a story that my dad read me bits and pieces of when I was a little girl," Holly Gaiman remembers, "a story that he started writing for me, that nobody else had ever heard or read. It's a lovely story, one that's both haunted and inspired me since I was a little girl."
After completing three or four chapters in his own time while working on Sandman, in 1991 Gaiman took the pages up to London book publisher Victor Gollancz to show to his editor on Good Omens.
"He was a very nice, very perceptive, very brilliant man named Richard Evans," recalls the author. "So Richard read it, and the next time I saw him he said, 'Let's talk about that book you gave me, Coraline.'"
An experienced editor, Evans was extremely impressed by the chapters he had read, and told the young author that it was probably the best thing he had ever written. However, there was just one problem. Did he realize that it was not publishable?
"I said, 'No,'" Gaiman reveals. '"Why is it not publishable?' And he said, 'Well, because you're writing a novel that is aimed both at children and at adults. Nobody can publish something that is for both kids and adults.' You have to remember that this was long before Harry Potter.
Excerpted from Coraline by Stephen Jones Copyright © 2009 by Stephen Jones . Excerpted by permission.
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