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Terry Pratchett on Neil Gaiman

I met Neil in 1985, when The Colour of Magic had just come out. It was my first ever interview as an author. Neil was making a living as a freelance journalist and had the pale features of someone who had sat through the review showings of altogether too many bad movies in order to live off the freebie cold chicken legs they served at the receptions afterwards (and to build up his contacts book, which is now the size of the Bible and contains rather more interesting people). He was doing journalism in order to eat, which is a very good way of learning journalism. Probably the only real way, come to think of it.

He also had a very bad hat. It was a grey homburg. He was not a hat person. There was no natural unity between hat and man. That was the first and last time I saw the hat. As if subconsciously aware of the bad hatitude, he used to forget it and leave it behind in restaurants. One day, he never went back for it. I put this in for the serious fans out there: If you search really, really hard, you may find a small restaurant somewhere in London with a dusty grey homburg at the back of a shelf. Who knows what will happen if you try it on?

Anyway, we got on fine. Hard to say why, but at bottom was a shared delight and amazement at the sheer strangeness of the universe, in stories, in obscure details, in strange old books in unregarded bookshops. We stayed in contact.

[SFX: pages being ripped off a calendar. You know, you just don’t get that in movies anymore . . .]

And one thing led to another, and he became big in graphic novels, and Discworld took off, and one day he sent me about six pages of a short story and said he didn’t know how it continued, and I didn’t either, and about a year later I took it out of the drawer and did see what happened next, even if I couldn’t see how it all ended yet, and we wrote it together and that was Good Omens. It was done by two guys who didn’t have anything to lose by having fun. We didn’t do it for the money. But, as it turned out, we got a lot of money.

. . . Hey, let me tell you about the weirdness, like when he was staying with us for the editing and we heard a noise and went into his room and two of our white doves had got in and couldn’t get out; they were panicking around the room and Neil was waking up in a storm of snowy white feathers saying ‘Wstfgl?,’ which is his normal ante-meridian vocabulary. Or the time when we were in a bar and he met the Spider Women. Or the time on tour . . .

This is an extract from the hardback edition of Good Omens, published by Gollancz.

Read the rest of Terry’s tale on the Gollancz blog.