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As a wannabe contemporary fantasy author, Neil Gaiman is both an inspiration and an eternal torment to me.

He is successful, has a public persona & rugged good looks of a rock & roll Bernard Black. Is an amazing net worker, an interesting public speaker and is about as far from your average trollish fantasy author as you can imagine, the latter tending to fanatically avoid sunlight, let alone public speaking.

To any writer worth his weight in literation, subtle subplots and descriptions of forests at midnight, hes the kind of guy you wish would take you for a pint and say, ‘Here you go. This is how you can get published. You do this, this, this and this and there you go. Youre sorted. Now you owe me a pint!

‘AND a packet of smoky bacon.

I also find solace in the fact that he & I share the same love for the works of H P Lovecraft, one of the 20th centuries most disturbing and fantastical authors, despite more than a passing resemblance to Bernard Bresslaw. Whose writing can be like rioters lighting tyres on your frontal lobe to the uninitiated.

But, for Neil, I have to say I have religiously avoided reading anything he has written, even Good Omens which everyone say’s is a great book, and might be a natural step for someone like me from the Pratchett camp.

Why you may ask, if he is such an inspiration?

Because quite simply there is nothing worse for a writer than to have an idea that you think is mind numbingly amazing and sends your plot into hyper drive, only to find it there in front of you on page 154 of the latest book by whoever.
Terry Pratchett once described ideas as floating through the Cosmos and occasionally hitting someone
s head. In this case its like its hit someone
s head, gone straight through and on some more until it hits yours.
Clive Barker did that to me.
Saw him in Folkestone in the 90
s, witty, intelligent, great anecdote about a morgue, but a piece from Weaveworld I swear I had had the day before I read it.

To be honest I simply can’t read and write during the same life period. They clash totally for me. Firstly because of the point above, but secondly, I don’t want to unknowingly absorb someone else’s style, or tiny mannerisms. If I’m writing it, I’d like an outside chance that it’s free of literary pollution, no matter how good that pollution might be.

In the end it’s still pollution. It might smother and suffocate the seagulls of original thought, leaving your ideas sadly washed up on the page, lifeless of the spirit that drove them.

Perhaps some authors, for some people, are not meant to be read, but simply to be a measure against which you will always set yourself. Something to aspire to and not to simply read.

Im the same with artists, personally I think Van Goghs paintings are crap, but his life was amazing.
Jackson Pollock, the same. Paintings that would make good wrapping paper, but a life that was so much more vibrant.

Being inspired may have nothing to do with reading something or seeing something. Maybe it’s simply knowing that something has been written or painted, and maybe knowing a little about the person responsible, is inspiration enough!


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