So. You’re going to interview Neil Gaiman.
You must be so excited! Neil Gaiman!
Well, you know. It’s just a job. Should be interesting.
Ooh, get you, Cool Hand Luke. “Interesting”? You’re a huge Gaiman fan.
Well, I wouldn’t say “fan”, as such. I’m too old to be a “fan” of anyone.
Get out of it! You’ve been reading his stuff since way back. Remember when you first bought Sandman? What was that? Late 1988? You’d have been 18…
Yeah. I was on the journalism course at Preston Polytechnic. There was a comic shop at the bottom of Friargate. Thunderbooks. I can remember picking that first issue up. But I knew Gaiman’s work before that. I loved Violent Cases… The Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia charity comic… And I used to be cool, remember. Or I thought I was. I read The Face every month.
So you are a fan…
I am an admirer of his work. Not a fan of the person. I don’t know him. It would be weird to say I was a fan of Neil Gaiman the person when I haven’t even met him.
But you are going to meet him…
What’s the matter with you? Why are you so frightened?
I’m not frightened! Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve been a journalist for nearly 24 years. Nobody frightens me any more. There are just good interviews and bad interviews, that’s all.
But you’re still… Anxious, let’s say. Do you want to know why I think that is?
One, you’re worried he’ll think you’re an arsehole.
Why would he think that?
Because you can be, sometimes, especially around people you admire. You always try to say something clever or unusual, try to be a bit different, hope they’ll remember the interview.
You make it sound a bit desperate.
It is. Remember when you said to Nick Clegg “Do you ever wake up sweating in the night and think, ‘Oh, God, I’m in a coalition with the Conservatives’.”? Or when you tried to get Derren Brown to admit he really did have psychic powers and the stage magic stuff was a double bluff? Or when you asked Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister, what his favourite biscuit was?
That did have some context, though. But yeah, perhaps you’re right, maybe I’m worried about appearing an idiot.
Two, you’re worried that you’ll think he’s an arsehole.
Everyone’s says he’s really nice.
But what if you just don’t like him? What if your hero has feet of clay? What if you think he’s full of himself, up his own backside?
I’m professional enough not to let that affect the interview.
But it’s Neil Gaiman. Isn’t it better not to meet him and avoid the risk of not liking him?
No. Because that won’t affect my admiration for his work. Like I said, I’m 43, not some squeeing fanboy. Is that it?
No. You’re also wracked with guilt because it’s you’re wife Claire’s birthday and you’re going to London to meet Neil Gaiman. I mean to say…
Claire doesn’t mind.
Well, maybe she does. But she knows how important this is to me…
Okay, okay. Maybe you’re right about all those things. Happy now?
I’ll be happy when you’re happy. I am you, remember.
So, how did it go?
Oh my God it was amazing. He’s such a genuinely nice bloke, I can’t believe it. He really is lovely. We had a great chat. I’m so glad I went.
Did you ask him anything embarrassing?
We-ee-ll… You’ll have to wait until the piece comes out.
Did you tell him you cried at the end of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane?
I did not cry! I had something in my eye.
Ah we’ll, so long as… Hang on, you didn’t, did you?
You didn’t force a copy of your own book on him, did you?
No, it wasn’t like that! I just mentioned it and he was like “Yes! Give it to me!” And he asked me to sign it.
You signed your own book. And gave it to Neil Gaiman. Your. Own. Book. Neil. Gaiman.
Christ, you really never change, do you?