“i want to write more doctor who. i want to write for capaldi”
what you did and you delete that sentence and you move that bit around and you tidy it up, and, you know, ten years later, you’re proofreading a big collected Sandman and you can’t remember what pages you wrote on the day when you said “I’m useless – why am I doing this?” and the day the words dripped from your fingers like liquid diamonds. You know you had the fantastic days. You know you had the hard days. But what you’re left with is the story. Sarah Halsted
For about 25 years I’ve been saying “no thank you” to offers to take Sandman to the big screen. It’s like a roundabout. It goes around again, and right now we are at that point where Joseph Gordon- Levitt – as a producer, and probably a director – and David Goyer and a writer named Jack Thorne are working on Sandman. Speaking as someone who’s watched these things happen, everybody does more or less the same thing for the first movie. You take the things you like from Preludes And Nocturnes and you take the bits you like from The Doll’s House, and you tend to take Rose Walker, because she’s a lovely viewpoint character, and you tend to take the structure of going and getting the helm and the sand and the ruby and use that as your movie structure. And you may go and take the serial killer’s convention or you may not… Even in the most terrible scripts – and there have been some terrible ones – that’s where they’ve gone. I do not want a bad Sandman movie to be made. I would prefer no Sandman film to a bad one. I would prefer a fantastic film that people walk away from stunned, enchanted and, more importantly, ordering their copies of the books to no Sandman film. But I’m very happy with no Sandman film and just the books. Do you ever find yourself as a puppet master with your characters, putting them through hell just because they are your creatures and you can? Or do you find an intrinsic quality in the character that you just can’t violate,
You make characters. You imbue them with a certain amount of life. You try and make them believable. You put the character in a situation. You watch how they react. People probably have the same conversation with God about creating characters with free will, and God’s trying to explain it. And He says “Well, yes, you create them with free will, but they’ve got these parameters. I know who Nick [ SFX] is.
I know who Neil is. There is no point during this conversation where they are both going to tear off their clothes, light up that fire, oil down and do naked wrestling like Oliver Reed. Because it’s Neil and Nick and they don’t do that.” Hard though it is to resist, obviously. Neither are we both going to levitate and hang around the ceiling, discussing our plans to take over the Earth. Equally tempting as that would be. Because we aren’t those people, and that would violate suspension of disbelief in anybody reading it. When I’m creating a character I want to believe in those characters. I want to believe in the things that they do. I want them to be consistent. I don’t need to understand everything about them.
That would make it fine for me, because obviously I created my Death, and that was part of the fun. So I would be perfectly happy with her showing up and saying “You know, you really should have looked both ways before you crossed that road.” I hope it’s a long time from now. When I do die I vaguely hope that the world is not going to be suddenly filled with drawings of Death taking Neil Gaiman by the hand and saying something cute… That I feel slightly more awkward about. And it almost definitely will happen. It’s one of those things that didn’t occur to me while I was writing it. But then again, I’m proud of her as a character, I love her very much. There are worse Deaths who could meet you.
Yeah, fucking write… Look, somebody once said to me “What do I do, because I want to be a writer and yet I do not write, I procrastinate, and I beat myself up over this.” I said “It’s fine. There are other people who’ll do the writing.” And it’s true. There are other people who will do it. How do you do it? You do it. You put one word after another. Are there elves in the night who will come and finish your stories for you? No, there aren’t. Is there a magic way that you can write your stories while still not writing them? No, there’s not. You do it one word at a time.
Merv Pumpkinhead. Because he’s a cigarsmoking, pumpkin- headed janitor who would not be scared by anything in a haunted house, and he would be absolutely reassuring. Plus he’d probably clean up a bit. And he would have opinions. I would feel very safe and comfortable with him. And he’s not going to do anything brilliant and unexpected. The last thing you want is to be with a brilliant and unexpected person. They might say “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” No! It’s a haunted house! You want somebody who’ll say “Hey, there’s tea over here. You want tea?”
Callum Trevitt I very much hope so. I want to write more
Doctor Who. I want to write for Peter Capaldi very, very much. He has an intensity that is amazing, and a power. He’s the first Doctor we’ve had since Christopher Eccleston to utterly dominate the scene. He doesn’t have to be saying anything and we’re still watching him. We’re still interested in him. And he’s tortured, in a fascinating sort of way. But he’s still the Doctor. That’s who you write for. If, unfortunately, Peter Capaldi was eaten by space goats the night that I finished my script, I’d hope my script would work for the next guy. It’s always about the Doctor. I have a few ideas. I got ideas for something that I would have loved to have done with Doctor Who when I wrote my Nothing O’Clock story for Puffin. And when I wrote it I thought maybe it’ll be like a charcoal sketch of something that I could come back to, in the same way that Steven Moffat went back to his Doctor
Who annual story for “Blink”. As it is, I feel like I did everything I wanted to do with those characters and those ideas in Nothing
O’Clock anyway, so I’d probably do something completely new. All I need is time. If people can have a whip- round, if all of your readers could send me a minute each, I will take the time they send.
No, I do not feed on lost sleep. On the other hand I do feed on all missed buses and train connections.
Words drip from his fingers like liquid diamonds. Some days.
Expect to see Rose Walker in any Sandman movie.
Merv Pumpkinhead: unafraid of spooks and willing to make the tea.
The Sleeper And The Spindle is published by Bloomsbury on 23 October.
Suranne Jones was Idris in Gaiman’s Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”.