‘I promise it won’t be boring,’ says Neil Gaiman of his Boston show on April 29

Neil Gaiman has a live show in Boston on April 29.
Neil Gaiman has a live show in Boston on April 29.courtesy of MasterClass

“The first one I ever did was in Northampton, Mass,” said Neil Gaiman of his live shows. “I think it was 1993 or maybe 1994. And back then all I remember was just this stage fright.” These days Gaiman, author of everything from the children’s classic “Coraline” to the Sandman comic book series to the novel “American Gods,” is much more comfortable before an audience, where he likes to blend readings of old and new work, answering audience questions, and even acting out bits from TV series. (“Coraline” was adapted as a movie in 2009, “American Gods” became a TV series in 2017, and the Netflix series based on “The Sandman” is due to launch this year.) The tour starting next week is his first since the pandemic began.You get an evening with me, and I promise it won’t be boring,” he said. Gaiman will come to Boston later this month, performing at 8 p.m. Friday, April 29, at the Emerson Colonial Theatre. He spoke to the Globe by phone from England.

You’ve written everything from novels to comic books to television scripts. Do you have a favorite literary form?


My favorite is that I’m allowed to move from one to another. I can think of nothing that would feel more limiting than to just only be able to make one thing. It’s being able to pop from doing a giant television series to writing a poem that actually is my favorite thing.

What is it like to juggle so many projects that are ongoing and collaborative, and at the same time find the time and space to be creative on your own?

I guess for me the pendulum moving backwards and forwards between those two things is one of the things that actually gives some joy. There’s nothing like writing on your own for a year or two to make you really feel a bit lonely. I remember writing “American Gods,” which was about two years’ worth of writing. By the end of it I felt like I was beginning to forget how to actually interact with other human beings. Whereas working in film or television, it’s like you join this fabulous troupe of people who are all trying to make the thing that you’re making, and everybody is smart and friendly and helpful. But then after a while, you start pining for just what it’s like to create something where nobody else gets to have any kind of say in it. So I love being able to move from one to the other.


Do you listen to music while you write?

I do. For the first half of my writing career, I would just listen to anything that I loved while I wrote. Over the last 15 or 20 years I’ve found it harder and harder to listen to anything that has lyrics, because I stop and I listen to the lyrics and I keep processing the lyrics while I’m trying to write. So I tend now to write to more instrumental music and occasionally also to write to music in foreign languages. Because if I’m listening to Argentinian Magnetic Fields covers I actually don’t listen to them in the same way that I would listen to the Magnetic Fields because I’m not stopping and processing these lovely Stephin Merritt lyrics.


Is there actually an Argentinian Magnetic Fields cover band?

There is! [The album is called] “Alvy, Nacho y Rubin interpretan a Los Campos Magnéticos.” They’re marvelous.

What other kinds of music are you into right now?

I love Michael Nyman soundtracks — his Peter Greenaway movie soundtracks I can always write to. I can put that music on and go into a kind of lovely fugue state. I love Brian Eno. “The Spanish Model” — Elvis Costello recently had Spanish-speaking artists cover his album “This Year’s Model” using the original backing tracks. I found that to be something I could write to with enthusiasm.

A scene from Focus Features' animated 3-D film "Coraline," adapted from the children's classic by Neil Gaiman.
A scene from Focus Features' animated 3-D film "Coraline," adapted from the children's classic by Neil Gaiman.

Are your kids and now your grandkids fans of your work?

My oldest kids, I didn’t have any children’s books when they were little. I like the fact that I get to be the person who wrote “Coraline” in their world. Probably the thing that made me most popular in the family were the adventures of Chu the sneezing panda. You can make a 1-year-old or an 18-month-old laugh with the Chu books and that is an incredibly impressive thing. I love that Adam Rex did these incredible drawings for them.

Do the drawings that people do for your books and comics ever influence how you write?

One of the things I would always do before working with a new artist in comics is call them up and ask them a couple of questions. The first question is always, “Is there anything you’ve always wanted to draw that nobody’s asked you to draw?” And the second was, “Is there anything you particularly hate drawing?” And the answers to those two questions would affect what I wrote for them and the way that I wrote for them.


You’ve been at this for a long time. Are you still having fun?

I am, aren’t I? Yes, it’s actually really weird. Next year I will have been 40 years earning all of my income as a professional writer. I was 22 when I began.

Tickets $36-$111; 888-616-0272, www.emersoncolonialtheatre.com

Interview was edited and condensed.

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