First off, this was just a guy visiting, but he looked so much like Damon Gant from Ace Attorney games I had to snap a pic (he bent his head just as I took it but you can still see the resemblance):
Neil's bookstore Dreamhaven sets up shop in the Welcome Center.
Friends and fans begin to arrive.
I already mentioned that my first duty was registration on Friday. My second duty was to let the 200 or so people who had lined up outside into the tent to get out of the 45 degree weather and 7 mph wind. I then got to man the door as upwards of 800 or so people filed in. Finally, I met Steve Paulson, the moderator for the evening, and Neil and his entourage at the side door. They were, as a group, moving forward while talking about how to conduct the evening. I asked if they wanted to go in and the answer was affirmative. As they entered, the crowd began to applaud. At which point one of the entourage said, "You aren't suppose to see us yet." And I believe it was Neil who said, "It was just too damn cold. Pretend you don't see us."
Sue Donaldson, President of the House on the Rock, then said a few words and the evening began.
Big tent. With bleachers in the back. Because of the wind, the sides were not secured and therefore the heat was want to escape. Luckily people took the suggestion to bundle.
The Storyteller at work.
There were some great questions, and some great lines from Neil. Hell, every other line from Neil was great. I wanted to write them all down. (Someone from another blog had this one re: Wisconsin winters "I've lived here for 18 years, and I'm still confused. WHY are we HERE?")
One question was "What do you do if you start a story and it doesn't turn out?" The answer was " put it away. The Graveyard Book came from an idea back in the 80s where a boy wandered into a graveyard and was raised by ghosts. It wasn't until I read an article about a girl who survived a civil war by hiding from the death squads in a cemetery that I realized that the graveyard wasn't just a place to go, it was sanctuary."
When asked "why do some people become mythic figures - such as Elvis or John Lennon, and others do not?" he pondered for a bit and eventually talked out that perhaps it has to do with when you die. If you die at the right moment in your own personal story arch, you become a myth. He also pointed out that some myths disappear and loose their strength, such as the "Paul is Dead" myth.
I have a confession to make - something that has bugged me about the book American Gods since I first heard it on tape soon after I got my job at The House on the Rock and listened to it on my 45 minute each-way commute. Neil answered for me, which makes me feel better. I didn't like American Gods as a novel. It didn't have a strong enough plot, I thought. He hyped the clash of the gods throughout the whole book, and then, it just sort of fell flat. Plus, there were all those confusing short story asides stuck in there - about Bilquist, and the Ifrit, and the slaves and the prehistoric god.... Well, someone asked if American Gods would ever be made into a movie. Neil said he specifically wrote it so that it couldn't. He had been writing a lot of scripts at that time in his life, and wanted this to be a sort of "fuck you" to the film industry. It was not 120 pages, it did not have the prerequisite rising action / falling action.
It was suppose to be messy.
Which reminds me of yet another line of discussion (I should mention I am going from streight memory. I did not have my notebook on me to jot any of this down). Someone asked about Joseph Campbell, and Neil admitted to liking one of his books, he also said that he never read others, saying as he started one, "I thought, 'I should not be reading this'. Because, it was like, if I'm doing my job, I should already be doing this." He said there was another book he picked up once about the plot of fairy tails, which again, he put back down because he thought "I should not read this." I guess that's the closest I've ever had someone state the reasoning, however true or flawed, for me wanting to be a writer, but not wanting to go to college for writing....
The best line of the night, pretty much all would agree, was when Neil told the story of how he started blogging as a way to show the road from completing a book (American Gods) to it being sold, which he always thought was a section missing in most stories about books and writing (it usually goes from an author typing "The End" on the typewriter and pulling the page out with a flourish, then a cut to a spinning headline "Famous Author Releases Next Best Seller!"). He admitted he doesn't blog nearly as much as he used to, mainly since the advent of Twitter. "Twitter is to blogging as crack cocaine is to a fine red wine."
I do have a video of Neil making an American Gods mass media reveal, which I will post if it does actually happen....
hint: it's not a movie.
Finally -- to end Friday - Neil did his first of three signings. This one was to go from 10:15pm-12:15am but went about 45 minutes overtime (the most we ever went over for any event I think - I think that was about how much the costume contest was over its time as well.) We all learned some valuable lessons which were applied to the mid-day Saturday signing and the early morning Sunday one.