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One , two, one, two.
There we go, there we go.
Beautiful, well wrangled.
We're like grown-ups.
Ah, these are... All these skills that... I wonder if they'll ever be (of) use to us when this is all over.
I think will be almost definitely be harder to impress by some of these things. Bakers will not impress me as magicians any longer. I will look at them and go, I am one of your brethren, I know your secret baking knowledge, now.
Have you learnt bread?
I have learned bread.
The first bread that I made was so bad that it was inedible. About 35 minutes after it came out the oven, it hardened into something concrete-like. And having done that and been appalling at it, I was determined as my lockdown skill
To get it right. And now I'm incredibly good.
You've become one of these insufferable people who's entirely self-sufficient.
David Tennant does a podcast with:
So, Neil, in early Creative Writing classes at school, most of us are told that you start by writing about what you know. And you, apparently, have sold a great many books by doing completely the opposite of that. Is that fair or is it always a bit of autobiography in everything you write?
Oh, there's always autobiography! And there's always experience. You're always looking at what you're seeing. And then it's coming in, and then it's composting down.
And then it's coming out the other side and you're planting flowers in it. But there's also a level on which, when you write what you know, that includes interior landscapes, too. And that includes ways of telling a story that nobody's thought about. And I know... I know Doctor Who. I know about how wonderful graveyards are and how I can't walk through a graveyard without turning it into a town or at least a village that's populated in my head. You know, that stuff, so... So then you tell those stories.
Do you feel like you have been blessed, gifted, cursed, whatever you wanna call it, with a with a different way of seeing the world than most people?
It's very hard to answer that, having not looked out of anybody else's eyes.
Of course, yes!
I... You know, except in fiction, which is the magic of fiction. It does let us look out through other people's eyes. No, I don't. I think I was an over-imaginative kid who loved stories. And I've grown up to become an over-imaginative adult who still loves stories.
But you never imagined you were going to do anything else, you never had aspirations to pursue any other career?
No. Well, actually, when I was about 14 or 15, there was a thing at my school where they sent in an outside careers adviser. We'd spent a whole day doing tests and then the tests got evaluated. And then we went in and had a meeting with the careers adviser who would tell us what university courses or what we wanted to do to become what we wanted to do.
Based on the answers you'd given in this test.
Based on we've done a maths test and a spatial test and a... Literally done all these tests. And I remember going in and there was a long wait in the corridor. You, you got called down, it was 15 minutes each, and then the door opens and an enthusiastic school friend of mine came out and I went in and the guy said: So, young man, what do you want to do, then? And I said: I want to write American comics.
And, this would have been 1975-76, and he just looked at me for a bit and nobody said anything. And then he said: Well, how would you go about doing that then? And I said: I have utterly no idea. You're the outside careers adviser. You're meant to tell me. And then we sat there in silence for a while. And then he said: Have you ever thought about accountancy?
And I said, I had never thought about accountancy. And then we sat there some more. And, as I remember, and it was a long time ago, I said: Shall I show the next boy in? And he said: Yes, you might as well. And that was the entirety of my careers advice. But I definitely thought you couldn't get there from me.
Well, how does he get to accountancy from American comic books? Because your because your Maths test was so good?
I have no idea, because my Maths test wasn't that good.
I tend to daydream in Maths and I got a B at A level only because that was the very first year they allowed calculators.
And I learned how to use the calculator. Even if my Maths was lousy, my calculator skills were pretty good.
For more than just typing out the numbers so they read out rude words when you turned them upside down.
You could make those things say 'boobs'.
God, yes. Which is, you know, the joy of being a schoolboy. I seem to remember in a Maths class. Yeah.
It didn't get better than that.
No. Were you were you pretty good at school? I mean, a B in Maths is not bad. Presumably in English you were excelling, were you?
I was. I was really good at anything English-y, anything History, Religious Studies... There was definitely part of me that thought about being a theologian.
I wasn't quite sure what theologians did, but I loved the idea of just sort of playing around with... I hoped what theologians did was they could build religions like this here.
You thought you might be a God yourself in some way?
Well, no! I just like the idea of, you know, being a freelance religion-designer. People could phone me up and say, I want I want a religion, please. And I'd say, well, OK, what what what is your stance on sin? And they said, well, broadly, I think we're against it. Like, OK, I can I can go with that. Do you want a day off a week? How do you... You know, what about holidays and food? Do you want dietary restrictions? And I'd come up with something for them. But actually you just have to do that in fiction now - you have to make that up.
Yes. Well, it's one of the one of your themes, isn't it? The supernatural world, the world of theology, I suppose, and gods and mysticism. And is that where these ideas arose in your childhood, a fascination with that?
I think so. But I never remember not being interested in that stuff. You know, I don't have a I don't have an origin story, there isn't that point where you go: here. One day I was normal and the next I was bitten by a radioactive book and I turned into this thing.
Key weird moments for me would be watching William Hartnell as Doctor Who.
Aged four? I guess? Watching a little bit of a ITV version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I would have been six, and then making sure I got all of the Narnia books for my seventh birthday. And the Roger Lancelin Green Book of Egyptian mythology, Tales of Ancient Egypt and his tales of the Norsemen. You know, those they were huge. They were things that I can sort of put pins in now and go, OK, you you were important. You changed the way that I saw the world.
Because your parents were religious, weren't they? You grew up in a religious household. So was that, do you think that that kindled a fascination with that otherworldliness?
No, I think I was actually... I mean, I think one of the things that might have helped in a in a weird kind of way was the fact there were so many different religions floating around.
You know, I'm I'm a Jewish kid at a high church, Church of England school, you know, getting top marks in religious studies. On stuff that I don't entirely believe,
And, at the same time, I have Scientologist parents who are now sending me when by the time I was 10, 11 or 12, I'm going up to my incredibly Jewish North London relatives every weekend and for holidays to study for my bar mitzvah.
And so you've got all of this sort of stuff going on. And that added to DC Comics, which had its own theology. Michael Moorcock, when I was 11 or 12, the entirety of Michael Moorcock was being brought back in the press. And you get a new book every three or four weeks. And they all tied in in this sort of strange, theological kind of way. The eternal champion here, you had him as Elric, and here his courtroom, and here his all these other things. And then the Jerry Kornelius books fit in somehow. And being me, I was desperate to put that in. So that also became part of this huge sort of mouldering sludge of just sort of loving, loving ideas, loving all the things that people believed.
That is a cocktail of belief systems that you were rattling around in amongst. That is fascinating that you can sort of trace that fascination through your writing career. Can you? I think.
You really can. And I I mean, I love I love belief. I love the things that people do believe. I love the fact that humans are believing machines. We're also pattern-finding machines. We can find patterns and stories in anything. And one of the things that you learn as a writer is: all you need is a really good idea. And then you can set out and the world will demonstrate that it's true for you.
Yeah, you're fascinated by belief systems almost as a scientist rather than as someone who experiences them. You're kind of interested in how they see the web of them that can have the track of them.
I guess? The lovely thing for me as a writer, it's I'm really, really good at believing anything 100% while I'm writing it and while I need to build it so, you know, the Good Omens universe is a completely different universe to the Sandman universe. The Sandman universe is billions of years old. The Good Omens universe is basically 6000 years old. And then there's a bunch of time before that when they're building nebular and stuff and they haven't actually pressed the the time has started button.
And if I'm writing in one of them, I absolutely believe that because if I don't believe it, nobody else is going to.
It's interesting you said because I remember Russell T. Davis talking about writing Dr Who and saying that he found that that the hardest ones to do were the ones set in the future because you were starting from you had to clear the decks and go, OK, that's in this world, this is the rule.
And that builds on that. And you had to whereas if it's an alien invasion in 21st century London, so much that the set up is done for you if you're doing stuff here.
And I mean that Russell's genius was having this wonderful, warm, embracing early 21st century sort of soap opera comedy going on and also having Dr who going on at the same time and bringing the aliens into it. And so there was a genuine magic to that. And that was. Utterly brilliant. I'm probably better at the other, I'm I will use I use the here and now as a jumping off point, much more I but I love to use it as a springboard.
And I would head for that 25th century writing or the fiftieth. You know, when I did my. Doctor, who's one of the things I immediately did was head out into these worlds, yeah. And start building because it's such a part of for me, it's just part of the joy of Doctor Who. Yeah. Because the truth is, anything can do a really good story set now, but only doctor who can take you five minutes before the universe begins and and trap you there.
I'm always in awe of watching what Russell does and all of his variants on the here and the now and the near future and using that as a build up.
Of Map Gates was back in the 90s. I'm Akoto Frata. I am Tracy Clayton. We're celebrating our favorite boy bands, Army groups, the golden era of hip hop and Devah hits with a new podcast. My 90's playlist in each episode will celebrate one of our favorite songs, the lyrics, the music, how each song came to be, and the effect that each song had on the world.
Subscribe to my 19th playlist wherever you get your podcasts. When you start on something, how often do you know what it is you're going to right now? A lot of the time I'm I need to know a bunch of stuff before I can start like. And it depends.
Sometimes it can be how the thing I'm how it ends sometimes is incredibly important to know. Before you start, there's a project that I can't talk about right now that I'm writing with somebody I can't identify right now. This is a terrible way of doing that sort of thing where we've been working on it for months and months and we didn't.
We've been building everything up, but we didn't know how it ended. And finally we were in the same physical space, actually having a conversation that wasn't on the phone. And all of a sudden we had the ending and having the ending knowing beat by beat, just what the emotional ending of the thing was opened up the entire thing like a door, because we had the plot and we've had the plot for a while. We just weren't sure why, why we should care.
Everything turned and I immediately knew what the opening scene had to be. And what's lovely is nothing sort of really changes in the plot, but it now allows us to OK, that's important. That thing that we didn't know was important. That's that's going to be important. It gives us a feeling of or at least it gives me a feeling of sort of bubbly excitement, which means that anybody I can take on this journey is going to get to that place and be just as excited as I was.
Right. I remember writing good episode three. Yeah. All the stuff through time and the enormous battles I had with everybody involved in producing. Yes. Good omens, because every single entity involved in good omens would look at episode three and go, well, you can lose a few of those because there was this whole sequence.
I'm sure everyone has seen it. But there's this whole sequence where a zero villain Crawley are discovered through human history in various different versions of themselves and as their relationship develops over time. So it was, yes, a bit budget busting.
It was utterly budget busting. And I also knew it would make everything else work. Yes. And also it would make the scene that I knew that I was going to write in episode three. It would it would turn that from a scene that was a bit sniffily into one that would break people's hearts, because you'd actually spent 28 minutes watching the ups and downs of these two on Earth for 6000 years, becoming the only important thing in each other's lives.
And here is this moment where they are actually they have two utterly disparate philosophies of existing. And a Xeroform cannot go off with Crowley and Crowley cannot leave without him. But he has to. And you wind up with that. Have a nice doomsday line. Yeah, but the excitement that I had at writing that stuff and the joy I had in knowing that we're going to watch your relationship open like a flower to us, ending in the 1960s with the handover of the holy water and that there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house.
And I knew that because it did that for me then watching what you and Michael brought to it. And it became the most glorious, tentative friendship over thousands of years, that then becomes sort of peculiar and flirty and weird and, yeah, prickly and funny and glorious. And it became you know, it was the one that won me the nebular award.
Right. It's Michael and I's favorite sequence as well.
We've often said, yeah, it's interesting you talk about that, because I do remember I remember as that sequence was coming into being and we were we would sort of occasionally we'd shoot a scene from that. And amongst all the other scenes from the show and one that was always in the script was at Shakespeare's Globe, the first performance of Hamlet at Shakespeare's Globe.
But there was a you did affect change there, wasn't it? Because initially it was it was to be full.
It was to be a massive hit and and so that we could make it happen. Necessity became the mother of invention and you rewrote it and it sort of got better. If it did. It did.
Actually, it was one of those. Well, Steven Moffat had said something to me when I was grumbling to him at the beginning of making good omens. He said what he said, What I do is whenever they make me. To see for budget reasons, I try and replace it with a better scene. And I go back to the scene that I just had to cut and rewrite, I'm now going to replace with a scene that they're going to there will be YouTube clips of people are just going to love.
This is going to be the one that they point to. And I thought that was a fabulous philosophy rather than going in in a grumpy way. So when Douglas came to me and said, we can't do Shakespeare, and I said, why not? Surely we can afford the globe. And he said, we can afford the globe, but we can only be in there for five hours, 500 extras, bringing them in and out of that space.
Getting there isn't possible as Elizabethans.
Yeah, it breaks the budget and it breaks the time. We can't do it. And I said, hang on. Well, then if I'm losing 500 extras, can I afford Shakespeare?
Yeah. And he said, absolutely. And before you start shooting a scene, as you know, the heads of department and the people who are going to need to see things and, you know, the camera people and the lighting people, everybody and the sound, they come on and they watch a run through.
I've never before seen a crew applaud at the end of a scene except for that Shakespeare scene where we you guys, you and Michael and Reese and Adam are Hamlet. Yeah. Did the run through the scene and you had all of these jaded crew at seven o'clock in the morning just clapping and it was amazing.
Yeah, it's interesting because you're you're describing really thriving in that kind of collaborative environment.
But of course, there's a writer. A lot of your time is spent writing novels, whether there are no budgetary restrictions, where there are no producers to convince and necessity need not be the mother of invention because you just your mind is the only limitation to what was on the page. So it clearly collaboration works for you. And you you enjoy it and you sort of is that just who you are or is that because your writing career started in comic books where the act of collaboration is is key?
You know, it's half you and it's half the artist.
I was so thrilled because I thought, oh, when he stops talking, I'll say, no, David, it's because I started in comics and and then he said it and it's like, oh, yes, no, that's exactly what I think it is.
I grew up writing comics and the joy of comics is it's all collaborative for me. The most important thing. That would happen when I would be writing something like salmon, I would phone an artist I was going to be working with and I would say, what do you want to draw that nobody's ever let you draw before? What don't you like drawing?
What do you love drawing? Tell me. Tell me about what you like doing. And that way I would sort of go, OK, I can work to your strengths. I want to make my job is to make you as the artist, look good.
And I loved that. I loved the collaborative process. And I also love the fact that occasionally I would go and write prose where I wasn't at the mercy of an artist. So for me, there is a sort of there's always a joy to collaborating. And the day that you run out of joy, there's joy to being there with and it's just you and a piece of paper and nobody can tell you what to do because you're about to write your own novel or your own short story and.
It's you. Yeah, the first novel you wrote, of course, was also a collaboration, which was good omens. Yeah, with the late Terry Pratchett. And of course, at that time you are you were brandnew. I mean, you were writing Sandman at the same time, I think, weren't you?
See, your I was your star was rising. People were noticing this within the world of comic books, which was as different to the the world of novels.
We were writing it in 1988, early 89, and I was writing Sandman at the time, but nobody really knew what I was. I mean, Terry used to say when people would say to us, you know, they'd say to him, what was it like collaborating with Neil Gaiman and Terry what it was say?
He said, Well, you have to understand, at that time I wasn't Terry Pratchett and he wasn't Neil Gaiman. We were just two blokes who wanted to write together because we thought it would be fun. I remember, you know, halfway through writing good omens, Terry phoning me up and saying, how long have we been doing this for so far?
And I said, oh, about seven, eight weeks. He said, what was the longest we could keep writing it for? And I said, well, probably about. You know, 16 weeks, he said, if nobody buys this book. We can we can swallow that, can we we can cope with that. And I see how we can cope with that and. You know, neither of us knew that what we were writing was saleable, even we were writing to amuse each other and our agents put it out for auction.
And Terry, who at that time, I don't think he'd sold a book for more than 15000 pounds, phoned me in terror as the auction approached 100000 pounds and said, we have to stop this.
And I said, why do we have to stop this? And he said, well, it's good. It'll come out in public that we're going to pay a lot of money for it and then it won't sell enough to to make up for it. And then I won't be able to sell my books anymore.
And I'm like, Terry, they'll blame me if the book doesn't sell, they'll blame me. It's OK. And he sort of that calmed him down, right.
It's not like he was the elder statesman at the time because he was still to have the huge success. This was a big deal for both of you.
It was a huge deal for both of us. But now he was absolutely the master craftsman and I knew how good he was, but the world didn't. So I knew when Terry phoned me up and said, yeah, that thing that thing you sent me with the baby swap, that just William thing, are you doing anything with that? And I said, no, I'm writing Sandman. And he said, well, sell me the idea and what you've done or we can write it together.
And I knew that that was absolutely the equivalent of having Michelangelo ring you up and say, come on over, let's paint a ceiling together. I'll give you some tips. Right. This is an apprenticeship and I get to do an apprenticeship with a master craftsman. And that was how I took good omens in how I felt about good omens. Right.
When you did start working in comics, you've done a few things before, Sandman, but Sandman was the one you're sort of opus in a way. That's the one that you that set you off and that it's still referenced by people who love comic books and people who love literature as something that as a real sort of line in the sand. Were you did you set out to do something new and different, or was that just how comic books are cards to you?
I set out to take all of my weaknesses and try and make them strengths.
OK, I'd written a story called Black Orchid, which was a three part fantasy comic. We were halfway through it and I got a phone call from Karen Berger, who was my editor then of What would become Vertigo. And it wasn't at that point. And she said, look, we're getting worried about this because it's a you and Dave two creators. Nobody's ever heard of you and Dave McKean. So we want to try and sort of do something to raise your profile.
And we thought if you could do a monthly comic that would raise your profile, what would you like to do? And I never had to write a story a month before. There was no guarantee that I could do fiction on demand. And one thing I knew that I couldn't do was the superhero title.
Oh, really? Right. Yeah. So taking over the Green Lantern was not of any interest.
It was of no interest on the basis. Not that I don't love superheroes, but whenever I do superheroes, I do them by doing something else and make it look like I'm doing right. Yeah. So. With Sandman, I thought, can't do superheroes, but maybe I could do something kind of like the thing that Roger Zelazny has done in books like Lord of Light, where he has sort of people becoming gods in a way that feels like superheroes and a sort of upside down kind of I could probably do that if they were gods and.
Because I. No, I don't really know how to tell a story a month. I just need the biggest possible canvas.
If I build something that covers the entirety of human history of. Everything, yeah, then if I have an idea, I can put it in and I've got a story for that month, right. And so that really was kind of my my. Beginning point, because you're with it, you are within the world of DC Comics and characters will drift in and out. Absolutely.
But it does still feel at arm's length from. It would have been quite weird Batman showed up to fight Morpheus, it would it was that it was a kind of a thing where it always felt like it was a long walk to get from Samman to the DC Universe. And then as I started writing it further, it felt like a longer and longer walk. And then it started feeling like a bus journey. And then by the very, very end of Sandman, when I did was doing the story The Wake, which is set at a funeral.
And after I tried to remind everybody that this was actually technically in the DC Universe, even though we hadn't been there for a long time. And, you know, there's Superman, Batman and the Martian Manhunter all in their dreams sort of having a conversation about people making television shows about your life. Right. And, you know, just felt very weird and dreamy.
But it was the thing where, you know, it just sort of drifted away from the DC Universe and it became its own sort of lovely thing, its own Samman universe. I've heard you say that and you had the idea for the Graveyard Book for a long time and you kept putting it off until you were good enough to write it, which I think you did in 2008, to think finally it came out. So what happened? When did you reach the point where you think that's it and I'm as good as I'm ever going to get?
Or was it that or just that one I'm never going to get better?
Or what was the moment? It was absolutely yeah, it was much more. I started the Graveyard Book in 1985 or 86.
I thought that was lost forever. And I actually found and read last year the original first chapter I wrote and you can see. Something there's definitely something there, but I mean, I wrote it and I just I remember going at the time, this idea is better than I am a writer. I'm just sort of putting paint on, you know, these are fingerprints. And I have I can get a lot better. And then every few years I would go back and try and write a scene or two from it and I'd look at what I'd done.
And I Kanab. You can get better and somewhere around 2004 and I just remember thinking you're probably about as good as you're going to get. I'm not seeing that sort of huge quantum leap thing that I did when I was younger of look at me writing, look at me writing a year later. Look how much I've improved. But I seem to be the writer that I am. I seem to have grown up to be that thing. And so I have no excuse anymore.
Now, I need to start that book because it's the book that I had inside me for 20 years and I need to tell that story. Essentially, the way you talk about creativity, how much? How much do you regard creativity as a slightly mystical thing and how much of it is utilitarian? You remember when we when we started talking at the beginning of this podcast and we were talking you were talking about beliefs and religions, and I said one of the weird things about me is as a writer, I am absolutely capable of believing contradictory things to utterly different things and believing in them wholeheartedly.
I believe wholeheartedly and utterly that writing is a mysterious and spiritual and magical thing that is possibly the nearest I will ever get to. Touching the infinite, it was always that feeling that you had a huge block of stone. And my job as the writer was to ship out all the bits that weren't what we were making and we would be left with the statue that was already there in the marble. So I believe that utterly. And I also believe that it's an absolutely utilitarian process.
I believe that. The most important thing in creation is that you start creating years and years and years ago, 2007, I was teaching a clarion and clarion is like a boot camp for young science fiction writers. And Young, again, can be any age. And we work with the writers and each of them has written a story that week and we critique it and talk about it and so forth. And. One of the young writers we had, he said to me, can you tell which of us is going to be going to make it as writers?
And I said no. But I can tell you who's going to make it. And it's well, who's going to make it I said, well. The ones who do the work, it's not about talent, but the ones who who are going to make it as writers are the ones who are going to polish a chair with their bottoms every day and who are going to write the books and write the stories. And when the story goes out and it doesn't sell, they're going to start the next one.
And when the novel that doesn't sell is finished, they'll start the next one. And they're the ones who are going to make it. And, you know, five or six years later, I was incredibly thrilled to see that writer nominated for a Nebula Award. And, you know, he's gone on to have a really solid career. And he once said to me that that was the most important thing. That anybody had told him about writing. How often do you have that moment where it feels like it stopped?
What you worry that you know that the Muses have deserted you? Several times a day is often OK on a micro level, several times a day. You know, you spend the first half of your career wondering if you've got it and the second half of your career wondering if you've lost it. So that certain point where you go, oh, no, I've completely lost it. And then then you write something decent and you go, No, no.
I like lockdown, though, has been hard. And, you know, there was definitely a level on which writing was harder and ideas weren't coming. And then I went south for a week. I came down to London and. One of the things I found there were ideas aplenty and I realized that part of the problem is just it's the input and output thing, right?
You need something to spark a train of thought that you haven't had before. And in a house where you're going through exactly the same day, day after day after day, the ideas can kind of dry up because there's no. Input, nothing new is coming in, and that's what was wonderful about opening myself up to stuff coming in, it's like, oh, there's an idea and there's an idea and it hasn't stopped. But having said that, at my worst, I was at a place.
Emotionally, a few months ago, where I was, I hit rock bottom at a level I've never hit rock bottom before and. I was also asked for a. Short story. By a doctor who children in need anthology's, and they said, could I use the character of the course? There was a time lord who I created and the doctor's wife. I began it as a kind of mechanical process. It wasn't like I had any ideas or stories that desperately needed to be told.
I certainly wasn't feeling creative or happy or joyous.
I suppose that I needed to try and do it because it was for charity. But if I failed to write a story, nobody was going to notice and. Then I started thinking, OK, where does it begin? And I wrote. A paragraph or two just basically saying, well, it's a doctor who story, so it has to start on the run because that's always the best place for any doctor who story to run. And here we go.
She's running down some stairs and and, oh, this is a this is one of the female causes. Great. So it's her and she's running down stairs and she has a parrot and she's being followed by a huge box. That's weird. I know. And there was there was a huge box in doctor who was there. That was that. But that time, Lordi box, that omega box that floated around in a Sylvester episode and, you know, three days later I looked up and I had a really fun, lovely, goofy short story.
About the Corsair and right and and I was so pleased with myself and it hadn't existed and it was pure craft. It it sort of came into existence because I went.
I need to begin writing a short story now, and that was craft, but the magic happens anyway, so you can kind of you can force it into being if it's not happening kind of instinctively, it never feels like force.
It feels probably more like if I said to David, you're going to be hosting an awards ceremony tonight. I know it's really short notice, but Jonathan Ross has been eaten by Venetian bring slug's, obviously. And in the absence of Jonathan, can you just get up there, make everybody feel happy to be there and present the UK Dairy Awards?
You could do it. Yeah. And everybody there would go.
So lovely that they would you know, you knew he knew so much about dairy.
What a shame about Jonathan. But we had a nice night anyway. Exactly.
And but you could but you can kind of do that because you've done it when you're writing something for Doctor Who, which you wrote two fantastic episodes for Annoyingly After I'd left, or indeed when you write a Batman comic, because when your is there a different quality when you're playing in other people's sandbox as to when you're.
Yeah, there are two things. One, you know, you're not going to break anything you want to leave the toys for. You're in the sandbox and you're playing with the toys that somebody left for you, but you're not going to break the toys. That's one of them. And I think the other is. Honestly, the sandbox thing, it is the fact that your inner kid gets happy, right? Yes, yes. I do not recall any you know, if I were listing the the best moments of my life, winning awards isn't on any of the best moments of my life list.
But the first time I got to write dialogue for Batman. Right. And bring Batman on and write dialogue for Batman. That's one of the best moments of my life. The first time I got to write Interior TARDIS.
And a script, yeah, and and write a line for the doctor who at that point, Matt, hadn't yet been cast. Right. You know, you were still you were still acting at that point. So when I wrote. That doctor, he was he was very Jewish. He became less Jewish as by the draft that we we actually saw because he bounced a season, because they ran out of money. Right. Which happens. And also various plot things had to change.
And I also, of course, got to say to Steven Moffat, we have to save the TARDIS. Your TARDIS interior has to be saved. Yes, of course. Because we're going to use that. And they spent the better part of two years lying to people about why your TARDIS set was still sitting there in the corner. But the joy there was a pure, unfettered joy. There was a feeling that my inner five, six year old convinced that he was God, had finally become all powerful because, look, this is the TARDIS and I'm writing it and I'm getting to say what the doctor's going to do.
That was power writing. Batman dialogue in Black Orchid was the best writing. I did a story once called Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? That wasn't my title. That was there was DC's title where I wanted just to call it Batman The End, but it's the last Batman story. And the idea was kind of that it would always be the last Batman story. Whatever happened to Batman, whatever the various iterations of Batman went through in years to come, this what would still be the last Batman story as a result of which I got to write all sorts of Batman from different times and eras of Batman's history and the feeling of power involved, you know, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin, they don't know what power is.
Power. Power is being able to.
All of these batsman's to say what you want them to say and do, joka jokes as well. With the five, six, seven year old Neil, be proud. Or would he just have said, well, obviously it was inevitable that we would end up here? He would be he would be very this is inevitable, although I guess, you know, this is this is just one of his daydreams. Yeah. Right now, he's, you know, sitting on the Isle of Skye where he'd always wanted to go talking to somebody who's also a doctor who, you know, that's that's as good as it gets, really.
Obviously, although I took enormous joy in you telling me that at conventions you're now seeing more angels and demons than you are time lords.
It's absolutely yeah. It's at at least neck and neck. And I think most recently, probably it may have tipped the balance. Crowleys and zero fans who often come as a pair, which are always very pleasing to friends who've obviously played together, will turn up. Yeah, that's been wonderful to be part of. Obviously, one will be part of a franchise like Doctor Who, but to then be part of something like Gillman's, which has an equal, sort of equally devoted fan base, people who love your work, I mean, lots of people enjoy it on many different levels.
But for a large number of people, it means an awful lot on an emotional level. Doesn't take the stuff that comes out of your head really connects with people.
Does that does that become attention for you as Neil Gaiman almost becomes a brand that people look to?
I've spent the best part of the last 40 years now getting around that by trying not to repeat myself. Okay. And also doing things that people are not expecting it. Right.
Well, you wrote stories as a child before anyone was reading them, and now the world awaits the next Neil Gaiman story. If for some reason they didn't. If something happened and Neil Gaiman never sold another book, would Neil Gaiman still write them? What a great question. I don't know, I think I probably would, because it's the easiest way of getting them out of my head. I definitely wrote before anybody was reading anything that I wrote, before I was selling anything.
But I definitely these days feel like. The burning urge. Has probably. Don. In that I always loved moving and doing different things, so if you were to tell me tomorrow that I couldn't do any more prose or. You know, nobody was ever going to buy another book, whatever, that would probably be my excuse to finally sit down and write a stage play. Right. You know, it is the the strangest thing about getting to do all the things that you wanted to do and getting to be all the things that you wanted to be that I have never really been the kind of author who likes popping out of the same hole twice.
If I'm going to do something that's that's a sequel to or like something I did before, I need a completely different way of doing it, you know, coming up with. A way of of thinking about what we can't do that because we did that, so it would have to be completely reinvented. There was always that thing of going, well, you can't just do something that people like it and do some more. Yeah, right.
Well, I think you are going to have to keep doing what people like and keep doing some more because people like it so much. And the world is very grateful to have you. Neil Gaiman, as am I. And it's been a pleasure to talk to you today. So thank you for taking the time and thank you for all you do.
Oh, it's been such one of one of the best things about good omens. And there have been many great things about making good omens was actually getting to work and eventually become friends with you. It's been just such a lovely delight.
Well, it's but it's been an equal probably more of a joy for me. So thank you. And thank you for today. Thank you, David. Bye.
David Tennant does a podcast with Is A Something Else and No Mystery production produced by Zooey Edwards, additional production from Harriet Wells, Sarah CamNet, Steve Akerman and George Tenet. The sound engineer was Josh Gibbs. The executive producer is Christina.
Next time. Oh, my God. Paris. Yeah, he's smoking cigarettes.