I just returned from an event from the Living Writers series at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA called “A Conversation With Neil Gaiman.” Muhlenberg College is an excellent, small liberal arts college with a thriving English Department, and this event was featured in coordination with a class on Living Writers that is offered typically every 3 years.
I was delighted to find out about this event and to be able to attend it. I teach English Literature at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, which is the adult degree program.
Mr. Gaiman, sat in conversation which the host, Professor Francesca Coppa, and he spoke at length about his career as a writer and about writing itself. This talk offered something for a wide variety of people, including scholars of literature, writers, and readers of Mr. Gaiman’s work. I include myself in all three categories.
I was especially interested in his view on not being branded as one kind of writer. He has written fantasy, horror, children’s novels, graphic novels, and short stories, among others. He deals with a wide variety of topics and ideas in his works, and that appeals to me greatly as a writer.
Mr. Gaiman discussed his treatment of mythology and his refusal to be put into one box in his writing. I think this is a huge problem for writers today, because we are encouraged to brand ourselves for marketing so that readers know what to expect. I certainly understand the need for marketing, but it can potentially damage writers to be viewed as writing just one kind of work or restricting themselves to one specific genre or type.
I am a writer of speculative fiction, which really can be applied to all fiction. I am a writer of horror, YA fantasy, and will be writing a romance novel, several historical novels, and a thriller. These ideas are in my head, and I will explore them all. I hope being a diverse writer will be my brand.
Mr. Gaiman is certainly a talented, skilled, and accomplished writer of a wide range of material. If you have never read his work, you should. My favorite work of his is American Gods, which I have taught in several classes. Among his other work is–Coraline, the Sandman Series, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Read his work!