Neil Gaiman Talks ‘Good Omens’ and ‘American Gods’ at SXSW

Neil Gaiman is known for his fantastical imaginative fiction. From novels, short stories and comic books, he  is diving into the world of television showrunner. Coming off of the huge success of American Gods on Starz (season two premieres today), Neil Gaiman is set to premiere Good Omens on Amazon Prime this May. Good Omens is a novel birthed from Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Moderator, Kirsten Vangsness asked Gaiman how Good Omens came about and how it went from novel to a television series. Gaiman, “So I kept having these thoughts about what it meant to be human and what was the apocalypse and what was the book of revelations really trying to tell us. So I wrote about 5000 words and sent it out to a few fellow writer friends, Terry Pratchett being one of them. About a few months later I get an email from him it just said, “I read what you sent over and I know how it ends. So you can either sell this to me to finish and we can write this together. So our journey of co-writing this piece of fiction began.

Kirsten Vangsness, ” So what was that process like? Gaiman explained, “You know it was a lot of back and forth and bouncing ideas off of each other. We would read what the other wrote and then add to it. There were a lot of late night discussions about how the characters would develop. To be honest with you it is the first piece that I have done that I genuinely enjoyed reading because it was only half of me, and because we went back and forth so much I forgot a lot of the stuff I had written in the process.”

He want on to explain how it finally  became a series. “Terry called me up and said, “You really need to make Good Omens into a series. And only you can do it because you know how it’s supposed to be told and I want to see it.” Terry died in 2015 so he won’t be able to see it but his ghost was with us. There were scenes that the studio would want to cut and I would have this conversation with the ghost of Pratchett knowing he would want the scenes in there and inevitably the voice in my head would say “Fuck Em.” The difference between Good Omens and American Gods was that I made myself showrunner for Good Omens so we had control over how it was done. where as with American Gods, it was like here it is, now go have a journey.”

Vangsness talked about that and how generous Gaiman always seems to be with his work. Gaiman, “Well I think that comes from being a young writer and having people I looked up to help me and take me under their wing. Plus its exciting for me to see what others do with the works I create. American Gods has been a really exciting journey to see these characters develop on screen and with American Gods and Good Omens, seeing the sets made have been amazing because I walk through them and it’s like it has been just pulled out of my mind. It’s really incredible.”

Gaiman talked about where his inspiration comes from and whether or not he is trying to answer questions. “So American Gods came out of a time where I had just moved to America. I moved to the midwest and I was going back and forth with this idea of what I thought my experience in America would be on what I saw before I got there and what I was experiencing. For instance, in Wisconsin where I lived I saw these men drive a car onto the ice and just leave it there. I asked what they were doing and this man explained that they park the car on the ice and take bets on when it would fall through. And he looked at me like it made perfect sense. I was also struggling with the idea of roadside attractions. So all of these things were me trying to make sense of my experience in America. But I don’t necessarily try to answer questions while I’m writing.

Vangsness talked about how Gaiman was able to get such an incredible cast for good Omens. ” Well I went out to dinner with MichaelSheen one evening and we started talking about it. He wasn’t quite convinced that he was the right person to play Crowley so I said then play Arizaphale. Jon Hamm’s character Gabriel isn’t in the book but I wanted to add the character in the show. I sent Hamm an email because I knew he was a fan of the book because he told me. I got an email back with one word on it that said, “YES.” Frances McDormand called me for something totally unrelated and asked if I would write something for a project she was doing and of course I said yes and while I had her on the phone I said, “So how would you like to be the voice of God for my show Good Omens?” It was silent for a second and she said, “Yes I will. I think that would impress my family.”

One question asked towards the end was, ” Which American God do you have the most turbulent relationship with?” “It is definitely Technical Boy,” said Gaiman. ” When I started writing Technical Boy he wasn’t quite in control in our society. But he is now. We are all a slave to it, he owns us.” American Gods season two comes out March 10th on Starz and Good Omens comes out on Amazon Prime May 31st! Both are highly anticipated. One thing for sure is that Neil Gaiman is a very busy man and for all you fans out there, he’s writing again!


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