Neil Gaiman is scheduled to speak this morning, 10 a.m.–11 a.m., on why he thinks fiction is dangerous, but since he’s an old hand at attending BEA, he knows he’ll have a “captive audience of booksellers” in conference room 1E12–1E13. So, he says, he “might as well” also talk up the three books he’s got coming out this spring: Make Good Art (Morrow, May), the full text of a commencement speech he gave at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2012, during which he urged the graduates to “make fantastic mistakes” in creating their art; Ocean at the End of the Lane (HarperCollins, June), an adult novel with a seven-year-old protagonist; and Fortunately, the Milk (HarperCollins, Sept., ages 8–up), a children’s book with an adult protagonist that is illustrated by Skottie Young.
While he praises Make Good Art as being an “amazing Chip Kidd–designed” book, and describes Fortunately, the Milk as “easily the silliest book I’ve ever written,” it’s Ocean at the End of the Lane—which lays down on June 18—that he most wants to discuss. “It’s the adult novel of which I’m most proud,” declares Gaiman, who’s already written five adult novels, as well as more than a dozen novels for children and YA readers. Even people who “think they don’t like Neil Gaiman books” who’ve read Ocean at the End of the Lane “like it,” he says. It’s probably, he muses, “because I wrote it for my wife.” According to Gaiman, he didn’t plan at the time to start work on another novel: he started writing Ocean at the End of the Lane last year as a short story while his wife, the lead singer and songwriter for the alternative rock band Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, was away for four months, recording a studio album. “I missed her,” he recalls, “and it kept going.” Describing Ocean as “grounded in reality” and “filled with feelings and emotions and weird memories,” he says that it’s “almost a mainstream novel, except for all the magic and the weirdness.” It also includes autobiographical elements. “It’s a book about what it was like to look out of my eyes when I was seven years old.” It caught HarperCollins by surprise, he says, laughing, when he submitted the manuscript to his editor last summer. “They didn’t mind—I thought they would.”