I am having tea with Neil Gaiman. What should I ask him?
If I could answer that question, I might have bid on having tea with Neil Gaiman.
The odd thing is, although I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, I don't think I would know what to say to him over the course of tea. I think there are many things I could say to him over the course of a long friendship. But tea? I'm stumped.
I mean, I could say, "I think you would like the series I'm writing for pay cable," but that's kind of lame until it becomes "I think you will like the series I have coming out on pay cable this January, can I send you a DVD if you don't have cable there in Minnesota?"
What do you say to one of your personal writing gods?
Ironically I think I might have less to say to Neil Gaiman than other writers because I feel like our brains operate on parallel tracks. I know where he gets his ideas. Same place I get mine. He just gets more of them and writes them better.
(I might ask Neil who the god everyone forgets is, in American Gods.)
I'm not sure I'd know what to say to Aaron Sorkin, either. Aside from, "Hey, willya please get back to writing TV. Oh, and, stay off the coke, eh?"
(I might ask Aaron Sorkin, "So what the hell is a play these days?")
It has got harder to ask questions, too, because you don't want to ask a question to which the answer can be found in a couple of minutes Googling. Waste of a question, you know. (RTFFAQ, y'know.) I mean, it is not all that hard to find out what other author Neil recommends. And I hate to ask questions I can figure out an answer to. ("How do you decide whether something is a book or a comic book or a TV show or a movie idea?")
A bunch of us went to see Rob Thomas talk about VERONICA MARS, a couple of Banffs ago. You could tell the writers because they were asking process questions, e.g. "Season Two is more serial, but then Season Three got all episodic, what's up with that, was that a network thing or did you get irritated at being stuck connecting the episodes?" But there were no real questions about the writing, not from the writers, I don't think.
Scholars would probably have lots of questions for Shakespeare. I'm not sure what I'd ask him
, either. What could he tell me about how he goes about being Shakespeare? He could tell me I am sure wonderful stories about the moneylender coming to reposess his theatre and how he got out of it, and what idiots patrons are. But the writing itself is locked inside the semi-bald pate.
Thing is, there are few funner people to be around than writers, I personally think. But they are typically more ordinary than what they write. The fascinating process by which experience is smelted into story is mostly offscreen. The only way to get a sense of someone's process is really to write something with them. (Which is the best reason to hang around other writers. You get to work with them now and then.) Everything else is just wittier cameraderie.
UPDATE: Oh, right. You could always pitch him a story you're writing, and see what questions he has for you. And if he's feeling really generous he could tell you some directions you might want to take the story...