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Author Neil Gaiman Plays Not My Job

Neil Gaiman is also the author of Coraline, American Gods, Anansi Boys,Stardust and M Is for Magic. He was born in Hampshire, England, and now lives near Minneapolis. You can follow him on Twitter @neilhimself.
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Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, The Graveyard Book (and many more) specializes in writing dark, creepy stuff for kids and adults alike. He was born in Hampshire, U.K., and now lives near Minneapolis.

We've invited Gaiman to answer three questions about the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now, the game where we invite really accomplished people on to try to accomplish something else. Author Neil Gaiman is a very nice man who has been very successful writing about nightmares. His Sandman series of comic books were about the king of dreams himself.

His young adult novels "Coraline" and "Graveyard Book" were about children who faced the worst things in the world and come back home safe. Ironically, we plan to end his appearance here by feeding him to an ogre.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Neil Gaiman, welcome to WAIT WAIT.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Great to see you here.

NEIL GAIMAN: Thank you, Peter. Great to be here.

SAGAL: So I am a huge fan of your work, your comic books, your graphic novels, your novels for adults and children. But there are some benighted people amongst our audience who may not be so lucky. You tend to write a lot about very dark, strange things that lie underneath the normal world.

GAIMAN: You see, from my point of view, I just write about the world that I see.

SAGAL: Really?

GAIMAN: And other people go, "you write about such strange, creepy things." No, really?

SAGAL: No. I mean, for example, your incredibly successful young adult novel "Coraline" is about a young girl in house in which there's a hole in the wall that leads to a very mysterious and very evil world. So when you were a kid, is that what you imagined?

GAIMAN: When I was a kid, we actually lived in a house that had been divided in two at one point, which meant that one room in our house opened up onto a brick wall. And I was convinced all I had to do was just open it the right way and it wouldn't be a brick wall. So I'd sidle over to the door and I'd pull it open.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: And it was always a brick wall.

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: But it was one of those things that as I grew older, I carried it with me and I thought, I want to send somebody through that door. And when I came to write a story for my daughter Holly, at the time she was a 4 or 5-year-old girl. She'd come home from nursery. She'd seen me writing all day. So she'd come and climb on my lap and dictate stories to me. And it'd always be about small girls named Holly.

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: Who would come home to normally find their mother had been kidnapped by a witch and replaced by evil people who wanted to kill her and she'd have to go off and escape. And I thought, great, what a fun kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: I'll go and get somebody.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: And you didn't see that as a cry for help?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: No. I instead went straight down to my local bookshop and said what have you got in the way of really good horror for 5-year-olds?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: And they looked at me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: I was looked at. I was not offered a book.

SAGAL: Really?

GAIMAN: So I went home and I thought, well I'll start writing one for her. And that was where "Coraline" began. I think the creepy stuff was just the way that I wandered. I started out writing much more science fictiony stuff and writing about science fiction. I did a book called "Ghastly Beyond Belief," which was a book of quotations from the worst science fiction and fantasy books that we could find.

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: Books like "Night of the Crab," by Guy N. Smith.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: A book which includes the immortal line, "he wasn't going to leave her alone that night, crabs or no crabs."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right. Okay.

GAIMAN: But they were huge giant crabs that were coming out of the sea, menacing the world.

SAGAL: Now, one of the reasons we very much wanted to have you on the show is because you're a British person, or very good at faking it.

GAIMAN: I am; I'm English.

SAGAL: You're an English person.

GAIMAN: Yes, I'm English.

SAGAL: But you've lived for the last 20 years or so in Wisconsin, near Quincy.

GAIMAN: Yes. And I still have enough of an English accent that all around the world people say to me, you aren't from around here are you?

SAGAL: Really?

GAIMAN: Yes.

SAGAL: So wherever you go?

GAIMAN: Oh, I go back to England and they go "where are you from?"

SAGAL: Really, they don't buy it anymore?

GAIMAN: I was in London. I stopped on the street and asked a little old lady the quickest way to Oxford Street and she said, "oh, you'll want to take a bus, dear. Now it's going to come around that corner and it's going to stop at that thing which we call a bus stop."

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: And I'm doing the...

SAGAL: I know, it's great. Why did you move from England, reputedly cold and dreary, to the upper Midwest? Was England not cold and dreary enough?

GAIMAN: Nobody had really explained the whole cold thing to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

GAIMAN: Yeah.

SAGAL: It was a surprise?

GAIMAN: Well, no. I was arrogant. I was foolish. The English thing where you think you know it all, I thought I understood cold. I thought, okay.

SAGAL: Oh yes.

GAIMAN: Water gets white and fluffy and it falls from the sky. Puddles go hard and slippery. That's cold.

SAGAL: No problem.

GAIMAN: I did not understand the acres, the depth.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: How much colder it can be. I didn't understand what it means to walk out of doors and take a deep breath, the hairs in your nose freeze and you go, "Oh, it's a little below zero."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: And then that thing that you do when you walk out and you take a deep breath and you cough because it hurt and you go, "Oh, 25 below."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

GAIMAN: You actually can - the pain.

SAGAL: But you stayed.

GAIMAN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Why?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Your feet were frozen to the ground. The first winter I understand. But after that, it must have thawed.

GAIMAN: Madness, I think. And I kept thinking it would get better. I kept thinking it can't go on like this. You can't get six months of this madness. Sooner or later it will get better.

POUNDSTONE: But how many years has it been now?

GAIMAN: Nineteen.

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Any signs of an improvement?

GAIMAN: No.

SAGAL: Right.

POUNDSTONE: Do you see a pattern?

GAIMAN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: Florida, what's it like in Florida.

SAGAL: Right.

POUNDSTONE: Oh, oh, oh...

SAGAL: You don't want to go.

POUNDSTONE: No, stay where you are.

SAGAL: Yeah, you're better off.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Neil Gaiman, it's a delight to have you with us here. And we've invited you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, HOST:

No more Waity Katie.

SAGAL: Now, most of the questions that Americans asked about the royal wedding this year were answered with, "No, not the one who dressed up as a Nazi, the other one."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But there are more questions about the nuptials of William and Kate. We're going to ask you three of them. Get two right, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners.

GAIMAN: You know, the thing about Not My Job...

SAGAL: Yes.

GAIMAN: And I have listened to your show now for many years. Is the joy of it is watching an otherwise respectable person coming on and getting humiliated because they don't know. But you're asking questions that have something to do with royalty. I could lose my head when I go back.

SAGAL: I know that's true.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You might have to stay here. You might not be able to go back.

GAIMAN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, who is Neil Gaiman playing for.

KASELL: He is playing for Joe James of Chicago.

SAGAL: All right, he's right here. So there you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: We assume that you had better things to do than care about the royal wedding. Was that correct?

GAIMAN: You're completely correct.

SAGAL: All right, that's good. That's excellent.

GAIMAN: I am vaguely aware that there was one.

SAGAL: Yes, there was.

GAIMAN: Good.

SAGAL: Okay.

GAIMAN: Okay.

SAGAL: Here's your first question.

GAIMAN: That wasn't it?

SAGAL: No.

GAIMAN: Okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Was there a royal wedding? A: yes. No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here's your first question. Kate Middleton's sister garnered much of the attention the day of the royal wedding. And that gave rise to what new product that you could buy if you wanted? A: LollyPips, the lollipop that quote "looks and tastes like Pippa Middleton."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: Pippa Pants, padded underwear to give you Pippa's now famous derriere? Or C: 2-ply toilet Pippa?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: About which we say no more.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: I can't go for Toilet Pippa because the Queen would have my head.

SAGAL: I understand.

GAIMAN: I quite like the idea of LollyPips tasting like Pippa.

SAGAL: Yes.

GAIMAN: But I don't want to taste Pippa and nobody else does, so I'm going to go for the Pippa Pants.

SAGAL: Indeed, Pippa Pants is the answer, very good.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

POUNDSTONE: No.

SAGAL: And if you don't want to like the temporary fix of the Pippa Pants, you can go for the whole Pippa package with a plastic surgeon. They're offering it. You go in with a picture of Pippa and you say "I want that."

GAIMAN: And they inject her into you?

SAGAL: Yes, they inject, they sculpt, they do...

POUNDSTONE: Why, what's the unique thing about her?

SAGAL: She was known for her very attractive figure.

POUNDSTONE: Oh.

SAGAL: Nick, can you explain?

NICK HANCOCK: Very particularly, her derriere.

SAGAL: Yes.

HANCOCK: I think was the deal.

POUNDSTONE: And there's really a padded pants that can simulate that?

SAGAL: Yes, apparent.

GAIMAN: I'm wearing them right now.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, I'm...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: On you they look good.

GAIMAN: Yeah, I thought so too.

SAGAL: Maybe you could carry my train as we leave.

POUNDSTONE: I just have this vision of, you know, a fiber filled kind of Depends.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: It doesn't sound good at all.

ALONZO BODDEN: That's so different than the American royal wedding where you take a picture of Kim Kardashian and you say I want one like that and they say your turn is Tuesday.

SAGAL: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, next question for you, Neil. The royal wedding provided an opportunity for gambling at Britain's famous bookmakers; you know they'll bet on anything. Which of these was a real bet you could place before the wedding?

A: what offensive foreign military uniform will Prince Harry wear at the after party?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: what color will Kate's bikini be in the first honeymoon paparazzi shot? Or C: how long in weeks before Prince Phillip hits on Pippa?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: Oh, I don't think Prince Phillip will be able to identify Pippa.

SAGAL: Oh, I think he will, even at his age.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: So I'm going to go for B again.

SAGAL: You're going to go for B, what color will Kate's bikini be?

GAIMAN: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GAIMAN: Oh good lord.

SAGAL: Before the wedding, you could bet on white and get 2 to 1, which was not bad. Let's see if you're perfect in this. Here we go. Everyone tried to capitalize on the wedding frenzy, including the Chester Zoo in England. It named two baby Royal Starlings William and Kate, very sweet. But everything did not go as planned, what happened? A: further investigation found that the birds were both male and they were renamed Billie and Nate?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: the Queen insisted on sitting on them herself to keep them warm. Or C: one of them was eaten by a hippo named Gordon Brown.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GAIMAN: You know, my heart says that one of them has to have been eaten by a hippo named Gordon Brown, but my head says they were both male.

SAGAL: You're right, they were both male.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Billie and Nate, in fact, were their actual names. We understand they're quite happy though. Carl, how did Neil Gaiman do our quiz?

KASELL: Neil had a perfect game, Peter. He had three correct answers, so he wins for Joe James.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Neil Gaiman is the author of "Coraline", "The Great Red Book" and many other beloved classics of adult and kid's literature. His favorite books are now available as audio books on audible.com. Neil Gaiman, ladies and gentlemen.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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