Hayley Campbell has been writing about comics and culture for many years, with her essays and articles appearing everywhere from “The Guardian” to “The Comics Journal” to “McSweeney’s.” Now, she’s the author of the new book “The Art of Neil Gaiman,” which just came out from Ilex Books in the UK and Harper Collins in the US. For the book, which is similar in format to 2013’s “Alan Moore: Storyteller,” Campbell was given access not just to Gaiman, but to his archives. The book discusses Gaiman’s life and projects, everything from those planned but never completed, to the career highlights we all know about.
Campbell, the daughter of Eddie Campbell, explains in the book that she’s known Gaiman since she was a child. And in her discussion with CBR News, she also talks about her own contributions to her father’s “From Hell Companion,” her career as a comics journalist, and the process behind the writing of “The Art of Neil Gaiman.”
CBR News: People may know you from your writings in “The Guardian,” “The Comics Journal” and many other places. What first led to write about comics?
Hayley Campbell: The money. Definitely. Comics journalism = $$$. I only have a day job to wear my outfits.
Writing about comics happened accidentally. When I landed in London at 20, I had no idea what I was going to do and I didn’t know anyone. The few people I knew were comics guys, and I ended up working on the Forbidden Planet website, and later at Gosh!, doing their blog. Dan Nadel at “The Comics Journal” let me write about almost killing Kurt Busiek at a Spanish comic convention. I always wanted to be a writer, but since everything in my world was comics, I ended up writing about comics. Then other places hire you as a comics journalist and you get to sneak your other ideas in when their guard is down.
You grew up in Australia; what led you to move to London?
Australia is really, really, really far away from everywhere. I felt like I was missing out. On what, I have no idea, but most of the cool stuff that’s happened in my life has been because I was somewhere at a certain time — and it usually wasn’t Brisbane, Australia.
How did you end up writing “The Art of Neil Gaiman?”
I wouldn’t have ended up writing it if I hadn’t come to London. I met my editor, Nick Jones, while I was working at Forbidden Planet (he was an editor at Titan). Then he moved to a small publisher in the south of England called Ilex and started a line of these comics biography coffee table books. It was his idea to hire me. It might have had something to do with the “hello give me some work please thanks” email I’d sent him a few weeks earlier.
Did you have a model for the book? Because it’s not an art book, not a biography, not a critical book — it’s all of them.
I started using “Alan Moore: Storyteller” as a model because that was the first in the series that Ilex was doing. But then I re-read Neil’s “Don’t Panic” and used that instead.
How did you go about writing this book? Were you just hanging out with Neil, holding hours long interviews and rummaging through his attic?
I went to Wisconsin for a week after his 50th birthday party in New Orleans and rummaged through his attic. That’s where it started. I didn’t know what I was looking for — I was just digging. I wrote the afterword in my book that week. That’s the first bit of the book I wrote.
Then yeah — long, long interviews in the middle of nowhere in Scotland by a fire. That was my favorite bit.
What’s the strangest or most surprising thing you discovered about Neil while working on the book?
That Neil is a great cook. And that when you see him in public and his hair looks like that — he actually tried to tame it before he left the house.
Did spending time in Wisconsin convince you to stay in London?
The Midwest is weird. Everything looks like a Dan Clowes comic. Why are their restaurants little islands in the middle of carparks? Also, America: Your cheese and chocolate situations are both terrible. Hershey’s is like eating candles. And “cheese food?” Come on, guys.
In the “From Hell Companion,” there are pages from your own version of a “From Hell Companion.” For people who don’t know, can you explain what this is? And is there any chance we’ll see that book one of these years?
There’s been little research into what happens to kids whose dads draw disembowelled prostitutes for a living. I may be the sole test case here. At any rate, what happens is, they think that being a grown-up is sitting at home all day drawing people dying. Which is what I did all day, sitting beside him. There are pages and pages of various ways people can die, according to me. I’m like the kid in Dario Argento’s “Deep Red.”
I need to get it printed. As a warning to others.
I know you’re talking to Neil onstage in Edinburgh this summer. Are you doing any other events for the book?
I’ll be onstage with Neil in Edinburgh after he reads “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” which I’ve not yet seen him do. I’ll also be doing that in London as well (with Added Bonus Campbell-Eddie, who does not want to go to Scotland for reasons too stupid for me to remember).
Other than that, I’ll be having a big launch party at Gosh! in London on the 11th of July that anyone can come to, plus a signing at the British Library on the 19th that I will make my friends come to so it looks like someone did. I’ll pay them in beer or something.
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