Amanda Palmer on Neil Gaiman: He desperately loves to be surprised
|Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman in 2011.|
More than most people, Amanda Palmer has an insider's perspective on Neil Gaiman. After all, she's his wife. The Cambridge-based musician met the author through a mutual friend, and after some careful courting, the two haven't looked back.
This June, Gaiman published his first novel for adults in eight years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book began life as a short story for Palmer, who was recording Theatre Is Evil in Australia, thousands of miles away from Gaiman in the United States. Over time, the story grew and blossomed into a novel and a poignant love note to their relationship when Gaiman dedicated the book to her.
Palmer described her relationship with Gaiman for this week's cover story: The dark night returns for Neil Gaiman.
Here's more from our interview with Palmer:
Gimme Noise: How did you fall in love with Neil?
Amanda Palmer: [Laughs] I don't know? How much time have you got? Well, it's kind of a complicated story, but I can simplify it. Neil and I met about five, six years ago. We were both dating other people at the time, and we were introduced by Jason Webley, who I was making a record with at the time. He had gotten to know Neil online because Neil had discovered and posted one of Jason's music videos. Jason reached out to thank him, and they started to chat.
I struck up an email conversation with Neil, because Jason introduced us over email, and [Neil and I] were familiar with each other's work, but didn't know each other. I asked Neil if he would write some captions for a book of photographs I was putting out as an album companion, the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book, which was all dead photographs of Amanda Palmer. Neil was like, "Wow, no one's ever asked me to caption a book of dead photographs. I'm going to do it." So he did. And that's how we actually sort of got to know each other.
It's actually better to hear him tell this story... He fell in love with me first, and then he planted himself firmly in a chair, firmly in my periphery, telling me that he was perfectly happy to wait years and years and years to date me. At that point, my last relationship was already breaking up painfully and I sort of wondered, "How do you do this? Do you date Neil Gaiman? He's weirrrd." I think the most important thing about falling in love with him or being able to fall in love with him is that I wasn't even remotely a Neil Gaiman fan, and I didn't have any preconceived, worshipful notion of what he was like. I hadn't been following his career. I didn't know anything about Sandman. I didn't know anything. I didn't know that he was king of a certain world, so that held no attraction.
Although, I did know he was a successful writer, and that certainly held an attraction, but I wasn't mesmerized by "famous Neil Gaiman." I was really intrigued by Neil Gaiman the man who was sort of reclusive, but also super social, very smart, very funny, very sensitive, but also emotionally withdrawn. And that whole combination of things led me into a relationship with him and eventually to fall in love with him.
Can you describe what it's like to have started living with Neil since then?
The cohabitating has not been easy. I have lived alone all of my adult life, and I'm 37. I've had barely so much as a roommate, although I have lived in a commune for the last 13 or 14 years. I've never had to actually share my space. Neil has gotten used to a totally different kind of family style where he lives in a household with kids running around. Colliding our two lifestyles is hilarious and so fantastic because we just take such totally different approaches to how one enters and exits a room. We've learned scores of lessons in our house in Cambridge that we are desperately trying to positively apply to the hunt for our next home in New York, which is where we're moving.
I think a lot of it has to do with psychic artistry and workspace. We're two artists who work at home, and we both have two important tasks. One is to make art and two is to run our respective businesses. It's almost like you've got five homes in one. You've got Amanda and Neil running offices, Amanda and Neil needing to make art, and Amanda and Neil needing to be clothed, fed, and sheltered. Figuring out how to place and puzzle piece together all those myriad ingredients isn't easy.
In your blog about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, you wrote about how you two work in different ways, creatively speaking. That must be a huge challenge.
All I can say is it's not easy. We both built our lives to follow certain grooves, especially going on and off tour. Because in the midst of all this, it's not like we're stay-at-home artists. Both of us -- especially me -- are on the road more than we are at home, and that creates an entirely new set of issues. Neil and I looked at our calendar a few months ago and went, "Holy shit we're not going to see each other for five months! How does that happen?" That just comes down to creating an entirely new sort of communication between two people that isn't necessary in the kind of relationship where the discussions really center around who is picking up the groceries, who is doing the laundry, where are we going to head this weekend? Neil and I have never had a schedule that even remotely approaches the mundane.
How do you wind down when you can get away from all your respective obligations?
As long as I am in the right mood and not super stressed by work, we've found the best way for us to connect with each other is just to have a lot of sex. [Laughs]
You mentioned you're both on tour quite a bit throughout the year. How do you connect over hundreds and thousands of miles between?
We connect mostly through text. It's funny because Neil and I have a lot of lines of communication -- you know, Twitter and texting and email... and our blogs. All of those we're comfortable doing. The one communication that I don't use is Facebook. I'm not on Facebook personally. But you know, we will occasionally have dates on tour when we will only communicate publicly via Twitter. When we both manage to be in far off places at the same time, we talk on the phone. But actually, talking on the phone long-distance -- especially when we're both on the road -- I find sort of difficult.