In 2007, I met Neil Gaiman during one of his book signing tours in Forbidden Planet, London. I managed to get there early enough that I was only about 30th in the queue, which was fortunate as it was a typical, drizzly British day.
I was a little nervous. I’d loved Gaiman’s work for a long time, and had dithered over which books I wanted him to sign as the limit was two. Eventually, I settled on Stardust and Fragile Things - as it was the Fragile Things tour (if I remember correctly), and Stardust had a special place in my heart.
As soon as I stepped inside, I realised there was absolutely no reason to be nervous. There was this chilled out, completely at ease guy with a leather jacket and curly hair. He smiled at his fans. He actually talked to them, and was actually interested in what they had to say, not wanting to hurry them along. I took a (very bad) picture while he signed someone else’s book.
Then came my turn, and my nerves completely vanished. He asked for my name, and I spelled it for him as Richelle is quite unusual.
“That’s a really cool name,” he said, “Where did your parents get that from?” I explained it was my aunt’s middle name. “What does it mean?” He asked. I told him I didnt know, but that it was the French feminine of Richard, after my great grandad.
“Ah, that makes sense, with the Ri…”
He signed both books, and drew me some lovely little doodles. (“I drew a cracked heart for you.”)
(I don’t have a good enough memory to remember this so clearly by the way, but I blogged about it immediately when I left the shop, and I’ve been able to refer back to it)
What a lovely man, I thought.
A few months later, I went to a Terry Pratchett book signing during his tour for Making Money. Again in Forbidden Planet, there was a two book limit, and as I’d already promised a friend in the USA a signed copy of Making Money, that meant I had one book for myself. Then I remembered Good Omens, and kicked myself for not thinking of bringing it to the Gaiman tour a few months before. Oh well, I thought, there’s always next time.
The first thing I saw of Terry was his hat. Then I noticed his laugh, which was very infectious. He signed Making Money, dedicated to my friend, and then he spied my copy of Good Omens. “Ah, this old thing.” He grinned and signed away. I saw the dedication and laughed, and stepped away, feeling like he knew something I didn’t.
That’s that, I thought, I’ll wait for another Gaiman signing.
I had to wait a little while, as it turns out, until his signing for The Ocean at the End of the Lane in Ely cathedral in 2013. This time, I wasn’t so lucky. My friend and I drove from London to Cambridge, and there was an accident on the way. By the time we got there, there were hundreds upon hundreds of people in front of us.
This signing also included a talk, and Gaiman spoke about his childhood, his experiences as an author and answered lots of questions. He also read a passage of his book, Fortunately, the Milk, and the audience were in hysterics. Seriously, no matter how old you are, you’ll love that book.
We queued up to sign in the order we arrived, and we queued for a long time. The girl standing in front of my friend and I was obviously very excited, and she struck up conversation with us. She told us she was heavily dyslexic, but she’d read every single Neil Gaiman book. She enjoyed his work so much, that even though reading was difficult for her, she devoured his books and they made her love to read.
When it came to our turn, Neil had been signing for hours, it was late. He must have been tired. But he was still genial and pleasant to the people in front of us. The girl in front of us stepped up, and she was so overwhelmed, she couldn’t speak properly as he signed her books. She was almost panicking, but she still managed to tell him about her dyslexia and despite it, her love of his books. Neil put down his pen, and spoke softly, kindly. “Would you like a hug?” She nodded, and laughed and cried and hugged him so tightly.
When it came to my turn, I said he was very kind, and he smiled. He quickly signed my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and then spied the next book I’d set on the table, open to the page where Terry had signed. His smile widened. “Ah,” he said, dipping his pen in his ink, “I almost never get to finish this joke any more, as Terry no longer does signings.”
He drew an asterisk next to where Terry had signed, drew an arrow to the bottom, and then finished the joke.
@neil-gaiman, thank you. Thank you for bringing my favourite ever book to the screen, and thank you for dedicating it to Terry.