He's also rather funny in person. Always a plus. He's on a book tour promoting two new children's books, a picture book, 'The Wolves In The Walls', and a book aimed at a slightly older audience, 'Coraline'. There weren't too many children present tonight (although enough for Neil to be embarrassed when he started swearing during the Q&A session); instead it was mostly teenagers and people in their twenties (like myself and Richard).
Neil read The Wolves In The Walls to us (it's a fun children's book with helpful instructions on how to deal with wolves, silly parents who don't understand the abilities of puppets, and the magical properties of McDonald's apple pies), and then opened the floor to questions. A little boy got the first question in:
"Where do you get your ideas?"
Serious credit to Gaiman here; He told the boy why some of the audience had laughed at the question, that authors always get asked that, but he was going to answer it for him, talking about weird combinations of ideas and ending up creating a story idea for the Evil Were-Chairs that Time Forgot. He then went on to say that he stole the idea for Wolves from his four-year-old daughter, which got a big laugh.
He talked for about half-an-hour, on subjects as diverse as his Babylon 5 episode, the dream he had the night before where he ran around a cartoon world disguised as a dinosaur biting the heads off dinosaurs disguised as humans, sharing a hotel with Terry Pratchett, and meeting Rip Torn in Wilmington, NC ("BEASTMASTER!"). He was as informative and witty as you could have hoped for, plus we got to see the limited-edition beard (he promises it'll be gone by Friday).
We didn't hang around for the signing, mainly because I didn't bring any of my books with me (I wasn't sure whether Borders would allow it - turns out that they would have), and the shop helpfully took all the Neil Gaiman books off the shelves and stuck them on the table where he was signing. Which, of course, had a huge group of people clamouring around it, all trying to get Neil's signature. Sigh. Nonetheless, it was a fun night, and thanks must go out to Richard for coming along (and providing the lift to Oxford and back)…