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Five Things We Learned From Author Neil Gaiman in Miami

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Popular author Neil Gaiman visited Temple Judea in Coral Gables to promote his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The packed house only served as a reminder of how beloved Gaiman is among readers of all ages, from kids who enjoyed Coraline to young adults and grownups who cut their teeth on his Sandman graphic novels.

During his visit, Gaiman read an excerpt from The Ocean at the End of the Lane and took questions from the at-capacity audience. Here are five things we learned about the author:

1. Florida is pretty dang inspirational to him.

Florida is a place where Neil tends to "hide and write." Of his friends who have multiple homes, the homes they tend to frequent most happen to be in Florida -- including singer Tori Amos' house, where he began writing The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Florida also has an effect on one of his most famous features: his hair. The poem-turned-picture book "Crazy Hair" was inspired by what happened to his coif after traveling from up North to our balmy, humid clime: "It looked like a rogue band of hairdressers came in the middle of the night... started a perm, and fled."

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was pretty much an accident.

Gaiman initially wanted to write a short story for his wife, rock star Amanda Palmer, who he missed terribly while she was off working on her album in Australia. As her album was consuming her time, so the story consumed his. It went from a short story to a novel act to a novella and then... "I wrote it in longhand, then typed it. Did a word count. Sent an email to the publisher: 'I have written a novel. Sorry.'"

3. He doesn't take sides -- of the bed.

Asked what side of the bed he sleeps on as the first question in the Q&A, he sputtered. After the initial shock of being asked such a mundane question, he stated he sleeps in the middle when he's by himself. He takes the left side of the bed only when with Amanda at home, only because she's claimed the right side. On the road, it's anything goes.

4. His writing ritual is fairly precise.

Gaiman stated he writes all of his books longhand in a moleskin notebook. When a fan asked what color ink he prefers, he revealed another writer's quirk: To keep track of how much progress he's made on any given day, he will always begin a day's writing in a different color ink from the previous day.

5. He has a message for people who aren't into that whole escapism thing.

The last question of the afternoon asked Neil whether he found fiction to be escapist or just an extension of reality. He didn't find those to be mutually exclusive:

"People talk about escapism as if it's a bad thing... Once you've escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn't have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality."

See? Reading is fundamental. You can pick up a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane right now at all major booksellers.

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