Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel “American Gods” first hit shelves back in 2001, sweeping up readers in a cross-country adventure that explored a world in which the gods of old struggled to remain relevant in modern American culture. Ten years later, “American Gods” is returning to shelves in a new form, celebrating its anniversary with an expanded, “author’s preferred text” edition and the announcement of an upcoming television series based on the book.
“The truth is, as an author, all you are is grateful if you turn around 10 years after you wrote something and it’s still in print,” Gaiman told MTV News of all the fanfare surrounding the novel’s 10th anniversary. “It makes me ridiculously happy as an author, but mostly it makes me ridiculously happy that my book is being read.”
For Gaiman, “American Gods” offered a way to put words to his own experience in moving to America from England and the difference between how people view America from the outside and the eccentricities you discover from the inside of American culture.
“All of the things that I loved about America that just seemed weird went into ‘American Gods,’ ” he laughed. “I was fascinated by the way people coming to America tried to become ‘American.’ The idea of using old gods as a way of talking about what people bring with them when they come to America was a really fun one.”
Gaiman recalled one particular discovery he made upon moving to the Midwest that was a prime example of the sort of local norms that informed “American Gods.”
“There were weird little things like people driving cars out onto the ice in the winter on frozen lakes and then taking bets on when they’d go through the ice when the snow melted,” he explained. “Little things like that, where I would turn around and go, ‘Does anyone else here think this is weird?’ And everyone else would go, ‘Nope, This is how it is.’
“[When] I moved to America, I thought that I knew what America was,” he said. “I’d been writing stories set in America for seven to eight years, I’d been coming to America for visits, and more importantly, I grew up watching American television and reading American books. And then I moved to America and found it was really weird, in ways that nobody had told me.”
Along with giving readers a chance to revisit — or encounter for the first time — all of that aforementioned weirdness, the 10th-anniversary edition of “American Gods” will also feature more than 10,000 words omitted from his initial draft of the novel. The extra material will consist of expanded chapters, essays and even a few interviews he chose to include.
The audio counterpart to the new edition will also receive a full cast recording as opposed to a solo narrator — something he decided to do after participating in a podcast with filmmaker Kevin Smith.
“About six months ago, my wife Amanda Palmer and I were being interviewed by Kevin Smith for his Smodcast, and Amanda did some songs, and I thought I should do something that’s fun too,” he said. “So I printed out a scene from ‘American Gods,’ and I narrated it and made Kevin and Amanda act. At the end of it, I walked away going, ‘That was really good!’ It was just meant to be this mad, goofy thing we did, but it was really good.”
And just in case the best-selling original version of the book, the new 10th-anniversary edition or both audio versions don’t put “American Gods” back on the mainstream radar, there’s also the upcoming HBO television series based on the novel. Gaiman is attached to write and executive-produce the series with Tom Hanks’ Playtone production studio developing the adaptation. Renowned cinematographer Robert Richardson is attached to co-write the pilot with Gaiman.
“The overall plan right now is that the first season would essentially be the first book, with a few interesting divergences,” Gaiman said of the television series. “You don’t want people who’ve read the book to be able to go, ‘I know everything that’s going to be happening here.’ [They will] know a lot more than anybody who’s starting from here, but we will do things that will surprise [them] too.”
With Gaiman indicating that the first season of the television series will encompass “the first book,” it was only natural to ask about his plans for an “American Gods” sequel.
“I’ve been [planning] to do a second ‘American Gods’ book since the first ‘American Gods’ book,” he laughed. “What I basically have right now is a boxful of stuff. Things go into it. I always knew there was going to be more story.
“The first book was very much about the grifters and the lowlifes, and you don’t really get to see much of the new gods and you don’t really get a sense of those gods who are doing incredibly well in America,” he said. “In the second book, I definitely want to go into both of those things.”