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If you look in the back of the illustrated copies of Stardust you will find a picture of Neil, fountain pen in hand, talking with a cat. Actually, he is looking at the cat who seems to be doing her best to ignore him. Cats can be like that. There is a story that the tale of Stardust was told to Neil by Princess, the cat, who is descended from the Thorn family cat. Most people reading that would chuckle and think "oh, what a clever bit of imagination"

Don't discount that story for one second. I have reason to believe it's true. I'm not at liberty to reveal my sources because little mischievous things may reach out and pinch me when I'm not looking, but I will let you in on a couple of secrets.

It's a popular assumption that Neil goes off by himself to far-flung remote places to work because he needs time and space to think and write. It's a plausible story, but the real reason is that he needs to meet up with the various critters, fae-folk, and human oddities who inhabit his tales and to hear their life stories. He then writes them down and sends them off to publishers. Lest you think that cheating, I've been told Neil is a very generous man and rewards the tale-tellers quite handsomely. In fact, fights have been known to break out over who gets his ear next. Cats have the best tales, but as the photographic evidence shows, they sometimes require a bit of cajoling to part with their knowledge.

Charles Vess is another clever man. He would lead you to believe that he lives in the southeastern United States and draws Faerie and its inhabitants from imagination. This is another illusion. He truly does live in Faerie, along the border and within easy distance of a good supply of chocolate and tea, and draws what he sees. He just wants you to think it's imaginary so you don't all move there and build shopping centers.

Stardust may be shelved in the fiction section of your local bookshop, but it's a true story.

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