“I remember Alan Moore in the late 1980s telling me about a documentary he’d seen on TV about Jack the ripper. And then, over the course of the next few months, telling me about Jack the Ripper books he’d read. By the point where he was asking me to go and find rare and forgotten biographies of possible Ripper suspects at the British Museum, I though it quite possible that a Jack the Ripper comic would be in the offing.
From Hell didn’t start with Alan going, “I wonder what I’ll write about today.” It started as an obsession. Trust your obsessions. This is one I learned more or less accidentally. People sometimes ask whether the research or the idea for the story comes first for me. And I tell them, normally the first thing that turns up is the obsession: for example, all of a sudden I notice that I’m reading nothing but English 17th century metaphysical verse. And I know it’ll show up somewhere—whether I’ll name a character after one of those poets, or use that time period, or use the poetry, I have no idea. But I know one day it’ll be there waiting for me.
You don’t always use your obsessions. Sometimes you stick them onto the compost heap in the back of your head, where the rot down, and attach to other things, and get half-forgotten, and will, one day, turn into something completely usable. Go where your obsessions take you. Write the things you must. Draw the things you must. Your obsessions may not always take you to commercial places, or apparently commercial places. But trust them.“
– From Neil Gaiman’s speech given at the 1997 PRO/con in Oakland