Neil Gaiman hasn't changed his clothes in almost 30 years. All sulphurous green eyes and unsmiling in black leather, his persona rests upon accessibility to his original comic-con fan base. It would work against the imaginative, multi-award-winning, multimillionaire author's interests to present himself in a manner commensurate to his earnings - which, as he faux-bashfully acknowledges, can be 'ridiculous' - or to live in a house that was anything less than American Gothic. Appropriately, his fiancee, a 33-year-old ukulele-strumming cabaret singer with shaved eyebrows, once worked as a living statue and performs Radiohead covers under the name Amanda F***ing Palmer. His dog is named Cabal. Those unfamiliar with his work may, after studying his photographs and reading certain quotes, assume Gaiman is a cult writer, rather than the internationally celebrated New York Times best-selling author of dozens of books - among them, novels, young adult novels, comics and, recently, Stories, the fantastically imaginative fiction anthology he edited with fellow multi-award-winning horror and sci-fi writer Al Sarrantonio. Fifty this year, Gaiman is also responsible for the screenplays of big-tent films such as Mirrormask, Stardust, Beowulf and Coraline, in addition to an upcoming episode of Doctor Who and The Sandman, that esoteric, critically acclaimed superstar of the postmodern graphic novel and, in some ways, the most grandiose reflection of his id. One of the biggest misconceptions remains that Gaiman spent his youth lurching from bedsit to library and back again. It is a misconception that he nurtures, whether consciously or otherwise, through omission. Earlier this year Gaiman told an interviewer that he 'didn't start out in the gutter. I started out in comics ... It was like the drain way below the gutter. We could see the guttering up there and go, 'Oh, it must be so nice to live in the gutter and be taken seriously'.' Last year he sighed: 'I miss those days. It's really fun creating things in the gutter.' As far back as 1995, he was assuring us that it was 'safer to be in the gutter'. While Gaiman is undoubtedly enjoying a little hyperbole, it is, perhaps, at the expense of reality. His is a profitable kind of posturing, as mannered in its way as David and Victoria Beckham's, and first adopted when he was an emotionally isolated and materially indulged adolescent Jewish Scientologist in East Grinstead, England. It is morning in London, and Gaiman is speaking in a slow and sleepy Sussex accent subtly complicated by a stifled lisp. At times, he sounds like an amiable farmer - all smiles and homilies and lowing cows, but his voice can charge, and sharply. He is not as tall as his long, handsome, full-lipped face would suggest - a cough under 1.8 metres, something he says surprises fans, who always expect him to be a Dark Lord of sorts - the Sandman, perhaps, or the vampire Lestat. Based in Minneapolis for close to 20 years, Gaiman is in England promoting Stories and meeting the producers of Doctor Who, who, he smoothly chuckles, expressed some consternation at the cost of his episode. Curiously, Gaiman's greatest charm is not the contrived coyness advertised as his allure, but the emotional energy with which he invests every project. He has always been motivated by intense interest and pleasure. 'Excitement can be contagious,' he agrees. 'And passion; passion can be contagious. Those who care passionately infect others, who then do their best to keep up. 'When I run into old school contemporaries, they are either suicidal and grey, or were stuck in dead-end occupations and suddenly jumped ship and headed off to Australia or the Amazon or somewhere. They all think my life is mad.' Gaiman was never destined for an ordinary life. Born in the small town of Portchester, England, he was the eldest of three children to grocer David and pharmacist Sheila Gaiman. 'At the time of my birth - my dad died in 2009 - they ran a little grocery shop, and I was born above it,' Gaiman warmly recounts. He does not mention the fact that his Polish-Jewish grandfather owned a successful chain of grocery shops, or that G&G Foods, the vitamin business his parents began when he was five, is now worth many millions. By 1988, the company had branded its own vitamin label (the Trufil range), which also caters to Scientologists in 40 countries. Asked if his parents are or were Scientologists, Gaiman freezes as suddenly as if a Luger has been put to his head. 'Yep,' he says, strangling the word. Asked if he has ever been a Scientologist, he begins breathing heavily. 'Only very briefly as a teen' - he stresses the word - 'making my parents happy, then I ploughed my own furrow.' The timing of his marriage to Scientologist Mary McGrath, whom he met while she was living in a house owned by his father, appears to contradict his statement. Gaiman was 23 when the first of his three children was born and 25 when he married. Gaiman avoids the issues raised by his family's devotion to Scientology - namely, the impact of the 'spiritual' teachings of a mentally precarious science fiction writer on his imagination and writing. A man who has made his fortune by writing darkly elaborate fantasies involving secrecy, the esoteric, paranoia, sci-fi and horror, Gaiman may well simply be mindful of offending his beloved family, but also resists acknowledging his debt to Scientology's outrageous lore. 'Scientology had nothing to do with becoming the writer I became, or in terms of becoming interested in the stuff I became interested in,' he insists, as if creativity is entirely unrelated to experience. 'The first money I ever remember spending was on the Narnia books and Roger Lancelyn Green's Tales of Ancient Egypt. When I got to school, the first place I would go was the library, where I would read books on magic, fantasy, fiction, science fiction, myth and history, because that was what I loved.' Suddenly and with a tremulous note of relief, Gaiman announces he must leave. 'I was supposed to be in the car five minutes ago,' he says. 'Would it work to reschedule when I'm back in the US? My assistant will arrange a time, and that will make life ... so much easier. I would love that. I'll do it early next week.' His voice then drops to an indulgent coo, as if addressing a baby. 'Buh-bye!' Lorraine Garland, Gaiman's personal assistant and a folk musician who dresses as a fairy in her latest video clip, does not reply to the first request for another interview. When a second e-mail is sent, she writes: 'Sadly, this week and next are booked, [Neil's] summer has filled up to the point of madness, and we aren't slotting media right now.' Grammy-winning singer Tori Amos, whose daughter Natashya inspired Blueberry Girl, one of Gaiman's less peripherally unpleasant children's picture books, captured her old friend in a quote. 'He's always watching and listening to things that you don't say ... Everybody is material for him.' Which is the way Gaiman prefers it.