Stephen King


Stephen King

Stephen King

Background

Dubbed, rightfully so, “THE KING OF HORROR” Stephen King has been the author of horror, supernatural, crime fiction, science fiction, and suspense books for over 50 years and has become a household name. He was born in Portland, Maine, on September the 21st, 1947, to a middle-class family of four that became a family of three as his father abandoned him, his mother, and his older brother.

He began writing during high school when he and his older brother David opened up a newsletter called Dave’s Rag and sold each issue for five cents.

From early on, he exhibited an interest in the horror genre. In his own words, he said, “… from a very early age, I wanted to be scared. I just did…”. Although he has no recollection, it is said that as a child, he witnessed the death of his friend hit by a train. King’s mother had told him that on that day, he came back home after playing with his friend, who lived near the railways, ghostlike and speechless. Some critics attribute his darker works to this event.

King graduated from the University of Maine in 1967 with a degree in English literature. In 1971, he married a fellow student. Tabatha and Stephen had two sons and a daughter. King was working as an English teacher while doing writing on the side. He would write short stories, selling them to men’s magazines.

In 1965, he had a story published in Comics Review called, I Was a Teen-Age Grave Robber. He didn’t get paid for that, so the first professional short story he sold was actually in 1967, called The Glass Floor, sold to Startling Mystery Stories.

He worked several jobs at once to make more money. Despite those hard times, King always made time for his writing.

His goal was to write a minimum of 2000 words per day. The most important aspect of writing for him is the story. The story takes precedence before the setting, dialogue, and character development. He is an expert storyteller, as much, if not more than he is a writer. His insight on human nature is abundant, which makes his writing simple as well as believable, even in unbelievable situations. 

Carrie Saved from the Bin

The first few pages of Carrie, which was about a girl with telekinetic powers who would take revenge on her bullying schoolmates, wound up in King’s trash can. It was Tabatha who picked up those papers from the bin, saw its potential, and encouraged her husband to continue and finish it, which he did.

Carrie became a best-seller in 1974 despite being rejected 30 times before Doubleday Publishing took it. It was adapted into a movie in ’76 and again after that. King had said that the inspiration for this story came from two classmates. He had also read an article in Life Magazine on how young people, adolescent girls, in particular, could produce telekinetic power.

These factors put together produced the book’s idea. When Carrie became a paperback, it sold over a million copies its first year. Why? Because the story of Carrie resonates with almost anyone who has been bullied in high school or has been the bully.

But when asked which three books he would save if he had to, his answer was: “Dumb question, but I’ll play. Lisey’s StoryThe Stand, and Misery.”

There are at least 50 film and TV adaptations out of his books. Some have been adapted more than once, like Carrie and It, the child-eating clown who lives in a sewer. His personal favorite adaptations are Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Mist.


Post-Carrie

The next most famous book he wrote in the 70s was The Shinning, (Salem’s Lot came in between Carrie and The Shining). The Shining is based on an idea every reader of the genre has read at one time or another; the haunted house, in this case, the haunted hotel. So what makes this book so scary? One answer could be that in between the fictional horror, there is real-world horror that exists. When the sanity of a family man slowly slips away, that is terrifying.

The 1980s saw over twenty books written by The Master of Horror. Of the most popular ones was Cujo in 1981, about a rabid St. Bernard, Pet Sematary in 1983, one of his scariest by his own admittance, and Misery in 1987, which was about a writer saved after an accident by an obsessed, psychotic nurse.

Robert Bachman

His publishers were worried that readers would get oversaturated by the writings of Stephen King. With an intense ability to pump out more books, he then created a pen name for himself, Richard Bachman. King himself wanted to know if his books were indeed popular because of his writing or because of the name Stephen King.

Rage was the first horror novel of four published under that name. The book, about a troubled high school student who brings a gun to school and holds a class hostage, shows just how far King was ahead of his times.

Rage was actually written when he was a high school student. At the time of writing, King and everyone else didn’t live in a world where school shootings were even heard of. During the 80s, King requested that Rage be removed from all shelves.

Personal Struggles

King admitted that he barely remembers writing Cujo during the 80s because he was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. He’s been drug and alcohol-free since the late 80s.

In 1999, the world almost lost Stephen King when he was hit by a minivan in Maine, which left him with severe injuries, including a collapsed lung.

Some critics will point out the difference in his writing before and after his addiction and accident. His books are notably shorter in length after the accident.

Die-hard fans would compare him to a bottle of wine; he only gets better as he ages. Despite the eye-rolling of some critics who think it is ludicrous to consider Stephen King as a serious literary writer, there is no escaping his influence and his abilities to craft a story.

When an author has 61 published novels – not including his short stories, novellas, and a long list of unpublished works, is respected by his readers and different generations and authors of different genres throughout his career, his work was adapted time and time again, then there is no denying, that this author has something extraordinary to offer.


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