Stephen King

February 1, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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When asked why he became a writer, Stephen King responded: “The answer to that is fairly simple-there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.” (1)

Stephen King


His father, Donald, sold vacuums door to door and his mother Ruth, stayed home to care for her two boys, David and Stephen.  In 1950, Donald abandoned the family and Ruth was forced to work two or three jobs to support her family.  David and Stephen would stay home, reading mysteries and horror comic books.  Ruth would tell her children stories to keep them entertained.  The small family enjoyed reading and their home was full of books.  The children also published their own newspaper, to which Steve would contribute movie and book reviews. 

Stephen enjoyed horror movies and television shows, never showing the fear.  Instead, he would write about the things that frightened him and submitted his stories to magazines.  He collected rejection letters, but he remained persistent until he his first manuscript was published. 

I was a Teenage Grave Robber was the first story to be published in 1965 by Comics Review.  In college, Stephen continued to write, including a column in the student newspaper; a comic serialized western and novels.  He not only aspired to be a writer, he actually did it.  The Glass Floor was the first story published for which he received payment. 

Stephen and Tabitha met at school, had a daughter Naomi and were married after graduation. They were poor and working odd jobs to support their small family.   King continued to write, feeling this would be his ticket out of poverty.    By the time Joseph, the King’s second child, was born, King was working as a teacher and submitted stories to adult magazines.  The income from the stories barely covered expenses.   

Bill Thompson an editor at Double Day, agreed to publish Carrie, with a $2500 advance.  

Carrie Stephen King

The soft back version garnered a $400,000 paycheck for publishing rights, of which King received half, and he was able to devote himself to writing full time.   For the first time in his life, Stephen King was able to indulge himself, so he bought a Cadillac. Otherwise, he kept his feet firmly on the ground and his butt firmly in his seat, writing 1500 words a day.  He was inspired by the day to day events of his life in a small town.  

 According to King I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.” (1) 

His second novel Salem’s Lot was published by Doubleday. 

Salem’s Lot Stephen King

 The Shining was inspired by a family get away to the Stanley Hotel.  During their stay, King began to work on a story about a boy with paranormal powers and his drunken father.   “In On Writing, King admits that at this time he was often drunk and was even intoxicated while delivering his mother’s eulogy. He states he was the basis for The Shining’s alcoholic father, though he would not admit it (even to himself) for several years.” (2) The movie Carrie was released in 1976 and it was a box office winner.  Stephen King, the author, was well known and in demand, but his privacy was the high price he paid. 

 The Dead Zone was almost autobiographical of King’s struggle to protect his private life.   “As the best-selling novelist in the world, and the most financially successful horror writer in history, King is an American horror icon of the highest order. King’s books and characters encompass primary fears in such an iconic manner that his stories have become synonymous with certain key genre ideas.”(2)

 Pet Cemetery was also inspired by real events in King’s life.  His family rented a home near a busy road which was treacherous.  Neighborhood pets were frequently killed and buried behind the King’s home. The King’s youngest child was also nearly killed and in order to cope with the fear, Stephen wrote about it, but the subject was so terrifying he put it away for four years. 

The Stand, King’s fourth novel, is a classic story of good versus evil. According to King “I never said this to anybody because it sounds so goddamned pretentious, but I wanted to do The Lord of the Rings with an American background…The more I thought about this particular Gordian Knot, the more I thought, “Suppose you cut right through the middle of it. Suppose everybody died except maybe a certain percentage of the world’s population – then there’d be enough oil!” I began to embroider on the idea – the empty towns, the sand dunes.” (3) 

Between 1980 and 1984, King wrote fourteen novels, as well as, poems, short stories and plays.  Literary critics often called Stephen King a hack. However, with growing popularity and rich, diverse stories, he gained respect.  By the late 1980’s he had published 30 books, 16 of which were made into movies: including Misery, Dolores Claiborne, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile all critically acclaimed. 

The Green Mile

1., FAQs, Retreived December 20072. Wikipedia, Stephen King, , Retreived December 20073. Wikipedia, Interview with Abe Peck, College Papers,Rolling Stone, 1980.


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