Richard Chizmar

Posted: March 23, 2017
Lilja: Richard Chizmar is just about to publish a book with Stephen King and I really wanted to know how they did it and how it came to be…

Let’s start from the beginning. How did this happen? How did you get to co-write a story with Stephen King?

Richard Chizmar: Steve and I email and text quite often. We discuss a variety of subjects, ranging from movies to books to sports, and of course, we sometimes talk about writing. One day the subject of collaborations came up and Steve mentioned he had a story he couldn’t finish. I told him I would love to see it if he ever felt like sending it my way. The next evening, the “Gwendy” file showed up with a note that read: “do whatever you want with it…”

Lilja: This must be a dream come true for you…

Richard Chizmar: I’ve dreamed a lot of cool things, but not this. Collaborating with Stephen King was a far bigger dream than I ever dared contemplate. With that said, the entire process – from receiving the story to sitting down and writing the story to ultimately finishing the story – felt very much like a dream I didn’t want to wake up from. I walked around in a daze for weeks. It was challenging and exhilarating and so much fun.

Lilja: Tell me how the process of writing this story went. Did you write a few pages and then send it to the other one who wrote a couple of pages and so on?

Richard Chizmar: Steve sent me the first bunch of pages on a Friday. I spent the weekend thinking about what I wanted to do with the story, then sat down on Monday morning and started to write. By the middle of the week, I had added about 10,000 words. I sent everything to Steve and held my breath. A few days later, the story came back to me with Steve’s additions. We played ping pong two more times with it over the next couple weeks, and we were done.

Lilja: When I read the book I couldn’t tell who wrote which sections, so either you have very similar writing styles or you must have been poking at each other’s parts.

Richard Chizmar: A little of both, I think. Both Steve and I tend to tell stories in a very straightforward manner and we both tend to focus on the characters and what makes them tick. He did a terrific job of getting inside Gwendy’s skin, so it was pretty easy for me to pick up where he left off. We also took a free hand rewriting each other’s work, so it makes sense that our words are layered and blended throughout the novella.

Lilja: Was it always going to become a Cemetery Dance book?

Richard Chizmar: We never discussed that until the novella was nearly finished. At that point, we knew it was too long to send to any of the usual markets, so we decided to model publication on what we did with Blockade Billy.

Lilja: You are also doing a limited signed edition of the book that will, besides being bigger and having additional art, also have a coin included. Can you tell me a bit about this limited edition and what this coin is?

Richard Chizmar: In addition to the illustrated trade hardcover, there will be 350 signed and numbered limited editions and 52 signed and lettered editions. Each edition will be tray-cased, published in oversized formats, and will feature a unique design, special binding materials, extra artwork not found in the trade edition, as well as an exclusively minted silver coin. A mint silver dollar plays a vital role in the story of Gwendy’s Button Box, so we thought it would be an interesting addition to our signed editions. What appears on each side of the coin is…a secret.

Lilja: Tell me a bit about the illustrations. Who did them and what can we expect to see in the finished book?

Richard Chizmar: Ben Baldwin (who also did the artwork for the paperback of my last book, A Long December) contributed a fantastic cover for Gwendy’s Button Box. I truly couldn’t be happier with our cover.

Longtime Cemetery Dance artist, Keith Minnion, also contributed a bunch of interior illustrations and spot art for the book. Keith turned in some amazing interiors, and I can’t wait for readers to see them.

Lilja: Who came up with the name Gwendy? Quite unusual name, right?

Richard Chizmar: That was all Steve. He created the character and the start of the story. I was just fortunate enough to be able to play in his sandbox for a few weeks.

Lilja: The book will also be released as an audio edition. Any chance you or King will narrate it?

Richard Chizmar: Nope, we’re leaving that to the experts. I saw the initial list of potential narrators – and they were all amazing – but I’m not sure who the final choice was. Simon and Schuster will be releasing the Audio version on May 16.

Lilja: And last, do you think you and King will write together again or was Gwendy a one-time thing?

Richard Chizmar: Who knows! No current plans for another collaboration, but I would love to do it all over again. From start to finish, it was a blast.