Stephen King part 1
Posted: January 16, 2007
Welcome to the first part of a three part interview I did over the phone with Stephen King last week. At a time when he is turning down interview requests, Stephen King made an exception for Lilja's Library to accommodate a previous commitment and did the interview you're about to read.
We talked for about 45 minutes and managed to cover things like his upcoming books Duma Key, Blaze and a second sequel to The Talisman.
We also talked about what he thinks about all the fan sites dedicated to him on the Internet, his collaboration with John Mellencamp, The Haven Foundation, limited editions of his books and a new novella called The Gingerbread Girl that he is currently working on.
I hope you will enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it. Stephen King's kindness and down-to-earth manner made it extremely enjoyable even if I was very nervous when I picked up the phone and heard "Hello Hans? Steve King..." .
Enjoy! / Lilja
PART 1 - Fan sites, Blaze and The Haven Foundation
"I would rather that they think of me as Santa Claus. That I'm paying attention to
their little lists but I can't respond to everything in person."
"Will it satisfy the fans? And between you and me and between
everybody who reads your website, I have my doubts."
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Lilja: So, how are you feeling? Have you recovered from your accident?
Stephen King: Well, I think that if it had happened to me when I was 40 instead of 50 I might be all better but I get sore and I have a fair amount of pain in the hip and the leg but it doesn't keep me down much. I walk about three and a half miles a day and they told me, "Use it or you're gonna lose it", but mostly I feel just terrific. I'm great.
Lilja: I'm glad to hear it.
Having a website I wonder, how do you feel about all the websites about you that's out there on the Internet?
Stephen King: Well, I don't go much. I go to yours because it's always interesting, there is always a lot to look at .
Lilja: Thank you!
Stephen King: And sometimes I peek at The Dark Tower sites to see what's going on there and every now and then I'll be like a ghost and sniff around my own website. You know, I tell you what, it's a fun thing to do to go to those places because, as Amy Tan says, when you go and you check on what people are saying about you it's like being at a party and overhearing people say things and the things they say are fairly nice.
Lilja: Do you ever feel like contacting the people that have the sites and correct them if something is wrong or unfair?
Stephen King: No, I mean every now and then it's like... I was looking at the thread on Lisey's Story on the Stephen King website and there were several people that said well, "Well jeez if Scott was so sick why didn't he go to that pool and get better?" and I got in touch with Marsha and said, "Will you tell these people that he couldn't do that because the long boy was laying across the path?". You see stuff like that and you say, "Jeez does these people really read or not?" Anyway, she put it on there but you could spend your life going to websites and looking at what people are saying about you and it would kind of slow me down and it would make me very self-conscious, so a lot of times I don't do it.
Lilja: I did a Google search on your name and I got about 40 million hits...
Stephen King: Wow!
Lilja: So, there are a lot of sites out there.
Stephen King: See, that is scary to think of that. What can they all have to say?
Lilja: Well, you have done a lot.
Stephen King: I have. I have done a lot and I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing but it's the way I am.
Lilja: It's definitely a good thing!
Stephen King: Well, good. Thank you.
Lilja: Do you feel the pressure? I read somewhere that people expected you to respond to questions on your official site. Do you feel a pressure to interact with the fans?
Stephen King: I don't particularly. I would rather that they think of me as Santa Claus. That I'm paying attention to their little lists but I can't respond to everything in person. I'd like to think that they know that I know what's going on and to some extent I do but as I say, if I paid attention to everything I wouldn't have time to write books and that's what most people want.
Lilja: Yes, I think everyone wants that if they have to choose.
I understand that Blaze will be out soon.
Stephen King: Yeah. I hope so. I mean that was a funny thing because I have been thinking about that book off and on for a while and every time I would think about it...you know I did the early books as Richard Bachman books and this is going to be a Bachman because it came from the same time. It was written right before Carrie and finally I thought to myself...the reason I've never done it was because, in my memory at least, it was a tearjerker of a book, you know it was kind of sentimental and just kind of...every now and then I think of what Oscar Wilde said about The Little Match Girl. He said that it's impossible to read about the little match girl without weeping tears of laughter and...you know something that is so sad it's actually funny.
And I felt that way a little bit about this Philip Roth book Every Man, you know I'm thinking, "that's ridiculous, this is so sad it's really quite funny" but I've got a kind of a black sense of humor too.
Lilja: Why did you decide to release it as a Bachman book?
Stephen King: I read it again. And I thought... well, the first thing that I thought was I've got to look at this if I can still find it, if anybody can find it because I've got this thing now, This Haven Foundation which is supposed to help freelance artists. You know about the Frank Muller situation?
Stephen King: He had this horrible motorcycle accident and it turned out he had no money. He had no insurance. He had no backing. He owed the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service. He owed them money for back taxes. He was just a mess and he had this one kid and another kid on the way that he just found out about like three or four days before this accident. And he was never gonna be... I mean he's totally fucked up. Pardon my French but he's totally screwed up. He's never gonna work again and there was no money. So, we set up the Wavedancer Foundation for him and we could never really get any traction because the amount of money was so high and I just kept thinking, it drove me crazy, I'm thinking if this has happened to Frank, think of all the other freelancers who are out there who probably don't have much, they are almost living hand to mouth, day to day. So we started this thing The Haven Foundation at the time of the reading I did with Jo Rowling and John Irving at Radio City Music Hall.
And the idea was to help writers and artists who were down on their luck and we gotta have some money to start with, we gotta have start up money so, I'm thinking to myself. I need a book, I need to publish a book and copyright it to The Haven Foundation and all the money can go to this thing because I don't need any more money, you know. I guess everybody could use it but right now I don't exactly need it anymore.
So, Blaze was what occurred to me and I thought, "Well, it's probably not good enough, why not look at it again and see?". So I did and I was wrong about it, it's really a good book. So, I rewrote it and I did it kind of, it was very funny to get the manuscript because it was done in my wife's old typewriter. Tabby claims that I married her for a typewriter. She had a nice little Olivetti, portable typewriter, very sturdy and I wrote Carrie on it, Blaze and a bunch of other stuff as well. I guess I wrote Shawshank on that typewriter too, on a kitchen table in Boulder.... I went ahead and I rewrote it and sent it in. And they like it at Scribner's so we're going to do it.
Lilja: And you're going to sell it through Haven Foundation?
Stephen King: Yeah, the money will go to Haven. And that way we'll have a certain amount in that fund to start with and we'll do some fundraisers. I did a political thing with John Grisham for a senatorial candidate in September because anybody who is against George Bush's Iraq policy is my friend.
Lilja: Yeah, I heard you talk about that...you got your wish.
Stephen King: Yeah, he got elected. He is a good guy. Bush met him and said, "How is your boy?" because Jim Webb's boy is fighting in Iraq and Webb said "That's between my boy and me". Kind of spanked his nose. Not his business.
Lilja: You also wrote a story called The Fifth Quarter under the name John Swithen.
Stephen King: I did.
Lilja: Have you used other names?
Stephen King: No.
Lilja: Would you tell me if you had?
Stephen King: Actually at this point I would but I never have. The Swithen thing... at that time I was publishing stories all the time in Cavalier and this story wasn't like the horror stories. It's this hardboiled crime thing and I had a story in the previous issue and it was really like the pulp writers who used to use all different names in the 50's cause they poured that stuff out and that was my time to just pour stuff out so I used the John Swithen name but I never used it again. I didn't really like it. Have you seen the thing that they did of The Fifth Quarter for the Nightmares & Dreamscapes?
Lilja: Yes, I have seen it.
Stephen King: Not bad.
Lilja: The series was very good. I'm sad to hear that it probably won't be a second season.
Stephen King: I don't know, I don't think so. I don't really know. I mean it did pretty well for them. They're going to do The Talisman.
Lilja: What are your feelings about them turning The Talisman into a TV series?
Stephen King: I'm glad somebody's doing it. I mean it seems to me that that's the way to do it, as a miniseries because nobody could ever make it work as a movie, there was too much stuff in there and you know Spielberg had it for the longest time and those were the only tough movie negotiations that I ever had. Because Spielberg at that time had a boss named Sid Sheinberg at Universal Pictures and Sid Shineberg kind of inserted himself into things and he was very rude and very, very hard nosed because I don't think he really wanted Spielberg to do that. At that time Spielberg was still young, he was really enthusiastic about all these things and he would buy a lot or things and let them sit. And Shineberg was afraid that was what would happen to The Talisman and of course it was because it has been there for like twenty years.
Lilja: Yeah, I read that they even bought it before the book was released.
Stephen King: Yeah, I think they did... I think they did.
Lilja: I understand that a lot of fans are worried that it won't be possible to translate it into a successful movie because it has such a rich story.
Stephen King: I don't think it'll be the same. I have seen some of the scripts and the scripts concentrate pretty much on Jack Sawyer's relationship with Wolf and there's a lot more to the book than that but I think that they're kind of concentrating on that relationship. I think it will probably look nice and that it will have a story to it. Will it satisfy the fans? And between you and me and between everybody who reads your website, I have my doubts. We'll see.
Lilja: Are you concerned about how the movies turn out?
Stephen King: No...[laughs]
Lilja: No? You let them go when you...
Stephen King: No, I'm not concerned about that at all. [laughs]
The books are still always there. It's like what James M. Cain said, the book doesn't change and the movies... you know... 1408 is done and the trailer is terrific and... it looks like The Shining only hot instead of cold so maybe it'll be a great movie and everybody will make money and everybody will be happy. John Cusack's in it and I love him as an actor, I respect him very much. Samuel L. Jackson is the hotel manager. He looks terrific and the hotel looks terrific so all those things but... so maybe it's a success and that's terrific. But suppose it's junk. Then it's gone in two weeks. And that's the end of it. But I'm always just interested. I approach it as a fan and I know that there are writers who, what can I say, they kind of hover over things, the book is their little baby and in some cases I can understand that. It's like Charles Frazier who wrote... you know... the book and then it became a movie with Nicole Kidman and Cold Mountain.
The guy has only written two books in his career, of course he was concerned, you know. Ross Lockridge only wrote one book and then he killed himself. I don't know if he killed himself because the movie was so bad... it might have been. Elizabeth Taylor was in it and Montgomery Cliff... but you only have that one baby. You get really, really concerned. Did you read Scott Smith's book A Simple Plan?
Lilja: No, I haven't read that one.
Stephen King: Did you see the movie that Sam Raimi did out of it?
Stephen King: Ah, it's great. It's a great movie and it's a great book but the thing is Scott Smith who wrote the book spent six years dicking around with the screenplay because it was his only book. Now he's got another book out. It's a horror novel called the The Ruins and that's a really nice book too. I mean it's not nice, it's scarier than hell, but, you know.. for me I write a lot of books and I'm always interested in what the movies are gonna be. It's like the Dollar Babies. I do it because I want to see what comes out. I'm like a kid with a chemistry set.
Lilja: Yeah, it's been a lot of Dollar Babies done lately.
Stephen King: Yeah and they're fun. Some of them are ridiculous and some of them are really terrific.
Lilja: Yeah, I saw a Russian version of Battleground, I don't know if you have seen it?
Stephen King: No, I haven'.
Lilja: It's animated, very funny.
Stephen King: I'll have to get Marsha to send me one but you know there's also a claymation version of The Sun Dog and it's a riot.
Lilja: I've heard about that one but never seen it.
Stephen King: They've done an off Broadway play of Carrie and Carrie is played by a transvestite and it's... I haven't seen it yet and it's closed but I think it will reopen. It was quite successful. Somebody said to me, "Do you care that they kind of like turned this thing into a, almost like a camp comedy?" and I said, "No". I really don't care about that it has that element in it and so what. Lets see what comes.
Lilja: If you try enough times something good will come from some of them.
Stephen King: Exactly, I mean a guy like Frank Darabont comes along and you know, Frank and I have stayed tight over the years. He's going to start with The Mist in, I think, about six weeks. And that's exciting.
Lilja: Are you more excited about some films then others?
Stephen King: Sure. I'm excited about The Mist, I was always kind of pumped to see what happened with Cujo and of course Misery. I was very excited about Misery because it was William Goldman that was doing the script and you know, he's been an idol of mine most of my life. Dolores Claiborne with Kathy Bates again and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I was very interested to see what would happen.
Some of them were disappointments you know... Needful Things for instance but some of them are really fun to watch and I'm easy to please.
Lilja: In some movies you have small cameos. Is that something you enjoy to do?
Stephen King: Yeah, it's OK if I've got the time to do it. I mean I'm not a really great actor. I could probably, you know, if I had the right agent and everything I could have a career as a minor character actor sort of Whit Bissell in the old 50's movies but... I have never been really great at it but it's kind of fun to do that. Frank wanted me to actually play a fairly major part in The Mist. But I said, "you know, I can't do that. You're planning to go and shoot this in some God awful place like New Zealand and I just can't uproot my like life that".
Lilja: It's always nice to see you pop up in the movies though.
Stephen King: Thank you.
PART 2 - Duma Key, Jack Sawyer and The Gingerbread Girl
PART 3 - Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, books in cellphones and limited editions
Copyright (c) 2007, Lilja's Library. All rights reserved. Larger parts of this interview may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from Lilja's Library.
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