PART 2 - Duma Key, Jack Sawyer and The Gingerbread Girl
"They have this power so that sometimes if he
paints things into the world they kind of appear and if
he paints things out they disappear, including people."
"Of course you have to put him in some sort of situation where
he has to come back and then the clock is ticking."
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Lilja: I understand that you have another book ready called Duma Key?
Stephen King: Duma Key is done in first draft and it's kind of a glorious mess right now and needs to be shorter but it's a good story.
It's the first of the stories I have written that are set in Florida. We have been coming down here for about eight years and I feel comfortable writing about it. Finally I said to myself, "You write all these books about Maine because it's comfortable for you and it's easy but sometimes good things come from discomfort". So I tried to do the best that I could, it's a scary story that's kind of sweet.
Lilja: Can you reveal anything about the plot?
Stephen King: Sure, it's about a construction worker who is involved in a terrible accident. He lives in the northern part of the United States, Minnesota, and he's hurt very badly and loses an arm, sustains head injuries and is not expected to live but he does and he comes out of a coma and because of the head injuries he has uncontrollable rages and memory lapses. It's very difficult and his wife divorces him so he decides he's going to move to Florida but he's also thinking about suicide just because of his pain and because he doesn't like being angry all the time and this psychiatrist kind of talks him out of it and one of the things he says is, "Is there anything that you do that you can use as a kind of buffer against this depression? Is there any kind of new life for you besides working on buildings?" and this guy says, "I used to draw, I used to paint a little bit" and the guy says, "Well, try that" and he discovers that, after this injury, that he is really a very talented painter and he moves to Florida and he starts to paint these pictures and then strange things start to happen with the pictures. They have this power so that sometimes if he paints things into the world they kind of appear and if he paints things out they disappear, including people. And there is something going on, on this island, this Duma Key that is actually amping that talent up and making it stronger because there is something wrong there. That's the real basis of the story.
Lilja: Do you expect it to be out this year?
Stephen King: No, I don't think so. I've got to work on it and I kind of like... you know what happens to me is, I say to myself, "I've got to rewrite this book and there's a lot of work involved because it's too long" and I think to myself, "I don't wanna do that, I'd rather write something new". So that's what I'm doing, I'm working on something new.
Lilja: Can you reveal anything about that?
Stephen King: Well, it's a story called The Gingerbread Girl and it's going to be long, I think...I don't think it's gonna be a novel but I think it's gonna be pretty long, probably not as long as Shawshank or The Body or those things but probably pretty long.
It's one of those stories that falls into a no-man's land. It's too long to be a short story and get published in a magazine but it's too short to be a novel.
Lilja: Speaking of that are you planning a new collection soon where it might fit?
Stephen King: Somebody was asking me about that and I don't know what I've got that hasn't been published, I'd have to think about it. If I went to Marsha and said, "Find out how many short stories are uncollected" she could do that but I don't know how many that is.
There's a story in Tinhouse called Memory but that's really the first chapter of Duma Key all kind of dressed up.
Lilja: Yeah, I remember reading that, that it was an excerpt from Duma Key. That was a very good story.
Stephen King: It's pretty good. It's about the guy's accident. And there's a story called Lisey and the Madman but that's from Lisey's Story so those two are out. I don't wanna do those but there are a few other ones. There's a story in Playboy last month called Willa.
Lilja: Is Willa something you'd want to expand?
Stephen King: No, I don't think so but I was still sort of under the influence of Lisey's Story. I had a wonderful time writing Lisey's Story, it was kind of magic for me and there seemed to be a little of that magic left over at the end and it went into Willa.
Lilja: Lisey's Story is a very nice book. One of your best books if I may say so.
Stephen King: I think it's THE best book.
Stephen King: Yes, I do. Yeah, I think it's the best one and... you just never know. You sit down to work on a book and then when I was done with it I said to myself, "I don't really wanna write another book because it won't be as good". I mean it's like if you read a really good book, you put it on the shelf and you feel sad because you say to yourself, "I'm gonna read another book but I know it won't be as good as this one".
Lilja: Do you feel that when you're done or do you feel it in the process, that this is about to be something very good?
Stephen King: You just feel it. You know when it's going along day by day that it's really, really good and you don't know why... you just kind of like...write it and say, "boy I hope this will stick that way". But...I never had a book quite like Lisey and it was funny how that worked out because when I wrote most of it I was really sick a lot of the time. I had pneumonia and I picked up one of these hospital infections so that when I got out of the hospital I was just nauseated all the time, I couldn't keep food down, I felt like crap. The book was just angelic... So that was good but I actually literary wrote Lisey in between running to the bathroom to vomit what I had eaten last and finally I shook what ever it was I had. And the book just never really lost that magic for me and usually you write a book and you usually feel pretty good about it when you're writing it. I usually feel like "Goddamn, this is good, this is great" and then it comes to a point when you have to work on it again and you say, "oh, what a pile of shit this was, what were you thinking?". You know you always feel a little bit like you fell short but I never felt that way with Lisey. I felt good about that book.
Lilja: Do you work more now than you did before?
Stephen King: It comes and it goes. It comes and goes in streaks. I had a time last year in January and February when we were down here in Florida and I couldn't really seem to get anything going. It just... nothing really seemed to work. It all fell apart like in my hands like tissue paper and this year it's like I can't do anything wrong, I really feel like I'm in a groove. I should not say that, now it will change.
Lilja: I hope it won't.
Stephen King: I hope it won't either.
Lilja: Do you work on several projects at the same time, or...?
Stephen King: Not any more. I'm too old for that and you know it used to be that I would work on something fresh in the morning and then I would rewrite at night but I also used to get loaded at night. I used to drink a lot and that's kinda like... it's a medicine for...I don't know...insecurity or something because I'd work and be a little bit loaded and I say, "Damn this is good" and it wasn't always, so...
Lilja: It's better when you're not drunk then?
Stephen King: Yeah!
Lilja: Yeah, I'm glad to hear that.
Stephen King: Now instead of working morning and night I have a tendency to work mostly in the morning... once every two or three weeks I'll push everything aside and I write one of these Entertainment Weekly columns and... I don't know... that's a little bit harder than it used to be. You just want them to be good and at the same time you want them to feel casual and kinda off the cuff, it's not easy to achieve that all the time but the column's been kind of fun. It's certainly given me a chance to do something different and that's OK.
Lilja: Is it hard to work under a deadline?
Stephen King: It's strange. I don't know if you actually say it's hard but sometimes it's kinda fun. They asked me one time if I would do a column on a movie about the Red Sox. I'm trying to think...Drew Barrymore was in that and...
Lilja: I think you were in it as well?
Stephen King: Yeah, I was in it. Yeah, that's right. I did have a little cameo in that. It was called Fever Pitch.
I'm in the movie and I can't remember what it was. But that is because I didn't have any lines. I didn't really get a close up.
Lilja: Was that pitch just for the movie or did you do it for... was it real?
Stephen King: They just did the movie and they asked me if I would do this thing where they could film me throwing out the first pitch at this game and that was already scheduled with the Red Sox so I said, "Sure, why not. Knock yourselves out".
So that was kinda fun but then the people from Entertainment Weekly called me and said, "Will you write a piece about this? They'll screen the movie for you today but we would need the piece tonight because we're going to press and we wanna do it in this issue". So I saw the movie and I wrote the piece that night in about an hour and a half which was all the time I had. And that was kinda fun. That was like being back in collage again and having a deadline for a paper or something and sometimes when somebody puts you under that kind of stress you do good work. So you respond to the challenge. I mean I like to think of myself not as this big rich best-selling writer but just as a craftsman, somebody who does this day by day.
Lilja: I hear also that there will be a third book about Jack Sawyer?
Stephen King: I hope so. I've gotta try to clear some space for that but that was always the plan.
Lilja: You always planed to do three books?
Stephen King: Well, I don't think we always planned to do three books, we planned to do one. And then at some point I think that I suggested to Peter that we do another book, a follow-up. You know in some ways it was a great book, I really enjoyed that book, I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed the process the second time even more than the first because it seemed to me to actually be a richer book in some ways and just... the funny thing about... it's the same for writers as it is for readers when you go back and revisit characters that you've written about before, they become real in your imagination and it's like meeting old friends.
So, we really sort of enjoyed that book but it was an unlucky book because it was scheduled to be published on September 13, 2001 and two days before that they hit the World Trade Center and you know Peter and I had been scheduled to do this big publicity swing, we were going to do the talk shows, do signings and this and that and the other thing and everything just got cancelled. The book... it was almost like a book that didn't happen. Because of all the tragedy that went around and you know I called Peter on the phone and I said, "I don't think anybody's gonna wanna read about a supernatural cannibal after what just happened". And the book sold pretty well but it didn't sell at the time, nothing did really.
Lilja: Was it harder to write the second book then the first book?
Stephen King: No.
Stephen King: No, it was about the same. It was just a real pleasure. And working with somebody else lightens the load. If it's someone that you see eye to eye with. I mean Peter is a great guy and I've always really gotten along with him, it's like he's my big brother in a way so it was kinda like, I think, my idea that we do the follow-up with Black House and with the third one, the way Black House turned out, we never had any question that there is to be another book. It's just a question of trying to find the time.
Lilja: Have you planned out the plot of the third book?
Stephen King: Ah...[laughs] ...it's there, I mean sometimes you just know. It's there just waiting for us, you know. Because Jack is hurt, goes over to the Territories and the way things are left is that he'll be OK if he's over there on the other side but if he comes back to our world he will sicken and die in short order so of course you have to put him in some sort of situation where he has to come back and then the clock is ticking.
PART 1 - Fan sites, Blaze and The Haven Foundation
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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