Stephen King part 1

Posted: February 20, 2008
Welcome to the first part of a three part interview I did over the phone with Stephen King last week. Once again he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and for that I’m very grateful.

This time we talked for about 30 minutes and covered things like the new book he is working on, the upcoming collection Just Past Sunset and a script he has written for The Gingerbread Girl.

We also talked about Duma Key, The Dark Tower comic, his collaboration with John Mellencamp, The Mist and The Talisman 3.

This part will be followed by two more and I really hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did doing them. It was pure pleasure talking to Stephen King.

Enjoy! / Lilja

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PART 1 – Duma Key and a really long new book
"I have no idea how creativity happens or why it happens or what it does to the person how creates it except it makes you feel good while it’s going on."

"I’m assuming it’s gonna be a long book, a really long book."

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Lilja: Hi Steve! How are you? Fine?

Stephen King: Yes, I am. I’m very well indeed.

Lilja: I just finished your last book Duma Key and first I wanna say that I really liked it.

Stephen King: Well, good, I’m glad.

Lilja: Was that one different to write since it was set in Florida compared to your other books?

Stephen King: You know, it was a hard book to write because I had a little idea at first of these two little dead girls that I kept seeing on this road at dusk. And that image actually never made it into the book but that was where I started and the rest of it just all sort of came out… for the day to day writing it was never a plot, it was never an outline so by the time I had finished it I had… you know these little sticky notes that people put up on their desks and things?

Lilja: Yeah.

Stephen King: I had those all over my computer, I could barely see the screen, I had them all over my desk, I had them on the walls…so I would try not to forget anything and when I got done I just had to laugh and I thought “boy I wrote that book by the seat of my pants” [laughs]

Lilja: [laughs] So it was harder to write than your usual book?

Stephen King: Ah….yeah, I think it was. You know, I write two different kinds of books. I write books that have a lot of plot which are difficult and then there are the ones that are just situations like Cell where you say to yourself “What would happen if everyone went crazy at the same time?” and you just kinda play that out. Those are a lot easier …

Lilja: I noticed that Edgar, the main character, is in a lot of pain in the book. Did you draw from your own experience when you wrote that?

Stephen King: I did but I thought that nobody would mistake Edgar for me since his injuries are so much worse than mine were. He loses his arm. But I know enough about pain to wanna write a little bit about that, to wanna write about getting better. The only time I have ever actually written about my own was in On Writing so it was a chance to explore some of that and basically what I wanted to write about that, was on my mind was… About three years after the road accident I had pneumonia. This was around the time of the National Book Award and I had an intestinal bug that was a hospital germ that I picked up and when I was done with all that it was like my memory kinda took a hit, it was hard to remember things and that was really scary and I wanted to write about that.

Lilja: You did a really good job. You really feel for Edgar when you read the book.

Stephen King: Well, thanks. The other thing is I have a friend, his name is Frank Muller, who read books on tapes, he read a lot of my books on discs and tapes and he had a motorcycle accident and he really… he is never gonna be normal again. I don’t think he’s ever going to regain his thought processes but one of the things about Frank is that you have to be careful around him now because he goes into rages. Apparently this is pretty common in frontal brain injuries. To get angry and strike out against the one they love so I thought I wanted to write about that too.

Lilja: In the book Edgar becomes a painter and you have also used painters quite often in your later work. Have you developed an interest in painting yourself?

Stephen King: I can’t even draw a cat [laughs] but I like pictures and I have had some stuff to do with artists particularly with The Dark Tower books and I’m interested in the way they work but it was also a chance to get away from the idea of everyone saying “All you ever write about is writers”. I like to write about what I know; there is a comfort level there. There are more ways to write about art and the creative impulses than just writing about writers. To me even after 35 years--most of my life--of writing stories, the process itself is a total mystery. I have no idea how creativity happens or why it happens or what it does to the person who creates it except it makes you feel good while it’s going on.

Lilja: So you haven’t started painting your own paintings?

Stephen King: No, I haven’t started painting my own paintings but you know Edgar’s paintings are like my work and that’s one thing that nobody said in the reviews or the discussions of the book. Edgar paints sunsets, which are clichés and he changes them from clichés to something else by adding one object that has no business to be there. And what I do is that I write about ordinary people and add something that’s surreal or horrible or out of place in the story and that changes everything so in that sense Edgar really is like me.

Lilja: Speaking of paintings. I really like the cover for the book. I think it’s actually one of the best covers for your books.

Stephen King: Do you?

Lilja: Yes. Do you have a lot to say when it comes to the covers of your books or is that left to the publisher?

Stephen King: No, I got quite a lot to say about it and we talked about that and I said that I thought it would be great if they could have the ocean with a big shell in the foreground and some tennis balls so they got all those things in it.

Lilja: Have you done a lot of promotion for Duma Key?

Stephen King: No.

Lilja: No? I thought there was less than usual.

Stephen King: I didn’t go out a lot, I’m working on a new book and I wanted to do that and I’m assuming it’s gonna be a long book, a really long book. Like The Stand or IT or something like that I think. A very long book. And I talked to the people at the publisher and said, “You have your choice. Either I can work on this book and maybe you can have it in a year or two or I can go out and promote and do all these things that you want me to do and you won’t”. So eventually they saw reason.

You know I did this thing at Radio City with J.K. Rowling and she is a great person, she is very vivacious and she is very lively and very much with it but when we had a run through for the thing I could see that one of her publishers from Scholastic was talking to her and Jo Rowling came back to me and said “Can I talk to you for a minute?” and I said “Sure”.

And she was really steamed and I said “What’s the matter?” and she said “They don’t understand do they? They really don’t understand. They think these things write themselves”. Because she told them she was coming to New York, she was going to do this benefit reading and then she was going to work on the 7th Harry Potter book and they took the opportunity to ask her to do all these other things and that’s the fact, this goes back to that whole business of creativity and what it is and what it isn’t. They don’t understand. They think somehow that this stuff just occurs by magic.

Lilja: But you have spoiled your publishers with a lot of books over the years so they think you can write really fast.

Stephen King: Well, I can but I have to be left alone to do it.

Lilja: Do you like doing promotion if you have the time?

Stephen King: Hate it!

Lilja: Hate it? So you won’t be going back to the UK for a tour any time soon?

Stephen King: I don’t have any real plans to go back but you know I hate the promotion and when I go to the UK they really work me hard, they really want you out there, pushing… but the other side of it is that I love those people at Hodder and it’s very difficult for me to say no to them.

Lilja: So, they just have to ask you in the right way then?

Stephen King: Yeah, exactly.

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If you want to comment or discuss this interview, please mail me.

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PART 2 – Just Past Sunset, The Dark Tower and The Stand
PART 3 – The Gingerbread Girl, The Mist and The Talisman 3

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Copyright (c) 2008, 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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