Peter Straub

Posted: July 23, 2001
Here is an interview with Peter Straub that a friend of mine, Anders Jakobson and I did for the Nordic Stephen King
Fan Club we run. This interview was first published in Följeslagarna (which is what the club is called) on July 23, 2001 and if you want to read it in Swedish that's where you should head.

OK, here we go...

Följeslagarna: Can you tell us a bit about Black House? Word is that it's a darker book then The Talisman. Maybe it's a stupid question, but did it feel like a natural thing to let Jack Sawyer age with the story? We mean - he was 12 in 1984 and now he's 31.

Peter Straub: By now, most people who care about it know the basic premise of Black House: that Jack is a retired detective who is drawn into involvement with a series of child murders. This case connects to the Territories, about which he now has amnesia.

It felt completely natural to catch up with Jack at the age of 31. In fact, I think it was easier for us than it was for him.

Följeslagarna: According to King's official web site there will be a lot of connections to his The Dark Tower series in Black House. This has been discussed quite a bit on the Internet. Some fans feel that you have sold out and that Black House is more Stephen King book then a King/Straub collaboration. How do you feel about this? Have you added any connections to your own stories to balance this connection to King's Dark Tower?

Peter Straub: Sold out? Christ, how stupid. Incorporating bits of the Tower mythology was my idea, and Steve of course agreed instantly. Partly, I wanted to find out more about that world, and I also knew that almost everything King writes these days is connected to the Tower universe. It's just a small element in Black House.

Följeslagarna: In the interview you did for Tenebres Stephen King Issue last year, you said that Black House started with King remembering an idea you had mentioned during the writing of the first book. What was the idea?

Peter Straub: The idea was a reflection about just how bad a house could be, exactly.

Följeslagarna: How did you (technically) write Black House? Was it different from the way you did it with The Talisman? We've heard about the 40 pages "bible", which sort of included the outline to the story - when did you write this "bible"? Was it only written by King?

Peter Straub: We cooked up the "bible" together over a week in Florida during February, 2000. We talked about the story, then took turns sitting down at the computer and pushing the ideas forward.

Följeslagarna: When you wrote The Talisman you imitated each other's writing styles so you came up with a collaborative "voice" (King once said that you should have published the book under the name Chauncey Boogerheart, to stop readers from making a guessing game out of who wrote what in the book) - do you feel that this voice (Chauncey Boogerheart, if you want!) is present in BLACK HOUSE and in that case was it hard to find that voice again?

Peter Straub: This time around, Chauncey Boogerheart's voice is considerably more elevated, riper, plummier than heretofore. The direness of the situation seemed to call for an increase in dignity.

Följeslagarna: When reading about how The Talisman came together (meetings in England and USA, long drives where you came up with the Territories, "the great Thanksgiving putsch" etc), it seems like you had a lot of fun writing the book. King once said "When Peter said he was going to send something, I would get excited because I was going to get to read some more of the story". As we've understood most of the work this time was done "electronically" - the long drives changed to daily emails for a couple of months, then a meeting in Florida (where the "bible" was written?) and the 50 pages installments back and forth as email attachments. Was it really as fun this time as back in the early 80's when you wrote The Talisman? How many times did you meet and write together this time?

Peter Straub: Actually, this was more fun that the first time around. We got together only once, in Florida, and did the rest by e-mail or in telephone conversations. Everything flew by, everything fell into place.

Följeslagarna: Oddly it seems like this method of writing was really effective since you finished the script six weeks before the deadline! Did this surprise you or is it a common thing?

Peter Straub: I have to say, it was a very happy surprise.

Följeslagarna: What we've read The Talisman should originally have been a "Go-get-it-and-bring-it-back"-book, but you decided to cut the outline in half since the book should have become way too long (you've said something about a 4000 pages novel...) - what about this time? Did you write an outline that you knew would be enough for the length of the novel or did you have to cut it this time as well?

Peter Straub: Nope, this time we simply expanded on the outline. The first 2 pages of the outline took up about 50 pages of manuscript. The book wound up being longer than we had anticipated. It is almost exactly as long as The Talisman.

Följeslagarna: Going back to the outline for The Talisman - do you remember anything from the part that was cut that you really wanted to write - a "kill your darlings" so to speak?

Peter Straub: I always liked the massacre in a farmhouse that was never written. It was inspired by the murders Capote wrote about in In Cold Blood.

Följeslagarna: How do you feel about the fact that Mick Garris will turn The Talisman into a miniseries? Is this something you look forward to? Do you have any power over the script? One script written by Richard Lagravenese was very strange and not true to the book, but we know that Garris is writing his own script and that he will stay true to the book.

Peter Straub: Sounds pretty good to me.

Följeslagarna: It's taken almost 20 years to turn The Talisman into a film (although the rights were sold before the books was published, according to the rumors that is) - do you have any hopes for Black House turning into a movie? Seeing the "trailer" for the book (!) on the Internet gave us the impression that a movie was already made!

Peter Straub: The book has been sent to the various relevant parties, and we should have some information before long.

Följeslagarna: We understand that there will be a special eBook version of Black House, one that will contain notes from you, King and the editor. Do you see this as a 20th century version of limited edition of the book?

Peter Straub: Well, there will be a limited, too, of course. I guess this added stuff is only an inducement, a sales tool, for the e-book. Me, I don't know why anybody would want to read Black House in the e-book format.

Följeslagarna: Early on there was some talk that King should write, what he called, a "bridge" between The Talisman and Black House on his own and publish this as an e-Book. This book should update us on Jack Sawyer's life the last 20 years (roughly). This information came from King's agent Ralph Vincinanza in an interview in Publishers Weekly, but when we asked you about this, you didn't know anything about it. Do you know something about this now? Will there be a "bridge"? Are you involved at all?

Peter Straub: The "bridge" story is still completely up in the air. If it happens at all, I'll start it, and King will finish it. (If Steve reads this, he'll be surprised, because we haven't even discussed the matter. My editor thought I might begin it, then pass it along to Steve.)

Följeslagarna: How do you feel about publishing on the Internet? We know King has published some stuff exclusively on the Internet (RIDING THE BULLET and THE PLANT), do you have any plans to publish on the Internet?

Peter Straub: I don't really write enough material to experiment with the Internet.

Följeslagarna: Black House has already been promoted a lot - advertisements almost a year ahead of the release, websites, trailers, etc. Do you have any thoughts on this? Is this the future of promoting a new book?

Peter Straub: It may be the future of promoting a book considered highly marketable by its publishers.

Följeslagarna: Will you and King do a signing tour for the book? If so do you know any of the dates?

Peter Straub: No, there will not be a tour.

Följeslagarna: Do you surf the Internet in purpose of seeing what your fans think of your work?

Peter Straub: Now and again, I use Google/Deja to find out if anyone's been talking about me.

Följeslagarna: One of readers once pointed out the similarities between King's IT and your FLOATING DRAGON (how catastrophes with supernatural elements strikes an American town in intervals and how it all ends with a struggle against a beast underground and how a group of selected people fight against the evil) - any idea how this happened since you wrote the books more or less at the same time?

Peter Straub: I seem to remember that we each read the other's manuscript when we were about halfway along, and probably that's how it happened.

Följeslagarna: Do you think you and King will work together again? Can we look forward to The Talisman 3 in 15 years?

Peter Straub: I'd say the chances for a third volume look pretty good.

Följeslagarna: On that interesting note we would like to thank Peter for the interview, it was great to talk to you!

(c)1996 - 2001 Lilja's Library & Följeslagarna.
All rights reserved. Used by permission only.