Stephen's stories frequently involve an unremarkable
protagonist such as a middle-class family, a child, or many
times, a writer. The characters are involved in their everyday
lives, but the supernatural encounters and extraordinary
circumstances escalate over the course of the story. Steven
evinces a thorough knowledge of the horror genre, as shown in
his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, which chronicles several
decades of notable works in both literature and cinema. Stephen
King also writes stories outside the horror genre, including the
novellas The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
(adapted as the movies Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption,
respectively), as well as The Green Mile and Hearts in Atlantis.
Stephen King also wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman.
Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine and is of Scots-Irish ancestry. When King was two years old, his father deserted his family. Stephen King's mother, Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King, raised King and his adopted older brother David by herself, sometimes under great financial strain. The family moved to Ruth's home town of Durham, Maine but also spent brief periods in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Stratford, Connecticut. Steven attended Durham Elementary School and Lisbon High School. He grew to stand 6'4" tall.
Stephen has been writing since an early age. When in school, Stephen King wrote stories based on movies he had seen recently and sold them to his friends. This was not popular among his teachers, and he was forced to return his profits when this was discovered. The stories were copied using a mimeo machine that his brother David used to copy a newspaper, "Dave's Rag," which he self-published. "Dave's Rag" was about local events, and King would often contribute. At around the age of thirteen, Steven discovered a box of his father's old books at his aunt's house, mainly horror and science fiction. He was immediately hooked on these genres.
From 1966 to 1971, Stephen studied English at the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. At the university, Stephen King wrote a column titled "King's Garbage Truck" in the student newspaper, the Maine Campus. He also met Tabitha Spruce; they married in 1971. King took on odd jobs to pay for his studies, including one at an industrial laundry. He used the experience to write the short story The Mangler. The campus period in his life is readily evident in the second part of Hearts in Atlantis.
After Stephen King finished his university studies with a Bachelor of Arts in English and obtaining a certificate to teach high school, King taught English at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. During this time, he and his family lived in a trailer. He wrote short stories (most were published in men's magazines) to help make ends meet. As told in the introduction in Carrie, if one of Stephen King's kids got a cold, Tabitha would joke, "Come on, Steve, think of a monster". Steven also developed a drinking problem which stayed with him for over a decade.
During this period, Stephen began a number of novels. One of Stephen King's first ideas was of a young girl with psychic powers. However, Stephen King grew discouraged, and threw it into the trash. Tabitha later rescued it and encouraged him to finish it. After completing the novel, Steven titled it Carrie, sent it to Doubleday, and more or less forgot about it. Later, he received an offer to buy it with a $2,500 advance (not a large advance for a novel, even at that time). Shortly after, the value of Carrie was realized with the paperback rights being sold for $400,000 (with $200,000 of it going to the publisher). Shortly after its release, his mother died of uterine cancer. Stephen King had the novel read to her before she died.
In On Writing, Stephen admits that at this time he was consistently drunk and that he was an alcoholic for well over a decade. He even admits that he was drunk during his mother’s funeral while delivering the eulogy. Stephen King states that he had based the alcoholic father in The Shining on himself, though he did not admit it (even to himself) for several years.
Shortly after the publication of The Tommyknockers, King's family and friends finally intervened, dumping his trash on the rug in front of him to show him the evidence of his own addictions: beer cans, cigarette butts, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, dextromethorphan (cough medicine), and marijuana. Stephen King sought help and quit all forms of drugs and alcohol in the late 1980s, and has remained sober.
Stephen lives in Bangor, Maine with his wife Tabitha King, who is also a novelist. They also own a house in the Western Lakes District of Maine. He spends winter seasons in an oceanfront mansion located off the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota, Florida. Their three children, Naomi Rachel, Joe Hill (who appeared in the film Creepshow), and Owen Phillip, are grown and living on their own. Owen's first collection of stories, We're All in This Together: A Novella and Stories was published in 2005. Joe Hill's first collection of stories, 20th Century Ghosts was also published in 2005 and has won the Crawford Award for best new fantasy writer and the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection.
In the summer of 1999, Stephen was in the middle of writing On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. At the time, he had finished the memoir section and had abandoned the book for nearly eighteen months, unsure of how to proceed or whether to bother. King reports that it was the first book that he'd abandoned since writing The Stand decades earlier. Stephen King had just decided to continue the book. On June 17, Stephen King had written up a list of questions that he was frequently asked about writing, as well as some that he wished he would be asked about it; on June 18, he had written four pages of the section on writing.
On June 19, about 4:30 PM, Stephen King was walking on the right shoulder of Route 5 in Center Lovell, Maine. Driver Bryan Smith, distracted by an unrestrained Rottweiler, named Bullet, moving in the back of his 1985 Dodge Caravan, struck King, who landed in a depression about 14 feet (4 meters) from the pavement of Route 5.
Oxford County Sheriff's deputy Matt Baker recorded that witnesses said the driver was not speeding or reckless. Baker also reported that King was struck from behind. King's official website, however, states that this was incorrect, and that King was walking facing traffic. In any case, Smith was turned and leaning to the rear of his vehicle trying to restrain his dog, and was not watching the road when he struck King.
Stephen was conscious enough to give the deputy phone numbers to contact his family, but in considerable pain. The author was first transported to Northern Cumberland Hospital and then flown by helicopter to Central Maine Hospital. His injuries — a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of the right leg, scalp laceration, and a broken hip — kept him in Central Maine Medical Center until July 9, almost three weeks later.
Earlier that year Steven had finished most of From a Buick 8, a novel where one of the characters dies in an automobile accident. Of the eerie similarities, Stephen says that he tries "not to make too much of it." Certainly car accidents and their horrors had figured into King's work before. His 1987 novel Misery also concerned a writer who experiences severe injuries in an auto accident, and auto wrecks figure prominently in The Dead Zone and Thinner.
After five operations in ten days and physical therapy, Stephen resumed work on On Writing in July, though his hip was still shattered and he could only sit for about forty minutes before the pain became intolerable.
Steven's lawyer and two others purchased Smith's van for $1,500, reportedly to avoid it appearing on eBay. Smith, a disabled construction worker, died in his sleep on September 21, 2000 (King's birthday) at the age of 43.
Stephen incorporated his accident into the final novel of his Dark Tower series, in which the hero Roland Deschain and his ka-tet try to stop King from being fatally injured by the van. In the story, Roland hypnotized both King and the driver in order to make them forget his appearance.
The novel Dreamcatcher, which was released after Stephen's accident, features a character recovering from a car accident. The series premiere of King's Kingdom Hospital involved the main character, a painter out for a morning run, being hit by a pickup truck, and was also inspired by the accident. In fact the scene was depicted remarkably similar to how he described his real accident occurring, the only exception being that the driver in the show was driving drunk in addition to trying to restrain his dog.
In King's nonfiction book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen discusses his writing style at great length and depth. Stephen believes that, generally speaking, good stories cannot be called consciously and should not be plotted out beforehand but are better served by focusing on a single "seed" of a story and letting the story grow itself from there. King often begins a story with no idea how the story will end. He mentions in the Dark Tower series that, halfway through its lengthy, nearly 30-year writing period, Steven King received a letter from a woman with cancer who asked how the book would end¹, because she was unlikely to live long enough to read it. Stephen King stated that he didn't know. King believes strongly in this style, stating that his best writing comes from freewriting.
Stephen King is known for his great eye for detail, for continuity, and for inside references; many stories that may seem unrelated are often linked by secondary characters, fictional towns, or off-hand references to events in previous books. Read as a whole, King's work (which he claims is centered around his Dark Tower magnum opus) creates a remarkable history that stretches from present day all the way back to the beginning of time (with a unique creation myth).
Steven King's books are filled with references to American history and American culture, particularly the darker, more fearful side of these. These references are generally spun into the stories of characters, often explaining their fears. Recurrent references include crime, war (especially the Vietnam War), and racism.
Stephen is also known for his folksy, informal narration, often referring to his fans as "Constant Readers" or "friends and neighbors." This familiar style contrasts with the horrific content of many of his stories.
Stephen has a very simple formula for learning to write well: "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."
Steven also has a simple definition for talent in writing: "If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented" (from "Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully — in Ten Minutes").
Shortly after his accident, Stephen wrote the first draft of the book Dreamcatcher with a notebook and a Waterman fountain pen, "the world's finest word processor."
In 1996, Stephen won an O. Henry Award for his short story, "The Man in the Black Suit." In 2003, King was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Awards. There was an uproar in the literary community over the choice of King.
Stephen also wrote one short story, The Fifth Quarter, under the name John Swithen. The Fifth Quarter, was reprinted in King's collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 under his own name.
Steven used to play guitar in the band Rock Bottom Remainders but has not joined them on stage for some years. The band's members include: Dave Barry; Ridley Pearson; Scott Turow; Amy Tan; James McBride; Mitch Albom; Roy Blount Jr.; Matt Groening; Kathi Kamen Goldmark; and Greg Iles.
In 2002, King announced he would stop writing, apparently motivated in part by frustration with his injuries, which had made sitting uncomfortable, and reduced his stamina. He has since written several books.
"I'm writing but I'm writing at a much slower pace than previously and I think that if I come up with something really, really good, I would be perfectly willing to publish it because that still feels like the final act of the creative process, publishing it so people can read it and you can get feedback and people can talk about it with each other and with you, the writer, but the force of my invention has slowed down a lot over the years and that's as it should be. I'm not a kid of 25 anymore and I'm not a young middle-aged man of 35 anymore — I'm 55 years old and I have grandchildren, two new puppies to house-train and I have a lot of things to do besides writing and that in and of itself is a wonderful thing but writing is still a big, important part of my life and of everyday."
Since 2003, Stephen has provided his take on pop culture in a column appearing on the back page of Entertainment Weekly, usually every third week. The column is called "The Pop Of King", a reference to "The King of Pop", Michael Jackson.
In October 2005, Stephen has signed up with Marvel Comics; this will be his first time writing original material for the comic book medium other than two pages in a benefit comic for African hunger relief in the 1980s. The 31 issue series will see him adapting and expanding his The Dark Tower series. The series will be illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Jae Lee. Marvel recently announced the series was delayed until 2007 in order for King to give it the attention it deserves.
In January 2006, Stephen appeared on the first installment of "Amazon Fishbowl", a live web-program hosted by Bill Maher.
In January 2006, Stephen participated in the Writers in Paradise program at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL.
On August 1 and August 2, 2006, Steven King will be doing a reading for his charity at Radio City Music Hall alongside J.K. Rowling and John Irving.
Stephen King, a long time supporter of small publishing press, has recently allowed the publication of two past novels in limited edition form. "The Green Mile," and "Colorado Kid" will receive special treatment from two small publishing houses. Both books will be produced and be signed by both Stephen and the artist contributing work to the book. This is just the latest in King's dance with limited editions, which 50% of his published work has been re-published in limited (signed) edition format.
It is also reported on his website that he will be having book signings in the New York City area and the West coast sometime in October with the release of his new novel, Lisey's Story.
Stephen is a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox, and is frequently found at both home and away baseball games.
In his private role as father, Stephen helped coach his son Owen's Bangor West team to the Maine Little League Championship in 1989. This experience is recounted in the New Yorker essay Head Down, which also appears in the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Stephen has called Head Down his best piece of nonfiction writing.
In 1999 King wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which involved former Red Sox team member Tom Gordon as a major character. Stephen King recently co-wrote a book entitled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season with Stewart O'Nan. This work recounts the authors' roller coaster reaction to the Red Sox's 2004 season, a season culminating in the Sox winning the 2004 American League Championship Series and World Series.
In 1992, Mansfield Stadium, a Little League ballpark (which also host High School and Senior League games) opened in Bangor, Maine. This facility, nicknamed the Field Of Screams, was made possible through the efforts and donations of King and his wife Tabitha.
In 2005, Steven King appeared in the movie Fever Pitch, which was about an obsessive Boston Red Sox fan. In the film, King tosses out the first pitch of the Sox's opening day game.
After publishing many wildly successful novels under his own name, Stephen wanted to know if some of his early works (those written before Carrie) would sell without having his name on them. He also worried that many of the non-horror novels he wanted to write would clash with the expectations of his fans. So Stephen King convinced his publisher, Signet Books, to print these novels under a pseudonym. The name "Richard Bachman" was supposedly chosen partly in tribute to crime author Donald E. Westlake's long-running pseudonym Richard Stark, and partly in honour of Bachman Turner Overdrive, a band King was listening to at the time he chose his pen name.
Stephen dedicated all of Bachman's early books to people close to him and worked in obscure references to his own identity. When fans picked up on these clues, not to mention the similarity between the two authors' literary styles, horror fans' and retailers' suspicions were aroused. Still, King steadfastly denied any connection to Bachman, and to throw fans off the trail Bachman's 1984 novel Thinner was dedicated to "Claudia Inez Bachman", supposedly Bachman's wife. There was also a phony author photo of Bachman on the dustjacket, credited to Claudia.
Nevertheless, a persistent bookstore clerk couldn't believe that Bachman and Stephen were not one and the same, and eventually located publisher's records at the Library of Congress naming King as the author of one of Bachman's novels. At that point, the link became undeniable. This led to a press release heralding Bachman's "death" -- supposedly from "cancer of the pseudonym". At the time of the announcement in 1985, King was working on Misery which he had planned to release as a Bachman book.
The Bachman story didn't quite end with Thinner, though. In 1996, Bachman's The Regulators came out, with the publishers claiming the book's manuscript was found among Bachman's leftover papers by his widow. Still, it was obvious from the book's packaging and marketing campaign that it was really written by Stephen King. There was a picture of a young King on the inside back cover, and the "also by this author" page listed not only works Bachman was credited with writing, but also works he wrote "as Stephen King". Furthermore, The Regulators was released the same day as the King novel Desperation, and the two novels featured many of the same characters. As well, the two book covers were designed to be placed together to form a single picture.
Around the time of The Regulators' release, Stephen said that there may be another Bachman novel left to be "found". However, no further updates on the state of Bachman's trunk of unpublished works has been issued since that time.
Stephen has taken full ownership of the Bachman name on numerous occasions, such as in the introduction to The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Steven King. This introduction, entitled "Why I Was Bachman", lays bare the whole Bachman/King story in clear, undeniable detail.
Stephen also used the "relationship" between him and Bachman as a concept in his book The Dark Half, a story in which a writer's darker pseudonym takes on a life of its own. Steven dedicated The Dark Half to "the deceased Richard Bachman".
Richard Bachman appeared in King's Dark Tower series, albeit indirectly. In the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, the sinister children's book Charlie the Choo Choo is revealed to be written by 'Claudia y Inez Bachman'. The spelling discrepancy of the added 'y' was later explained as a deus ex machina on the part of "The White" (a force of good throughout Steven King's Tower series which works to assist the ka-tet of the gunslinger, Roland) to bring the total total number of letters in her name nineteen, a number prominent in King's series.
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