Monday, November 14, 2011

Stephen King on writing, his fears and his new book 11/22/63

Last Friday, I had the privilege of hearing Stephen King speak to a 1,000 member audience in a Dallas suburb. 

I was delighted to find him optimistic, charming and entertaining throughout his entire 45-minute event. Like so many established writers, King is not only a talented writer, but also a natural oral story-teller.

Fears and First Recognition

Dressed in a relaxed t-shirt and jeans, King began his talk by stating he most often gets asked what scares him. Good question. He replied that his fears include "spiders, snakes, the elevator in his hotel room and death." Then he followed this subject by scaring us with the fact that "1 in 75 people will leave their homes unlocked allowing a psychopath to get in." He said that probably 50 people in the audience had left their cars unlocked and how we might want to check our backseat before we got into our cars. This drew a laugh from the audience, though I'm sure some folks laughed with unease. He went on to talk about his life as a writer, recalling the first time he was ever recognized in public. He was in Pittsburgh promoting a little book called The Shining. There, the men's room attendant recognized him and asked him for an autograph, all while Mr. King was, well, on the john. 

A few years later, he said, he was at a dinner with Bruce Springsteen when he noticed a young girl approaching their table. King prepared to demure to the singing idol, but was elated when he discovered it was HIM she wanted an autograph from!

Researching The New Book

After a few minutes, Mr. King read from his new book 11/22/63, which features the infamous Kennedy assassination and poses the question what if you could change the past? In the novel, his protagonist uses time-travel to do just that. But before setting out to write the book, he did research. He said that writing "is a visual process for me. I need to know what's on the left and on the right" when writing about a place. He came to Dallas and spent a good bit of time in the School Book Depository, even getting special permission to sit in the perch where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fateful shots. 
Here's a short interview where King talks about this new book. 

Writing And Rituals

In the end, Mr. King concluded his talk by revealing that while most people might say, oh, he's a professional, he's a hot-shot writer, they would be wise to remember that even he approaches a new work and "has a feeling of inadequacy" at first. But he said when he gets going and "warmed up" it's as if he's under some kind of hypnosis and the work begins to flow. He shared his writing rituals, which include making hot tea and setting out his toothpicks before diving back into a story and employing that powerful admonition that a writer's job is to "get the words on the page." 

Memorable Quotes And Notes

"The worst day I had in that [writing] chair was still terrific." 

"I've never texted in my whole damn life!" 

"I feel like Rick Perry at the Republican debates." [following a forgetful moment on stage.]

He was 17 when JFK was assassinated and heard the news on the radio while driving home from High School.

He's finished the sequel to The Shining.

The new Dark Tower book will be out in June 2013.


Bravo, Mr. King! I'm looking forward to reading this new book. 

1 comment:

  1. I found out about this event after the fact and was HEARTBROKEN to have missed it! It sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing!


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