Monday, November 14, 2011

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

by Karen Harrington, author Janeology

Last Friday, I had the privilege of hearing Stephen King speak to a 1,000 member audience in a Dallas suburb. Now I know this month's blog series is about exploring our day jobs as writers, but since mine is currently all about meeting an actual writing dead-line, I hope you won't mind if I share a post I just wrote for my own blog about Mr. King's inspiring talk!

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. 


Lucky me! I got a signed copy.


Laura Marcella said...

Wow, what a wonderful opportunity hearing Stephen King speak! I've read 3 of King's novels: The Eyes of the Dragon (one of my all-time favorite books), The Green Mile, and On Writing. I'm too much of a wimp to read his horror stuff, haha. But I'm looking forward to reading this new novel. It sounds really fascinating.

vinobaby said...

Very cool! I would have loved to hear him speak. I read everything he had out while I was in high school, then I needed a breather. I am just finishing On Writing (well, for the 3rd time) and would love the opportunity to soak up some of his insights and commentaries on the writing craft.

Sounds like you had a great time.

Elliot Grace said...

...loved it, thanks so much!

Can't wait to read to this ;)


Karen Harrington said...

Thanks for all your comments! I love that King's writing appeals to such a broad audience. In fact, one thing he said when someone asked if he'd consider writing YA novels was "I write for the whole family." :)

Message in a Bottle said...

i love king's novels..i'm waiting to read new novel

LR said...

Love the Bruce Springsteen part. Lol!

"On Writing" is still my favorite writing book. :)

My anxious life said...

I wish I could hear him speak! I am a huge fan and just finished 11/22/63! I also run a Stephen King fans group on goodreads if you are interested!

And stop by my blog... I really don't have fellow King members to talk to.


anniversary gift said...

wow....great article.i love to read king's novels too..and i'm waiting for new novel

D'Sapone-Brooklyn said...

Nice Blog.