Monday, June 1, 2009
Stephen Edwin King was born September 21, 1947 in Portland, Maine. When Stephen was two years old his father went to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Stephen's mother Ruth was left to raise Stephen and his older brother David alone. Ruth would take any job she could find to support her family and often the family would have to move as she found jobs in different places. The family often ended up living with different relatives. Stephen was a sickly child and spent most of grade one in bed with different ailments. To keep himself occupied he read a variety of different books and comics. It was during that time he started to write and sold his first stories to his mother for a quarter each. He loved to read science fiction and horror comics, the more gruesome the better. Stephen enjoyed going to the movies to see cheesy horror movies like "Earth vs. the flying saucers" as well as other types of movies. Believe it or not, one of the movies that gave him nightmares for weeks was the forest fire scene in "Bambi".
As a child Stephen had many bizarre fears. Some of these were the fear of falling into the toilet, the dark, bats, snakes, rats, squishy things, and spiders. One of his strangest fears was number 13. To this day, the fear of 13 continues to affect his everyday life. He continues to have these childhood fears, as well as several others that have developed over the years. Stephen is able to deal with his fears by in some way incorporating them into his stories.
By the crowds in the theatres watching scary tales and the increasing popularity of horror stories, Steve saw a way to make money. At the age of fourteen Steve spent his summer typing up stories to be submitted to magazines. He typed so much that the letter "m" fell off and he had to write it in by hand. He would remember this later when he wrote the story "Misery" and his character had to do the same. Through high school Stephen excelled in English and continued to submit stories to magazines, never letting the rejection letters discourage him. Finally in 1965 his first story was published "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber" by the magazine Comics Review.
In his graduate year, Stephen received a full scholarship to the University of Maine. He was enrolled as English major and also took courses in education. After sixty rejections for his stories he finally sold "The Glass Floor" for $35 to Startling Mystery Stories. Stephen continued to persevere with his writing throughout college. Unhappy with the English courses being taught, he convinced the faculty to allow him to teach a course on Popular Literature and Culture. It was during his college years that he began using drugs and drinking alcohol, leading to a long time addiction.
In his senior year of college Stephen met his future wife Tabitha Spruce. Tabitha was as much interested in writing as Stephen and she would go on to become a bestselling author. In January 1970, Stephen taught as a student teacher at Hampden Academy. In the spring he graduated from the University of Maine and his first child Naomi was born. To support himself and his family he held many menial jobs.
By 1971 he was hired into a teaching position at Hampden Academy and had the occasional short story published in magazines. Finally in 1973 Stephen sold his first story "Carrie" to Doubleday publishing, which he eventually received $200,000 for. With this large amount of money Steve was able to quit teaching and focus on writing. Over the next few years his family grew, and his collection of published novels grew as well. His drinking and drug use also increased as time went on. King also created the pseudonym Richard Bachman and had several of his previous rejected stories published in that name.
In 1978 the Kings rented a house on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine. It was events that happened at this house that eventually would lead to the creation of the book 'Pet Semetary'. Stephen thought the story as his most terrifying and he put the manuscript away. The book was eventually published and made into a blockbuster movie. Over the next few years King continued to write stories that were similar to his life. The character of "Paul Sheldon", who is a author in the novel "Misery" is kidnapped by a obsessed fan. Stephen has had fans that have been extreme, but thankfully not like the character "Annie" form "Misery". Steve could also relate to the character of "Jack Torrence" from his book "The Shining". At the time of writing the novel, Steve was drinking and doing drugs excessively and was having anger issues towards his children, as a result the character of the psychotic father "Jack" emerged. Do to his many successes Steve was very generous financially with helping out friends as well as strangers. They have given money for scholarships as well as donated time and money to many charities.
By the late 80's Stephen's drug and alcohol addiction had taken over. He was frequently hung over and having blackouts. Some days he was sober for only 3 hours in the day. As many of his books were written while he was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol, Steve was afraid quitting would affect his writing. Tabitha was eventually able to help him admit he had a problem and needed help. With the help of his wife, family and friends he quit drinking and using drugs, attends A.A. and N.A. meetings and continues to write successfully.
June 19, 1999 was a date that made a huge impact on Stephen King's life. Out for a walk near his home, he was struck by a van. Steve suffered severe injuries to his body that required several surgeries and to deal with the pain he was once again dependent on drugs. He was very determined to not let the drugs take over his life, through much determination he was able to overcome his addiction to painkillers. Many of the events that happened to Steve during his hospitalization and the accident itself became the foundation for his TV series "Kingdom Hospital". Eerily enough, at the time of the accident King was writing the story "Buick 8", about a car that supposedly kills someone in a random accident. A year after the accident, the driver of the van that hit Steve, died of a drug overdose on Kings birthday.
Since that time, King has continued to write bestselling novels, has e- books on the internet, has had movies made out of his books, become a grandfather, seen his sons become published authors and his daughter graduate with honours and become a minister. Stephen also developed the Haven Foundation, which financially helps freelance artists who are ill or injured and don't have an income. He donated $450,000 the money received from his law-suite, to the paediatric unit at the Central Maine Medical Centre. The Kings' also donated $1.5 million to upgrade a baseball stadium for the kids in their community. One of Stephen King's greatest achievements was to receive the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
When you think of a horror writer, all that comes to mind is blood, guts, ghosts, gaols, the paranormal and a twist of evil. It's hard to imagine anyone who writes about evil being or the extinction of mankind as anything but evil, and perhaps selfish who not doing anything good for any one else. The same could be said for people who are wealthy, and have vast amounts of money that they use for their own benefit. This is not the case of Stephen King. He and his wife Tabitha are very involved in the community they live in. The community is not Hollywood or New York, or other cities that the rich and famous seem to live in, but the small community of Bangor, Maine.
One way that he has helped the community is he sold the movie rights to Pet Semetary to a production company that agreed to film in Maine. This was a big boost to the economy, and brought many more filming crews to the area.
In 1987, Stephen and wife Tabitha created the Stephen and Tabitha King foundation. The foundation gave grants to various charities as well as scholarships to graduates of Hampden Academy, the high school where Stephen taught. The foundation has also helped students from other areas of the country with their tuitions.
The Haven Foundation was set-up in 2002 by Stephen to help freelance artists who where suffering from illness or had been disabled by an accident who weren't able to support themselves. To help the foundation King, gave up the rights to one of his books so the foundation would receive 100 per cent of the revenue.
Not only has King been generous with his money, as he has financially helped several friends and acquaintances, but he has also donated his time. On occasion he has given lectures at various universities without charging a fee. He has also helped struggling writers by supplying comments to the covers of their books, as well as giving film rights of his short stories to amateur filmmakers for the sum of one dollar. Many small publishing companies can be thankful to Stephen King for helping save their businesses. He used many small publishers for his books as well as supplying short stories to many struggling magazine companies to boost sales.
Stephen King has influenced more people than he can imagine, and doesn't seem to comprehend why. His three children are probably the most influenced by him. His two sons' are both writers; son Joe says, "we grew up around the dinner table talking about books and writers, so it's only natural, for us to be writers". Daughter Naomi, whom is an ordained minister, somehow manages to use the family gift of storytelling in her sermons.
As you can see Stephen King has managed to make a positive impact on society by helping the less fortunate when needed as well as making an impact on up and coming writers and artists. Hopefully these newcomers will see that fame and fortune can not only be used for their benefit, but that helping others can be very satisfying.
Daddy Done Left
One of the first major significant events that affected Stephen King and have helped shape him into the person he is today would be when his father Donald King walked out on the family. Even though he was only two at the time it affected him in many ways. Stephen's mother, Ruth King, had to support the family by working many menial jobs. The family would stay with different relatives until they wore out there welcome. It was during these times that Stephen's unique relatives would fill his head with stories of ghosts and bizarre occurrences. He would remember these tales and they eventually made it into his many successful stories, some of the tales were even told by Ruth. Stephen never got over his father abandoning the family, and has always been haunted by the void left by his father. This abandonment has affected his childhood, marriage and his books. Often the fathers in his books are abusive, alcoholics, scary or evil but in some way they are still there for the child, unlike his father.
Pennywise to $400,000
After many years of poverty, rejections and disappointments the big break finally came. In 1973, as a struggling family man Stephen received the news that Doubleday wanted to publish his book Carrie. He would receive an advance of $2500, the largest amount of money he had ever seen. Eventually Doubleday sold the paperback rights; Steve's share would be $200,000. This amount allowed Stephen to quit his teaching job and concentrate full time on writing. The movie Carrie went on to make over $30,000,000. Since the release of Carrie, King has had over 60 novels and short stories published; he has also been involved in big screen movies as well as television projects. His success from Carrie rocketed him to fame and has allowed him to share his wealth with many unfortunate people as well as various charities and organizations.
Jack Torrence to My Pretty Pony
In the late 1980's, Tabitha admitted to herself that Stephen was an addict, and that he needed serious help. His addiction to cocaine and alcohol left him feeling immortal and he would often have suicidal thoughts. After spending years addicted to cocaine and alcohol and having a successful career in this drug induced state Steve was very apprehensive about ending his addiction. He thought if he became sober that he would no longer be able to write, as he thought many of his ideas were the result of his addictions. Steve went cold turkey for two weeks to successfully overcome his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Tabitha was able to help him with his writing one word at a time, and with a clear head he was able to fuel his addictive tendency with writing. As a result he has published many successful books, wrote the story "My Pretty Pony" for his daughter, and received an award from National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
The following is an excerpt of an interview between Jordyn DeMarco and the author Stephen King. The interview covers his fears, addictions, his author-wife Tabitha, and plans for retirement.
"What was your first published story"?
"I was in high school, and had been sending out my stories to various magazines and kept getting rejection notices. Then one day I got a letter of acceptance back from Comics Review, they changed the name of the story and paid me with two free magazine copies. I didn't care; I was thrilled that I finally was a published author".
Jordyn: "As a child did you go to the theatre to see horror movies and did you read horror stories as well"?
Stephen: "Yes, I went to the horror movies because I liked to be scared and I also studied what went into the movie and was able to adapt this into my own writing how the technical effects are used in the movie. I enjoyed reading horror comics even if I woke up at night screaming with nightmares. My mother felt that these were junk and a complete waste of time. I told her someday I'm going to write this junk".
Jordyn: "Do you have any fears? And what do you do to overcome them"?
Stephen: "I just about fear anything the dark, rats, spiders, psychotherapy, squishy things, closed in spaces, death, losing a child, bats, flying, not being able to write, the number 13, just about everything. I am able to deal with my fears by writing about them in my stories. I have yet to be able to write about my biggest fear of spiders. They are the most horribly awful thing and scare almost everybody".
Jordyn: "Would you consider it a compliment if one of your readers had to stop reading a story because of the images created in their mind"?
Stephen: "Yes, I would consider it a compliment .We live in an area where it is very difficult to scare people or make them believe in a ghost or an evil being. Writing horror stories is my job, I'm supposed to scare and terrify my audience. If I do not do my job, I could be fired, the same as a plumber who doesn't fix the leaky pipe".
"Do you have a favourite character from any of your books"?
"I have a lot of characters that I have written about that I felt a connection to or liked. One of my favourites though has to be Annie Wilkes from the book Misery. When I was writing about her, I never knew what she would do next, there was more to her than was seen. I sympathized with her; she is truly one of my favourites"
"Do you feel that any of your books should not of been published and why"?
Stephen: "Pet Semetary is probably the one that I never liked and did not want published. It is a very depressing book, as it holds no hope, and seems to say that nothing ever works or nothing is worth the effort to try to make things better. I don't believe this, no matter how much effort is needed to accomplish our goal it is always worth it in the end".
Jordyn: "Would you ever consider writing a book with your wife"?
Stephen: We have thought about it, but neither of us thinks that it would work. It takes a lot of give and take and balancing of control, and I tend to take over. We probably would end up divorced (he laughs). Seriously, we did try it once, but once my representatives took over, it became my project. I didn't think that was fair to Tabby".
Jordyn: "Who is Richard Bachman"?
Stephen: He is a pseudonym that I made up. Back in the 1970's publishers didn't want to have more than one book released by an author for fear that profits from book sales would cut between both books. I had written several novels back in college that had previously been rejected, and I was hoping to have one published at the same time as Carrie. As a result I made up the pseudonym Richard Bachman to see if an audience would accept the book. Since that time I have written several successful books under that name, before it became public knowledge that I was the actual author"?
Jordyn: "Why did you release a new version of The Stand"?
Stephen: "I consider The Stand my first masterpiece. I wrote it in 1978, and it was 1200 pages long. My publisher only wanted 800, so I had to edit it down. Then in 1990, my publisher agreed to publish the full version of the original. It is one of my favourites, so I wanted to make sure that I could give the reader what they deserved. I added a new beginning and a new ending, as well as several new illustrations". No one could believe how well the new edition did.
Jordyn: "What are your addictions"?
Stephen: "I always needed to write, but I was also addicted to cigarettes, booze and cocaine, I managed to kick the booze and drugs, and have cut down in the smoking. After my accident I became addicted to painkillers, which I was very determined to beat and did. Now, I still smoke a few cigarettes a day, but my only addiction is writing. If I can't write my body goes into with drawl".
Jordyn: '"Over the years there have been many rumours of your retirement when will that be"?
Stephen: "When the stories no longer come, when I can't have fun with the characters and when I lose my identity or deny who I am, then it is time to turn off the computer".
When you here the name Stephen King the first thought that comes to mind is horror. I have never thought of being influenced by an author until now. When I was younger I never liked reading or had much interest in books. Like a lot of kids TV and movies were the big thing. When I was 10 I watched the movie Pet Semetary, which was based on a Stephen King novel. The movie really scared me and even though I had seen it once , I watched several more times over the next few days and was scared every time. The movie so intrigued me that I decided to read the book. I found the book so creepy and fascinating that I wanted to read another. Ever since then I have been reading, some Stephen King and other authors as well.
Until reading the biography "Stephen King: A Haunted Heart" I didn't know or think much about Stephen King. The biography made me realize there was more to the man than scary books and movies. From the book I learned not to let anyone or anything keep you from obtaining your dreams. With enough perseverance anything is possible and to keep striving toward your goal until it is obtained. This he proved by his numerous submissions of his stories to various publishers. It didn't matter how many rejections he received there was always the hope for the one acceptance letter.
No matter where you come from in life, whether dirt poor or wealthy, we all have goals and dreams and no one should be allowed to take that away. The fact that a man, who was extremely poor, a cocaine addict and alcoholic for many years could pull himself together and make a life for him and his family is admirable. Stephen King has taught me that everyone deserves a chance; he has helped out struggling publishers and artists with giving them his stories for a fraction of their worth. How someone with fame and immense wealth could remain genuine, and share with others such as the Haven Foundation and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation is commendable.
It is probably because of reading that first Stephen King book that my interest in reading went from "I have to read it", to "I want to read it".