Interview with Stephen King

Posted by Goodreads on November 5, 2014
Just when you think Stephen King's well of pitch-black, sleep-with-the-lights-on horror must surely be running dry, he finds new and possibly even darker ways to terrify us. His latest novel, Revival, sees the author of more than 50 global bestsellers—including The Shining, Pet Sematary, and It—return to the "balls to the wall" (King's words) supernatural horror with which he made his name.

In a recent Twitter post about the book, King told readers, "If you're going to buy it, better tone up your nerves." His publisher, Nan Graham, said that upon reading it, "I asked Steve whether it really had to be this dark, knowing before he answered that, yes, it does.

Indeed King dedicates Revival, out this month, to "some of the people who built my house," including Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and H.P. Lovecraft. A story of fate, rock and roll, religion, obsession, and addiction, it follows Jamie Morton, a boy from Maine whose life becomes inextricably bound to his onetime childhood pastor, an increasingly sinister figure who performs mysterious electrical "healing" sessions.

Despite a near-fatal accident 15 years ago, after which he considered retiring, King remains prolific. Revival marks the author's fourth novel in two years: In June he released Mr. Mercedes, billed (on his website) as his "first hard-boiled detective tale"), and last year the 67-year-old published Joyland and Doctor Sleep, his gripping sequel to The Shining.

King tells Goodreads what inspired Revival, how tea by the gallon rather than drugs and alcohol now fuel his craft, and why he loves collaborating with his novelist sons, Joe Hill and Owen King.

Goodreads: Congratulations on the un-put-down-able Revival; my children almost went hungry. What was your inspiration for this book? And is it really "the most terrifying conclusion" you've ever written?

Stephen King: The inspiration was Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, which is a terrifying story about the world that might exist beyond this one. Other influences were Lovecraft, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and my own religious upbringing. And I've been wanting to write about tent show healings for a long time!

I wanted to write a balls-to-the-wall supernatural horror story, something I haven't done in a long time. I also wanted to use Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, but in a new fashion, if I could, stripping away Lovecraft's high-flown language.

GR: The book is concerned with what you call the "fifth business," "change agent," or "nemesis"—the person who pops up at regular intervals throughout life with a purpose yet to be revealed. Who is this person in your life, if there is one?

SK: I think we rarely recognize the fifth business in our lives at the time those people are changing us. As a writer, I'd have to say it was Philip Roth, who first spoke to me in college when I read [Roth's 1967 novel] When She Was Good. Since then, he's shown up again and again, at 10- or 20-year intervals, always saying—through his work—"Come a little farther. Do a little better."

GR: How did your experience of addiction and playing in a rock band (the Rock Bottom Remainders) inform your portrayal of the hero Jamie Morton?

SK: There's a saying—"Write what you know." It's bad advice if you take it as an unbreakable rule, but good advice if you use it as a foundation. I did spend years as an addict, so I know that world, although I wish I didn't. When it comes to rock music, I'm not much of a player, but I do have entry-level chops. I'm more knowledgeable as a listener, and Revival gave me a way to write about rock and roll without being preachy or boring. Through Jamie I had a chance to talk about how important rock is to me and how it lifted my life.

GR: Revival seems as much a meditation on family and aging, love and loss, as it is a mystery/horror story. Was this your intention from the outset?

SK: I never have a thematic intention at the outset. The story informs the theme for me rather than the other way around. But as it happens, you're right—this is, at least to a degree, about getting old and the rapid passage of our lives. "It's a damn short movie," James McMurtry says, "how'd we ever end up here?"

GR: There's a line on page 25 that says, "Writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped." How true is this for you in your fiction?

SK: Writing is like being in a dream state or under self-directed hypnosis. It induces a state of recall that—while not perfect—is pretty spooky.

GR: Which of your books/stories are you most attached to and why?

SK: Lisey's Story, because it's about the secret world that exists inside every long marriage. Also—and I'm not the first person to have said this—no writer ever feels that the execution of a book lives up to the idea for that book. The execution always falls short. But I got pretty close in Lisey's Story.

GR: Goodreads member Ed Logiudice writes, "In NOS4A2 Joe Hill mentions places from the world of Stephen King. In Doctor Sleep Stephen King mentions Charlie Manx [the villain in Hill's book]. Do you see the further writings of Joe Hill (and maybe even those of Owen King) as an extension of the Dark Tower world? Will your sons continue the Dark Tower legacy?

SK: I love my sons and I love that they are writers—I also love my daughter, who's a minister and an orchard keeper!—but I wouldn't wish the burden of Mid-World and the Dark Tower on them. I enjoy working with them, though, because we fit together. I've got something going with Owen now, and I've collaborated with Joe on two novellas, Throttle and In the Tall Grass. But when Joe and I were working on a couple of books that turned out to have similar elements (even though neither of us had read the other's work), Joe said it would be cool to throw in some connecting back story. So...we did. Think of them as Easter eggs.

GR: Goodreads member Mandi Bolling asks, "Of all the 'monsters' you have written about, which one do you find the scariest and why?"

SK: It's a tie. Pennywise the Clown (It), because clowns have scared me since childhood, and Randall Flagg (The Stand), because there's a little of him in all of us.

GR: Goodreads member Mark asks, "After your phenomenal success as an author and musician, what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"

SK: I'd like to learn French well enough to write in that language. And I'd like to take a motorcycle trip across Europe, maybe even across China. Of course I'd also like to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it's important to put ceilings on one's ambitions, don't you think?

GR: Goodreads member Luke Dufrene writes, "It has been years since I read The Stand, but with the recent Ebola outbreak, my dreams have been consumed by 'Captain Trips' nightmares again. You recently revisited The Shining characters; any thought on returning to the horrific world left in ruins by the Captain Trips virus?"

SK: There's one Stand story that still needs to be told, although it's not a long one. I happen to know that when [Stand characters] Stu Redman and Frannie Goldsmith headed back to New England (with their baby), Frannie fell into a dry well. That's all I know. I'd have to write the story to find out what happens.

GR: What's your average working day like? Do you have any unusual habits/rituals?

SK: I start work around 8 a.m. and usually finish around noon. If there's more to do, I do it in the late afternoon, although that isn't prime time for me. The only ritual is making tea. I use the loose leaves and drink it by the gallon.

GR: Which books have proved most inspirational/influential to you as a writer?

SK: There are so many! Lord of the Flies (Golding), The Collector (Fowles), The Postman Always Rings Twice (Cain), Blood Meridian (McCarthy), John D. MacDonald (everything), Watchers (Koontz), One on One (King), The Poet (Connelly), H.P. Lovecraft (everything), The Great God Pan (Machen)...and that doesn't even scratch the surface!

GR: What are you reading now?

SK: A wonderful new novel by Howard Frank Mosher called God's Kingdom [coming 2015]. Not heaven but Vermont!

Interview by Catherine Elsworth for Goodreads. Catherine is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She previously worked as a reporter and editor for the UK's Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for 13 years and was the Daily Telegraph's Los Angeles correspondent from 2004 to 2009. She has also contributed to Tatler, Stella, and Cond&eacute Nast Traveller. In 2012, she was a semifinalist for the 21st annual James Kirkwood Literary Prize for fiction.

Learn more about Catherine and follow what she's reading.

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Comments Showing 1-50 of 92 (92 new)

message 1: by Craig (new)

Craig Stokes I'm excited about this new novel. I can't wait to read it.

message 2: by Vickie (new)

Vickie I have just finished reading Dr. Sleep and my friend recently went to Maine and then to the Stanhope Hotel, I have been a fan of Mr. Kings since I first read Salem's Lot.I am looking forward to reading his new novel. Write on Stephen.

message 3: by Lou (new)

Lou Sytsma Great interview Catherine!

Thanks very much for this.

message 4: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis Sometimes your writing scares so much that I'm afraid to turn the page!! I have to put the book down for a few minutes til my heart stops pounding and then pick the book up and continue reading. No one anywhere can write like you can. I love it.

message 5: by Roseann (new)

Roseann Nice job, Catherine! Love that you ended the interview with the great question, "What are you reading now?"

message 6: by Claire (new)

Claire Desperate to read this new novel, I'm so excited. Well done on a great interview Catherine.

message 7: by Philippe (new)

Philippe Minon A great writer, full of surprises and scriptogorrhean as people suffer of logorrhea !

message 8: by Ali (new)

Ali Ghasemi I wish I could get it soon, great writer of horror genre

message 9: by Ilija (new)

Ilija Ilić I need to read this book :O

message 10: by Dixie (new)

Dixie I love his books

message 11: by Nathalie (new)

Nathalie Gagnon I feel sorry for him because he doesn't get the pleasure of reading his own books. Although I'm sure there's some excitement for him in finding out what happens to the characters as he writes the story, it's probably not as scary as it is for someone who has no idea where the story is going. I also felt sorry for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the same reason. I hope there are some writers out there who can offer him a bit of the thrill he can offer us, otherwise it's a real shame, he's getting ripped-off :)

message 12: by Jeri (new)

Jeri Lang There is nothing like a book that scares the hell out of you. And you, Sir, are the master. Bar none. Loved your books for so long, since the first time I was afraid to get out of bed without doing that little leap to insure the monster hiding underneath, whether yours or mine, couldn't get me.

message 13: by Bob (new)

Bob Just finished Mr. Mercedes. Loved it. Dr. Sleep was awesome followup. Can't wait for this new one.

message 14: by Sandy (new)

Sandy I rarely read fiction, but when I do, I read Stephen King. (My apologies to The Most Interesting Man in the World.)

message 15: by Jesse Orosco (new)

Jesse Orosco Aleady pre-ordered! Just counting the days; can't wait.

message 16: by Gmaharriet (new)

Gmaharriet Ali, you can pre-order it for Kindle on Amazon now, and it will be available next Tuesday, November 11.

I ordered my copy a few months ago. :)

message 17: by Wanda (new)

Wanda Miracle Have been reading Stephen since Carrie. I am so looking forward to this new book. Rock on

message 18: by Jackie (last edited Nov 07, 2014 05:58AM) (new)

Jackie Simmons I can't get the visions of Frannie falling down a well! Poor Stu....he was my favorite!

message 19: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Wanda wrote: "Have been reading Stephen since Carrie. I am so looking forward to this new book. Rock on"

Jackie wrote: "I can't get the visions of Frannie falling down a well! Poor Stu....he was my favorite!"

Wanda, What's your favorite?

message 20: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Love this and LOVE Stephen King!I really want to read this new book!

message 21: by Sharon (new)

Sharon I have been a big fan of Stephen King, since I was a child borrowing my Mom's books out of her closet (sorry, Mom!) The Stand is one of my favorite books of all time, so I am not sure I want to know how it all ends! I think it is best that it remains a mystery...

message 22: by Dixie (new)

Dixie Brenda wrote: "Love this and LOVE Stephen King!I really want to read this new book!"
Me too!

message 23: by Abraham (new)

Abraham Jameson well am so happy to communicate with Good reads

message 24: by Dixie (last edited Nov 07, 2014 08:18AM) (new)

Dixie Pet Sematary is my favorite book by him

message 25: by Walelgn (new)

Walelgn thaks

message 26: by Jan (new)

Jan Brattain I will always read anything by or about Stephen King. Really enjoyed this interview, liked the lines: "Writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped." So true. Mr. King seems like such a regular guy, someone who might be living next door, a friend. So glad he survived that accident! I believe I shall have to read Lisey's Story again.

message 27: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan question wasn't asked.
It's all good though,it was nice to hear from Mr King.
I've stopped reading him for a while now but I gotta admit, this man has to be the best writer ever.

message 28: by Peggy (new)

Peggy Geiger I've always wondered if he has nightmares.

message 29: by Jill (new)

Jill Celaya I will genuinely miss Mr. King when he does retire from writing. His interviews and introductions always make me think of a fun, but a little strange uncle one might have.
Thanks to him my cat became very close to being named Pennywise (It) but settled for Churchill (Pet Sematary).

message 30: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan Peggy wrote: "I've always wondered if he has nightmares."

Oh, I know he does.

message 31: by Olga (new)

Olga Miret His new book sounds irresistible. Like all of them.

message 32: by Jarl (new)

Jarl Olsen Great interview. I confess that I spent much of my life thinking that Stephen King couldn't be worth reading because his books were in supermarkets. Reading "Cujo" didn't change that opinion. Only later, when I took a chance and started listening to the Dark Tower series on CD did I realize what a dope I'd been. I hope he lives to 100 and keeps writing to the end. I look forward to "Revival", like I've looked forward to every Stephen King book of recent years.

message 33: by Sandy (new)

Sandy I've not participated much on this site, if at all, but I'm glad I did today. What interesting comments.

My favorite book by Stephen King is Danse Macabre, an oldie, but goodie.

What do you all consider your favorite?

message 34: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Gilbert What I love about Stephen Kings books is the fact that you can be totally engrossed in the really spooky aspect of it and all at once he shows what a terffic sense of humor he has. One moment I'm scared sh--less,than he throws in one of his zingers and I find myself cracking up. Go for it Mr. King!

message 35: by Gbolahan (last edited Nov 08, 2014 12:09AM) (new)

Gbolahan Best stephen king EVER is Misery.

message 36: by Jasmin (new)

Jasmin Traum Great interview, Stephen King is one great author. He has great ideas and I love his writing style.

message 37: by Klaas (new)

Klaas Dijkstra Van een Nederlandse Stephen King fan. Mijn favoriet boek is The Stand, met de Dark Tower boeken een close second. Ik hoop nog steeds op nieuwe Dark Tower boeken om de gaten in de verhaal lijn op te vullen.

message 38: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Spence I am so happy to hear him mention Dean Koontz as one of his inspirations. I too have been a #1 fan of Mr. King since "Carrie". And as sad as this (Being a male of middle age) may sound. I've always felt a twinge of deceit?... every time I reached for a Koontz novel. Though I still reached. Yes Mr. King, what they say is true. You really never do forget your first!

message 39: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Spence Gbolahan wrote: "Best stephen king EVER is Misery."

I am so sorry but we all know "IT" will reign as his greatest work!

message 40: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Willms I'm really looking forward to this book. I've been craving some good, old-fashioned Stephen King horror. There is nothing else like it, and nothing even begins to come close. King is the talent to which everyone else is compared.

message 41: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan Lynn wrote: "Gbolahan wrote: "Best stephen king EVER is Misery."

I am so sorry but we all know "IT" will reign as his greatest work!"

Heh heh heh...don't be sorry, I haven't read IT...☺

message 42: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan I have read though:
Gerald's Game
From a Buick 8
The second dark tower novel, The Drawing of the three
Carrie (LOVED IT!!)(my first Stephen King)
Hearts in Atlantis
Green Mile
The Dark Half
Christine (bleh)
And of course, Misery...

message 43: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Spence Gbolahan wrote: "I have read though:
Gerald's Game
From a Buick 8
The second dark tower novel, The Drawing of the three
Carrie (LOVED IT!!)(my first Stephen King)
Hearts in Atlantis
Green Mile
The Dark Half

If you can check this one out. I read it many moons ago and it will forever be etched in my brain!
by Richard Bachman, AKA Stephen King

message 44: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Holets I have read many of Mr.Kings novels but a short story collection-Skeleton Crew-stands out for me...The Jaunt is a great tale!

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

I read Salem's Lot in a dorm room with 2 roommates present and I was still too afraid to reach out and turn the light off! Haven't stopped reading him since and have enjoyed the various changes.

message 46: by Samuel (new)

Samuel Man, I hope he just keeps writing the great ones until the second he passes away. He's like a god! "Needful Things" is the work of his I've been consuming mass quantities of for months now, and loving it.

message 47: by Susan (new)

Susan DeGaetano Stephen King is one of my favorites.
This latest book sounds great!
I'm disappointed that my question wasn't used in the interview, though.

message 48: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Dauny Excellent interview and all good comments with Goodreads. i want to read Revival.thanks.

message 49: by Chris (last edited Nov 08, 2014 07:56PM) (new)

Chris DAMN, I'd love to get stoned with Mr. King!!!! Have read EVERYTHING, and only have relatively few questions!!
Like, What's up with the reverse description of a "western" shoreline, in "The Drawing of The Three?" How could Roland be traveling NORTH, with the western sea on his right?? Was that intentional? Can't believe, with Mr. King's powers of description, that it was a flub... Over my head?

message 50: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan Susan wrote: "Stephen King is one of my favorites.
This latest book sounds great!
I'm disappointed that my question wasn't used in the interview, though." too...?
What was your question?

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