I was watching the revered Stephen King on BBC Breakfast this morning, a rare interview and I have to say he is still the writer I would most like to sit down and have a coffee with.
One of the things that I always say about his writing is his ability to write believable, yet flawed characters. Their success I think hinges on the fact we are all champions of the underdog, we fall for the characters and root for them. And as I tell my clients this is essential.
This message came across loud and clear in the interview I just watched as he prepares for his sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. He was asked about Kubrik’s interpretation of Jack Torrance and the other characters in the film version of The Shining and he confessed to not liking the film because it was ‘cold.’ He said there was an emotional detachment to the characters that he had not written in his book. In fact he said you have to ‘make the reader fall in love with the characters’. He wants you to feel warm. And he said, I thought interestingly, if the reader roots for them, they care about their plight and it’s easier to scare them. Or as he puts it so succinctly: Horror comes from love.
Great thought and I had something similar scribbled on the notes I have started making for my workshop in Bath on writing psychological thrillers. I don’t write horror per se but then it very much depends on what you define as horror. Salem’s Lot still sits up there as one of the scariest horror books for me and I don’t know I have the ability to scare in that way. But Dead Zone is my favourite because it taps into the human psyche in a less overtly horror way and this is something I aspire to. In psychological thrillers it’s about taking the normal and creating around it the worst possible scenario, so the horror is real but more ‘of this world’ — so a missing child, a phobia, kidnapped, waking up not remembering who you are … etc. See what I mean?
I wasn’t going to blog about this today but I decided it warranted discussion while it was still fresh in my mind. As a writer I was very influenced by Stephen King, the way he not only has these memorable plots and great stories, but the reader becomes part of that world, wholly immersed and indeed rooting for his underdogs. I don’t think my characters have the issues many of his have, perhaps less disturbed although if I was asked to name one who most felt like a Stephen King character I would probably say my protagonist in Isle of Pelicans, awaiting a rework once I finish I Am Wolf, previously known as the Reluctant Clairvoyant — ex con, moves to San Francisco and the voices are back. He’s a good guy who got lost along the way.
But then again, aren’t a lot of our characters — doesn’t art not imitate life anyway?
While many might knock Stephen King for not being a ‘literary’ writer I still think he writes great stories, excellently and has the page-turnability I need from a good book. So Doctor Sleep is most certainly on my Christmas list.
I can only hope the characters you’ll all meet in While No One Was Watching are anyway near as good as his — but I have a feeling you will be rooting for them …
To whet the appetite …
Gunshots silence the world. Kennedy is assassinated. Fifty years on it’s a moment we all remember, even those of us who weren’t here.
But what if that’s not the moment you remember? What if you watched it all from the grassy knoll but when you turned around you have dropped your child’s hand … and worse, much worse — she’s gone. Now people are shouting and parents lay over their children to protect them. But not you. You were so caught up in the moment you forgot your own child. Does that make you a bad mother? Some point and run up the grassy knoll. Others say the gunshot comes from that big old building they don’t even know the name of … yet. But they will. Of course they will.
But you don’t. You don’t do any of these things because you stand still and you stare into nothingness. Your child is gone. But imagine far worse than even that, than even a dead President — imagine your child is still missing fifty years later. And it all happened while no one was watching.
So when people remember where they were and what they were doing when they those gunshots silenced the world — you remember something else. You remember it as the moment you opened your eyes and the world you knew was gone.
But why is Eleanor Boone still missing? What did she know?
Coming November 1st from @parthianbooks … I have a song composed especially for it to be released next month to go with the book trailer.
And the first edition cover is a special 50th anniversary cover … more on that soon.
Preorder now if you dare … LINK … when you order King’s latest book …