He’s One of the Best-Selling Living Authors
Stephen King, age 72, is prolific writer, master story-teller and an all-around interesting guy. Those who have met him say that he is very kind, humble and comes across as just a normal guy.
His books have sold more than 350 million copies, putting him near the very top of the list of the best-selling living authors. His wealth is estimated at $400 million
He has published 61 novels, six non-fiction books and about 200 short stories (I’ve read 16 of his novels and one of his non-fiction books). While he is best known for writing horror books, he also has written outside that genre, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile being good examples. Notably, The Dark Tower Series of seven primary books is a combination of sci-fi, western and fantasy.
His stories have been made into 50 movies. They are listed by IMDB here.
It’s About the Journey
Stephen King loves to write and its something he’s done since he was very young. He began submitting stories for publication to magazines as a teenager. He used to keep his rejection letters on a spike in his wall in his room.
He majored in English at University of Maine and worked as an English teacher for a few years until his writing success allowed him to quit. He sold short stories to men’s magazines to help make ends meet. He wrote short stories and novels at night after teaching during the day. His first book to be published was Carrie, in 1974. It was actually the fourth book he had written. Persistence pays off.
It’s Not About the Plot
Stephen King doesn’t sketch out a story’s plot before writing. He first comes up with the general idea for the story and then works on the characters. At that point he just starts telling the story and sees where it goes. He says that writing a story is like uncovering a fossil that is buried and that he doesn’t know exactly what he’ll find.
To this point, The Dark Tower Series consists of seven primary books. In the preface to one of the latter books he noted that he received a letter from a fan who was terminally ill and likely wouldn’t live to the end of the series to find out what happens. The fan asked to know how it was going to end. Stephen King said he was sorry – that he wished he could tell her but he didn’t know.
Stephen King reads 70-80 books a year -mostly fiction. He brings books with him wherever he goes. He says he reads so much because he loves good stories and it also makes him a better writer.
He writes in the mornings for about 3 hours and produces about 2,000 words a day. He likes to let a first draft of a book sit for a few months before going back and editing and re-writing it.
He likes to listen to rock music from bands such as AC/DC and Metallica while he writes.
He Was Hit by a Van and Nearly Killed
In 1999 while walking near his house in Maine he was hit by a “blue Dodge van.” The driver, who had a number of prior diving violations, was distracted by his dog trying to get into a cooler in the back seat of the van. Stephen King had a severely broken leg, broken hip, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He later bought the van for $1,500 with plans to destroy it with a sledgehammer.
He Played in a Rock Band Made Up of Authors
From Mental Floss: “King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band “toured” about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.”
A primary source for much of this IFOD is his excellent book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. His newest novel, The Institute, centers on Luke Ellis, a genius 12-year old who is kidnapped from Minnesota and taken to “the institute” in Maine where special children with psychic abilities are used as weapons to assassinate various world figures. Its dynamite.