Award-winning author and master of suspense Stephen King is coming to Connecticut July 18 for a special program at the Bushnell sponsored by The Mark Twain House & Museum. King has published 50 novels, several of which have been adapted to big screen hits, including Carrie, The Shining, Misery, Stand By Me , The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile . King’s novel Under the Dome has just become a CBS TV series, and he is releasing a long-awaited new book in the fall: Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining. A political activist, die-hard Red Sox fan and philanthropist, King comes across sweet and not the least bit scary.
Tickets for “Stephen King, in conversation with Colin McEnroe” are available at www.bushnell.org or 860- 987-5900. Ticket prices range from $25 to $75 (additional service fees apply).
Was it a coincidence or calculated to adapt your book Under the Dome for TV?
It was just one of those things. There was a lot of interest in doing it as a series for Showtime, then they decided not to do it, and that was fine. The guy who is the chief of green-lighting projects at Showtime said ‘this isn’t for us’ but thought CBS would be interested.
What do TV or movie adaptations do for your books?
The first thing is that hopefully it will be a success, that it will run for a while. What I say to myself is that maybe the exposure will help sell my books. That was one of the nice things about Game of Thrones [based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series]—it renewed interest in the books. I’m hoping people will enjoy Under the Dome. I want to keep people under that dome for a long time.
And then there is your new novel, The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. What is our pint-sized psychic Danny Torrance up to?
I have fielded questions over the years from people who asked, “What happened afterward? What happened to Danny?” I usually say I write the end when I don’t know what comes next. But the questions on that story kept coming. And I wondered that myself about Danny. Obviously the kid was psychic. His father was an alcoholic, white-knuckling sobriety. The one thing you find out in a family where there is alcoholism is that it runs in the family. So when Danny grows up he will be a drunk as well. At the same time, I was thinking about other elements to coalesce around the story line, like filings to a magnet. I had read a story about a cat that lived in a hospice facility and knew when patients were going to die and would stay with them. And it wasn’t awful. Patients thought of the cat as a friend. So I thought to myself, I could put Danny in a hospice and he could help people die with dignity and peace, and then thought, ‘I have a book here.’ The other component of The Shining was a story that really scared me and would it be possible to summon that kind of terror again. I needed the sequel to be another ‘balls to the wall’ kind of book.
In a recent interview you said you want to get back to writing the really creepy stuff. When did you stop? I never really stopped. It was never a conscious decision to write a book to scare people. It just happens. I scared myself in The Shining and I wrote another book about a woman who is handcuffed to a bed and has a heart attack [ Gerald’s Game]. That was an intense experience. I think I scared myself in Misery, too. I never really care if I scare myself the way I do readers or moviegoers. I’m the guy driving the bus.
You wrote an essay earlier this year in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings called “Guns.” Clearly you have feelings about gun control and the debate in Congress. What do you think should happen?
I want all three things Obama proposed to be passed. They all make sense. The whole idea that you can buy an assault weapon over the counter is insane. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.
When that was passed you were talking musket loaders. The Second Amendment is about militants, not survivalists with a Bushmaster. I want universal background checks and a ban on multi-clip magazines. Efforts on gun control are not a plot to get guns away from people who think Obama is trying to overthrow America. You have a population in favor of more control and a legislature that will not listen. Tragedies like Sandy Hook and others will happen again. More people will be killed in a mass situation and I just hope it isn’t a school again.
Would you ever run for political office?
No. I am doing what I am doing. I couldn’t write if I held an office. When I take responsibility, I’m the kind of guy who busts my brains to do the best I can.
It would seem Mark Twain books are pretty tame for you. Are you a fan of his?
That’s why I am doing the program. There is a scene from Tom Sawyer that lives in my mind. I was a kid when I read the book and it’s the part when Tom and Becky are lost in the cave. That would be terrifying enough when you are a kid. In the dark, out of the light, in a cave. They get out of the cave and go back to town and get scolded by Aunt Polly, but a rock has been moved to cover the opening of the cave and Injun Joe is trapped alive in there. He is discovered dead on the other side. And there are marks in the stone where he tried to get out.
You also have another new book coming out in June?
Yes, Joyland. It’s just done as a paperback, not an ebook. I believe in books and bookstores. I thought this book would be a great way to get people back into the bookstores. It’s about a college kid named Devin Jones whose heart has been broken. He has a summer job at Joyland, an amusement park, and drops out of college to work there because he feels so crappy. There is a haunted fun house at the park.
How about those Red Sox?
Well, they were off to a good start. They are bound to be better than last year. In the final analysis of this year’s season, the Yankees and the Red Sox are probably going to fight it out for last place.
You and your wife are well known as philanthropists. What is your giving philosophy?
My mother didn’t have anything but always found a buck to give when people came around from Red Cross or other nonprofits. She cultivated that in me. Nobody does things alone. The more you get the more you should give.
If you didn’t make it as a writer, what would your Plan B have been?
A long-haul truck driver. I tried teaching for two or three years and I liked the kids but didn’t like the work or the stricture of public education. You eventually realize there is only so much help you can give to students who have limited talents. Driving a truck, you just turn it on and go.
What is something no one knows about you?
I am a huge crossword puzzle freak. I know all the weird words. And I have been on Celebrity Jeopardy! twice and won once. The second time I miscalculated the number of dollars I needed to wager to win. If you do crossword puzzles then Jeopardy! is a snap. I have a huge crossword puzzle posted on my wall in Maine. I’ve been working on it for four years. It’s halfway done.
Find MaryEllen Fillo’s blog at courantblogs.com/java, friend her at www.facebook.com/maryellen.fillo.3 and follow her on Twitter @maryellenfillo. You can hear her on WDRC AM and FM on Friday mornings and see her on Fox CT on Thursdays.