Book Bits

Stephen King’s writing career stemmed from his love of reading

Susan Larson
Milton Public Library director

A real event inspired master-of-horror Stephen King to write “It,” the book that will be released as a movie on Sept. 8, 2017.

No contemporary author has more works made into movies and TV shows than King, according to Gizmodo. The online publication lists 58 feature films and TV series that have been adapted from a King work, excluding original screenplays and short films – a list they’re still working on.

Anticipation of King’s latest big screen release is big.  The “It” trailer had a world-wide record setting 190 million views in its first 24 hours online, according to stephenking.com

The excitement has also come to Milton Public Library.  We’re receiving many requests for “It,” and King’s other works.

I heard King speak at the Fall for the Book Festival in Virginia.  He told the story of the real-life event that inspired him to write “It.”

When his car broke down after class one night, King walked home through a dark park. At one point, his boots made a clop, clop, clopping sound on a wooden bridge. “It reminded me of ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff,’” he said. “I realized a basic human fear is, ‘who is that trip, trapping over my bridge.’  I decided to write a final exam on all the monsters that scare people.” That paper became the basis of the book.

The author several times mentioned bedtime readings by his mother, and said those produced his own love of reading. “I loved reading so much that it became second nature to write,” he said.

King said the basis of his stories comes from his mother’s mantra for living:  “Think of the worst that could happen, and then whatever happens will be better than that.” When writing, King said he thinks about the worst that could happen, and then what could be even worse. “Following her advice has made me a lot of money and a little paranoid,” King laughed.

“In some ways the force [of my writing] comes from the horror comics of the 1950s,” he said. Other stories that made a big impression on him are “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Rats in the Walls” by H. P. Lovecraft and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. 

“The book that hit closest to where I live is ‘Lord of the Flies,'” King said. When he read it in high school, he said he could see where he and his friends might possibly be those boys.

Early on in his presentation, King discussed the statistical probability of how many people in the audience had left their cars and homes unlocked. “The probability of a psychopath trying all those handles and knobs is pretty low,” he said. “But don’t think of that later on.”

But I did think of that when I went to my car. And I wondered how many others did, too.

Postscript:  If you aspire to write, I highly recommend King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

Book Bits is a monthly feature by Milton Public Library director Susan Larson.

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