A version of this article appears in print on October 31, 2015, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: More Than a Maker of Monsters
Stephen King, Not Just the Guy Who Makes Monsters
There’s a story Stephen King can’t resist telling. He was shopping for cinnamon buns and potato chips one day when a woman approached him. She told him that she didn’t care for horror stories like the ones he wrote, and preferred uplifting stories, like “The Shawshank Redemption.” When Mr. King told her he wrote that, too, she didn’t believe him.
If there are any lingering doubts about Mr. King’s stylistic range, they should be put to rest by his new collection, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams,” which features 20 stories that seem to touch on every genre imaginable, except for romance. There are crime and horror stories, a narrative poem and a grim western, along with realistic stories about marriage, aging and substance abuse.
The collection also functions as a companion of sorts to his 2000 book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” In his new book, Mr. King introduces each story, describing how he got the idea and what inspired him. The catalyst for one, “The Dune,” about a sand dune where the names of people who are about to die appear, came to him all at once when he was walking his dog on a beach in Florida. Others came from equally unlikely sources: a glimpse of a woman sitting on a bus, losing a bet with his son, eating lunch with his wife at Applebee’s and seeing a man cutting up his older dining companion’s steak. Another, “The Little Green God of Agony,” was drawn from his near-fatal road accident in 1999 and his long recovery.
“When readers come to a short story or a novel, the writer disappears completely, and that should be the case in the story, but it’s sort of fun to be able to talk about where the story came from,” Mr. King said. “It was a pleasure to talk about the craft again.”
In a telephone interview, Mr. King spoke about what scares him, why he’d like to be known for more than horror stories and why he has vivid dreams when he’s not writing. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.In a telephone interview, Mr. King spoke about what scares him, why he’d like to be known for more than horror stories and why he has vivid dreams when he’s not writing. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Q. In your introductions to the stories, you often describe how an idea will stay with you half-formed for years, until some catalyst makes you go back to it. Do you write your ideas down somewhere?
A. I don’t write anything down, any ideas ever, because that’s a good way to immortalize really bad ideas. The bad ideas fall out. It’s a natural Darwinian process. They go away somehow. It’s like throwing a bunch of crackers in a sieve. Some of those ideas shake out because the crumbs get too small, but the big ones stay.
I have an idea right now about a guy who kills his wife, and then his wife shows up and she’s his wife, but she’s strange. She’s pale. I can see her right now. He knows that he’s killed her, and he goes and digs up the place that he buried her, see what I’m saying? And I don’t really know what he finds, whether it’s a body there, but it’s a story idea that stayed with me for a long time.
Read the complete interview here