The Blue-Collar King: An Interview with Stephen King

From the Los Angelos Review of Books website:

The Blue-Collar King: An Interview with Stephen King

Angela S. Allan interviews Stephen King

STEPHEN KING is a man of many talents: he’s played guitar in an author rock band, and as I learned when I met him this past September, he also does a mean Richard Nixon impersonation. But when it comes to writing, King is a relentless and astute chronicler of contemporary American life, in all of its weird and wonderful forms.

Over the years, King has often been a polarizing figure, beloved by fans, sniffed at by critics. Neither bothers him very much: King has stories to tell. Perhaps more than any living novelist, King thinks actively about what it means to be a professional writer.

It’s been a busy year for King, with the release of the novel Finders Keepers in June and a new short story collection coming out in November. The day after this interview, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts. The following day, he rounded out Stephen Colbert’s first week of guests on The Late Show. Despite the accolades and his celebrity status — he was greeted with thunderous applause at an event at Harvard, where we met — King remains, in his own words, “a proletarian novelist.”

ANGELA S. ALLAN: You’ve given a great deal of consideration to how the popular market has influenced and shaped your work as a “brand name” author: Finders Keepers is, much like Misery, interested in questions about authorial ownership and literary property: has your success shaped the way you think about your relationship to your work over the years?

STEPHEN KING: No, it hasn’t. I’m aware, in a kind of general way, that I’ve become somebody who’s well known, which is an unusual thing for writers. It’s not the normal course of things. Writers are actually supposed to be secret agents and we go along and see stuff and kind of record it. [Things I say] come back out, and I realize that a lot of what I see is warped by the way people see me. I’m still not used to being looked at, so that changes some of the day-to-day stuff.

For instance, coming in tonight, there are people out there who want autographs in books. There are people outside the hotel who kind of cluster together — they want autographs basically — they’ll say it’s for their grandmother or their poor blind son or whatever, but really it’s for eBay or Craigslist or somewhere like that. That’s the sort of behavior you associate around movie stars, TV stars, rock stars, that sort of thing.

That makes a difference in terms of life, but in terms of work, once I sit down to write and I’m in the story, all that falls away. I’m not thinking about cultural implications, I’m not thinking about genre, I’m not thinking about any of those things that have to do with what critics would talk about when they analyze fiction — all those things go away. But they only go away in the first draft. And then you put stuff away. When you come back to it, you read it and you say, these are the important things, this is where lightning struck for me. Those are almost always things that are cultural and thematic, and I just try and highlight those.

Read the rest of the interview here

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