Two Stephen King articles

Here they go!


Stephen King finds a new ‘chemistry set’

NEW YORK (AP) — There are few things Stephen King hasn’t tried when it comes to his work. He’s already the master of horror fiction, a tour guide through disturbing and fantastical worlds, a writing coach, a nonfiction author, a screen writer and even a director.

He can now claim a new genre with the recent Marvel Entertainment comics publication “The Dark Tower,” based on his books of the same name.

“I’m a big fan of the medium,” King said of comic books. “A different way to tell stories is always exciting. It’s like being a kid with a chemistry set.”

It’s not that he’s a comic book buff. In fact, he hasn’t really kept tabs on the medium since his “Sandman” days as a child. But when the idea came up to make his seven-book “Dark Tower” series into a comic serial, he jumped at the chance.

The time is right for the collaboration, as both the genre and the author are being showered with critical and academic success like never before. These days, comic books aren’t just for gangly teenage boys or geeky adults, and King isn’t just a grocery store paperback writer.

“It asks something more of the reader than an old ‘Donald Duck’ or an ‘Archie’ or ‘Veronica,’ ” King says of the new comic. “You have to learn how to read it, and find out you’re going to be challenged.”

“The Dark Tower” is part Western, part fantasy and part adventure, centering on the story of Roland Deschain, a man who lives in a futuristic kind of world, and his quest to find the “Man in Black” and later on, the dark tower.

King calls it his life’s work — it took him nearly 20 years to complete the series, the final book published in 2004. But unlike myriad other King stories, it’s never been made into a film or TV show.

Marvel gathered its best artists and writers for the project. Jae Lee and Richard Isanove worked together on the drawings and the result is a somber, fluid book in deep red and black tones, very different from the traditional “WHAM!” superhero comics.

The plot, too, is unlike traditional comic books, because writers Peter David and Robin Furth had to start from scratch. They work within King’s story, but flesh out parts of Roland’s life not detailed in the books.

“Unlike Marvel Comics with 40 years of reference, this world hadn’t been drawn,” said Marvel publisher Dan Buckley. “There’s no movie, no TV show, no place we could go to as a style guide.”

Buckley said they worked backward, deciding first how many issues they’d need to tell a story, then plotting the stories loosely for the artists, who were given a lot of independence to create the world.

King was very pleased with the result. “It’s a little like a tour of your own imagination,” he said.

So far, the title has seen significant commercial success. More than 200,000 issues of the first issue were sold, by far the best-selling non-superhero comic in more than a decade. Marvel executives are hoping the comic will bring in readers new to the genre; King hopes comic readers will find an exciting new story in the “Dark Tower.”

“I think this is sort of like a coming-out party for the comic industry, a way to reach out to the mainstream,” said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. “We’re a very serious art form.”

There will be an initial series of seven books, and Lee is currently completing the art for the last book. It took about two years to get the idea off the ground, but once the wheels got moving, it’s been a faster pace.

King serves as a consultant and has ultimate control over decisions, but he lets the “comic book geniuses” do their work.

“I don’t usually think of writing as a collaborative sport,” he said. “But to me, the ‘Dark Tower’ looks more like a movie panel. Little by little, we’ve created this whole world.”
‘I outlived a lot of my worst critics’

King is known mostly for his enormously popular horror novels, such as “Carrie,” “Pet Sematary,” “Misery” and “The Shining,” but he’s also written a slew of other works, from the personal novella “The Body” to “Hearts in Atlantis,” “The Green Mile” and “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

He’s recently been writing a pop culture column in Entertainment Weeklyexternal link, and the lifelong Boston Red Sox fan wrote the book “Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season” with Stewart O’Nan. (Entertainment Weekly, like CNN, is part of Time Warner.)

King, 59, lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, Tabitha. He has three grown children: Oldest Naomi King is a Unitarian minister and is working on a nonfiction project; Joseph Hillstrom King recently wrote “Heart Shaped Box,” under the pen name Joe Hill; and youngest son Owen King published a novella in 2005 entitled “We’re All in this Together.”

In 1999, King was hit by a car while walking down the road in Lovell, Maine. The accident affected him profoundly both physically and mentally, and shortly thereafter, he suggested he would retire.

“I didn’t feel very well, at the end of the ‘Dark Tower’ series,” he said. “And I thought that anything that I do after this is going to be feel a little bit tired and used up, because that’s the way I felt. I was in a lot of physical pain.”

He didn’t exactly stick to his claim, but he has stopped his usual breakneck pace.

“The pain got better, and I just started to write again. For a long time, I didn’t write anything, but then I did ‘Lisey’s Story,’ and it seemed like a different book. It felt like an old book, but in a good way. You never know what is going to happen when you start a project.”

King has long been both a darling of best seller lists and a critical target as well. While readers voraciously buy up his words, he fends off charges of everything from shallowness to self-indulgence to just plain lack of talent.

His critical luck has started changing. He won a 1996 O. Henry Award for a story he had published in The New Yorker. “Wonder Boys” author Michael Chabon, who grew up reading King stories, selected King works to run in two anthologies put out under Dave Eggers’ “McSweeney’s” collection.

In 2003, King was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, although the honor seriously irked some critics. And university professors around the country have started teaching courses on his work.

“I outlived a lot of my worst critics,” he said, in jest. “And now, a lot of people who write literary criticism, I scared them … under their bedcovers. I’m like the Catholic Church: Give them to me young and they’re mine forever.”

Seriously, though, he thinks any critical success he received is because he has simply improved as a writer.

His monstrous bevy of fans, however, are unfazed by literary criticism. At the release of the first “Dark Tower” book, thousands poured into a conference room at the Comic-Con summit to hear him speak. After a lengthy standing ovation, they stood in awe, photographing King and repeating over and over, in a tone much too casual for someone they’ve never met: “You are a genius,” and “You are my hero.”

Just as his fans feel they know King, they also feel a sense of ownership over his work. He said he fielded many letters from disappointed fans after he completed the “Dark Tower” series.

“I knew at the end what it was going to be and I knew it wasn’t going to satisfy everyone,” he said. “It will be the same when J.K. Rowling finishes the ‘Harry Potter’ books. There’s no way to please everyone, but I think many fans were satisfied.”

King takes it all in stride, saying he is grateful to have reached people with his writing. And anyway, someone will always set his ego in check.

For example, at a Publix grocery store in Florida, the author was shopping near the pet food section and an old woman approached him.

“She’s like 104, this hunched-up woman with her shopping cart and she says to me, ‘I know who you are. You write those horrible books. They might be all right for some people, but I don’t like them. Why don’t you write something nice like that ‘Green Mile,’ ” he said.

King told the woman that he did, in fact, write the story.

“And she said, ‘No you didn’t.’ Just like that. And that was the end of the conversation. It made me doubt my own identity,” he said.

Here is the second one, from

Secret of horror writer’s lineage broken

By JERRY HARKAVY, Associated Press WriterSat Mar 17, 7:32 PM ET

Joe Hill knew it was only a matter of time before one of the publishing industry’s hottest little secrets became common knowledge. He just wished he could have kept it under wraps a bit longer.

But when Hill’s fantasy-tinged thriller, “Heart-Shaped Box,” came out last month, it was inevitable that his thoroughbred blood lines as a writer of horror and the supernatural would be out there for all to see.

After 10 years of writing short stories and an unpublished novel under his pen name, Hill knows that the world is now viewing him through a different prism — as the older son of Stephen King.

Hill, 34, took on his secret identity to test his writing skills and marketability without having to trade on the family name.

“I really wanted to allow myself to rise and fall on my own merits,” he said over breakfast in this coastal city. “One of the good things about it was that it let me make my mistakes in private.”

The moniker he chose did not come out of the blue. He is legally Joseph Hillstrom King, named for the labor organizer whose 1915 execution for murder in Utah inspired the song, “Joe Hill,” an anthem of the labor movement. His parents, who came of age during the 1960s, “were both pretty feisty liberals and looked at Joe Hill as a heroic figure,” he said.

“Heart-Shaped Box,” a title drawn from a song by the rock group Nirvana, is a fast-paced tale of another man with dual identities. Judas Coyne, born Justin Cowzynski, is an over-the- hill heavy metal rocker with a strange hobby: amassing ghoulish artifacts.

When Coyne learns that a suit purportedly haunted by a ghost is up for grabs on an online auction site, he can’t resist adding it to his creepy collection. Things turn ugly fast after Coyne learns that the suit’s occupant is a spooky spiritualist bent on vengeance following the death of his stepdaughter.

The book has drawn good reviews, with The New York Times’ Janet Maslin calling it “a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror” that is “so visually intense that its energy never flags.” And with its cinematic, and bloody, ending, Warner Bros. snapped up movie rights six months before the book hit the market.

As excitement percolated about “Heart-Shaped Box,” so, too, did lingering questions about its author. Inklings about Hill’s family background started appearing in online message boards in 2005 when his collection of short stories, “20th Century Ghosts,” was published in Britain.

Similarities in subject matter and appearance — Hill has his father’s bushy eyebrows and the dark beard he sported decades ago — were enough to stir suspicion among followers of the horror genre.

“It got blogged to death,” Hill recalled. But only when his identity was trumpeted in Variety last year did he realize that the secret was gone for good. “That was really the nail in the coffin,” he said.

Still, his pen name had a good ride. The editor of “Heart-Shaped Box” was unaware of the King connection and Hill’s agent remained in the dark for eight years before the author spilled the beans two years ago.

Hill’s decision to follow his father’s career should come as no surprise. His mother, Tabitha King, has been turning out novels for decades. His younger brother, Owen King, came out in 2005 with a well-received novella and short story collection that is more literary than horrific and laced with absurdity.

Like Hill, Owen King wanted to cut his own path and his book did not mention his parentage. But he decided against a pen name, figuring it would be too much trouble to try to go by an alias when meeting people or having an agent, manager, publicist or personal assistant handle details of his professional life.

The only sibling who has yet to make it into print is Naomi King, oldest of the three, who has switched careers from restaurateur to Unitarian minister. But Hill said his sister is working on a nonfiction project: a book-length study of the sermon as literary text and its place in American culture.

The King children’s interest in books and writing took root early on. “It sounds very Victorian, but we would sit around and read aloud nightly, in the living room or on the porch,” Hill recalled. “This was something we kept on doing until I was in high school, at least.”

In an era of celebrity worship, the family has prided itself on being able to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible despite Stephen King’s fame and fortune. Hill and his brother attended public high school in Bangor, Maine, before going on to Vassar College, where they overlapped for one year.

After graduation, Hill and Owen King collaborated on a couple of screenplays. They sold one, but it has yet to be made into a movie.

The first half of “Heart-Shaped Box” is set in New York’s Hudson Valley, the area around Vassar, where Judas Coyne lives with his latest Goth girlfriend, who 30 years his junior, and two devoted German shepherds.

At first, Hill envisioned his tale of a suit with a ghost attached as grist for a short story. But as he added depth and back story to his characters, it ballooned into a novel 10 times longer than what he originally planned.

The choice of title was pure serendipity. Hill’s initial idea, “Private Collection,” went by the wayside when the 1993 Nirvana song popped up on iTunes as the author was getting ready to write the episode in which UPS delivers the haunted suit to Coyne. It was then that Hill decided to package the suit in a heart-shaped box.

“Coyne is fiction and (Kurt) Cobain was a real guy,” he said, “but I felt that the song fit very well with the book. The song is about a guy who feels trapped and desperate, and the book is about how someone uses music as a hammer to beat at the bars of his own cage.”

Hill and his wife, whom he met at Vassar, live in southern New Hampshire with their three children. He is reluctant to say much about his private life, recalling how a crazed fan broke into his family’s home in Bangor in 1991 and threatened his mother, a frightening episode that evoked the plot of King’s earlier best seller, “Misery.”

Stephen King declined a request for comment on his son’s novel. “He’s trying to go along with Joe’s wishes and let him do this on his own,” said his spokeswoman, Marsha DeFilippo.

But at a recent panel discussion in New York, King told a questioner that he wouldn’t rule out a collaborative book project with his son.

“I guess anything’s possible,” he said. “I took them on my knee, read them stories, changed their diapers, and now they’re all grown up and they have become writers, of all things. I am really proud of them. I guess we’ll see what happens down the road.”

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