In his book On Writing, Stephen King confessed:
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
It’s strange to think one of the most beloved and prolific writers of our day was rejected time and again. It’s similar to the motivational story behind Rowling’s quest to get Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone published… never give up. King has infiltrated literature and screen sense his smashing (bloody?) success with Carrie and despite multiple threats to retire, the man can’t be stopped. At the time that I write this, Stephen King is in his 70s and unstoppable.
Seriously. He was even hit by a van and kept going. Though I suppose we have Jake Chambers to thank for that, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should read The Dark Tower. 😉
When I think of horror novels, the very first person I think of is Stephen King. And you know what else? I’ve never actually read one of his classic horror novels. I have several on my TBR – Misery, Carrie, etc. That said, I absolutely thing that whether or not you like horror, you should read at least one Stephen King book.
1. Stephen King is a huge influence on American pop culture.
I realize this may not be a great reason elsewhere in the world, but there are soooo many Hollywood films based on books or short stories by Stephen King. And I’m not just talking about ones you may think of right off the top of your head (like the recent It). Y’all ever heard of Shawshank Redemption?
Anyone who has touched pop culture as much as King has deserves attention, even if you don’t love him.
2. He’s incredibly versatile.
Don’t like horror? No problem. King may be known for horror, but he does other stuff, and he does it well. Like sci-fi? Try Dreamcatcher. Westerns? Try the Dark Tower series. Suspense? Hearts in Atlantis. Because he is so prolific, King has a lot of options out there and there’s a choice for nearly every taste.
3. King writes raw and real.
I’ve always appreciated that King doesn’t butter up the characters or the story. He writes some of the most flawed characters I’ve ever seen. He’s an unapologetic writer, and I think it’s sort of refreshing. He’s very good at showing us the parts of humanity we don’t want to think about.
4. He is very good at getting into a villain’s head.
I really appreciate King’s villains. Even without knowing much about Pennywise or Christine or Cujo, I love the psychological twists he gives to his subtler villains. Secret Window (inspired by King’s novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden”) is an incredible look at the transformation to a killer and the psychological tricks played. And Mr. Mercedes? As disturbing as it is, Brady’s storyline was far more interesting than Bill Hodges.
5. He is devoted to his art.
In Song of Susannah he jokes about procrastinating on the Dark Tower series, but King is always writing something. And he was one of the earliest authors who was open to talking about his craft. That may be hard to imagine now as more and more writers come forth as transparent, but when On Writing was published in 1999, there weren’t a lot of similar collections of personal experience and advice out there. I respect him for that transparency, at least.
Outside of his own process, King writes about writers all the time. Think Misery, or ‘Salem’s Lot or again… “Secret Window, Secret Garden”. It is a bit of a guilty pleasure as a writer to read about other ones. 🙂
This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks:
Recommend one horror novel for non-horror readers.
Short answer: I actually don’t… read… horror? Nothing that I would strictly consider horror, anyway. But I do think everyone should read a Stephen King novel at some point – whether it the Dark Tower (yesdoit), It, The Green Mile or something else. He’s iconic, and definitely a horror writer, so do iiiiitt.