Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
King's stories frequently involve an unremarkable protagonist such as a middle-class family, a child, or many times, a writer. The characters are involved in their everyday lives, but the supernatural encounters and extraordinary circumstances escalate over the course of the story. King evinces a thorough knowledge of the horror genre, as shown in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre, which chronicles several decades of notable works in both literature and cinema. He also writes stories outside the horror genre, including the novellas The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (adapted as the movies Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, respectively), as well as The Green Mile and Hearts in Atlantis. Stephen King also wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman.
Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine and is of Scots-Irish ancestry. When King was two years old, his father deserted his family. His mother, Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King, raised King and his adopted older brother David by herself, sometimes under great financial strain. The family moved to Ruth's home town of Durham, Maine but also spent brief periods in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Stratford, Connecticut. King attended Durham Elementary School and Lisbon High School. He grew to stand 6'4" tall.
King has been writing since an early age. When in school, he wrote stories based on movies he had seen recently and sold them to his friends. This was not popular among his teachers, and he was forced to return his profits when this was discovered. The stories were copied using a mimeo machine that his brother David used to copy a newspaper, "Dave's Rag," which he self-published. "Dave's Rag" was about local events, and King would often contribute. At around the age of thirteen, King discovered a box of his father's old books at his aunt's house, mainly horror and science fiction. He was immediately hooked on these genres.
From 1966 to 1971, King studied English at the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. At the university, he wrote a column titled "King's Garbage Truck" in the university magazine. He also met Tabitha Spruce; they married in 1971. King took on odd jobs to pay for his studies, including one at an industrial laundry. He used the experience to write the short story The Mangler. The campus period in his life is readily evident in the second part of Hearts in Atlantis.
After finishing his university studies with a Bachelor of Arts in English and obtaining a certificate to teach high school, King taught English at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. During this time, he and his family lived in a trailer. He wrote short stories (most were published in men's magazines) to help make ends meet. As told in the introduction in Carrie, if one of his kids got a cold, Tabitha would joke, "Come on, Steve, think of a monster". King also developed a drinking problem which stayed with him for over a decade.
During this period, King began a number of novels. One of his first ideas was of a young girl with psychic powers. However, he grew discouraged, and threw it into the trash. Tabitha later rescued it and encouraged him to finish it. After completing the novel, he titled it Carrie, sent it to Doubleday, and more or less forgot about it. Later, he received an offer to buy it with a $2,500 advance (not a large advance for a novel, even at that time). Shortly after, the value of Carrie was realized with the paperback rights being sold for $400,000 (with $200,000 of it going to the publisher). Shortly after its release, his mother died of uterine cancer. He had the novel read to her before she died.
In On Writing, King admits that at this time he was consistently drunk and that he was an alcoholic for well over a decade. He even admits that he was drunk during his mother’s funeral while delivering the eulogy. He states that he had based the alcoholic father in The Shining on himself, though he did not admit it (even to himself) for several years.
Shortly after the publication of The Tommyknockers, King's family and friends finally intervened, dumping his trash on the rug in front of him to show him the evidence of his own addictions: beer cans, cigarette butts, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, dextromethorphan (cough medicine), and marijuana. He sought help and quit all forms of drugs and alcohol in the late 1980's, and has remained sober.
Stephen King usually lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife Tabitha. They also own a house in the Western Lakes District of Maine. He spends winter seasons in an oceanfront mansion located off the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota, Florida. Their three children, Naomi Rachel, Joe Hill (who appeared in the film Creepshow), and Owen Phillip, are grown and living on their own. Owen's first collection of stories, We're All in This Together: A Novella and Stories was published in 2005.
In the summer of 1999, King was in the middle of writing On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. At the time, he had finished the memoir section and had abandoned the book for nearly eighteen months, unsure of how to proceed or whether to bother. King reports that it was the first book that he'd abandoned since writing The Stand decades earlier. He had just decided to continue the book. On June 17, he had written up a list of questions that he was frequently asked about writing, as well as some that he wished he would be asked about it; on June 18, he had written four pages of the section on writing. On June 19, about 4:30 PM, he was walking on the right shoulder of Route 5 in North Lovell. Driver Bryan Smith, distracted by an unrestrained Rottweiler, named Bullet, moving in the back of his 1985 Dodge Caravan, struck King, who landed in a depression about 14 feet (4 meters) from the pavement of Route 5. Oxford County Sheriff's deputy Matt Baker recorded that witnesses said the driver was not speeding or reckless Baker also reported that King was struck from behind. King's official website, however, states that this was incorrect, and that King was walking facing traffic. In any case, Smith was turned and leaning to the rear of his vehicle trying to restrain his dog, and was not watching the road when he struck King.
King was conscious enough to give the deputy phone numbers to contact his family, but in considerable pain. The author was first transported to Northern Cumberland Hospital and then flown by helicopter to Central Maine Hospital. His injuries — a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of the right leg, scalp laceration, and a broken hip — kept him in Central Maine Medical Center until July 9, almost three weeks later.
Earlier that year King had finished most of From a Buick 8, a novel where one of the characters dies in an automobile accident. Of the eerie similarities, King says that he tries "not to make too much of it." Certainly car accidents and their horrors had figured into King's work before. His 1987 novel Misery also concerned a writer who experiences severe injuries in an auto accident, and auto wrecks figure prominently in The Dead Zone and Thinner.
After five operations in ten days and physical therapy, King resumed work on On Writing in July, though his hip was still shattered and he could only sit for about forty minutes before the pain became intolerable.
King's lawyer and two others purchased Smith's van for $1,500, reportedly to avoid it appearing on eBay. Smith, a disabled construction worker, died in his sleep on September 21, 2000 (King's Birthday) at the age of 43.
King incorporated his accident into the final novel of his The Dark Tower series, in which the hero Roland Deschain and his ka-tet try to stop King from being fatally injured by the van. In the story, Roland hypnotized both King and the driver in order to make them forget his appearance.
The novel Dreamcatcher, which was released after King's accident, features a character recovering from a car accident. The series premiere of Kingdom Hospital involved the main character, a painter out for a morning run, being hit by a pickup truck, and was also inspired by the accident. In fact the scene was depicted remarkably similar to how he described his real accident occurring, the only exception being that the driver in the show was driving drunk in addition to trying to restrain his dog.
In King's nonfiction book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King discusses his writing style at great length and depth. King believes that, generally speaking, good stories cannot be called consciously and should not be plotted out beforehand but are better served by focusing on a single "seed" of a story and letting the story grow itself from there. King often begins a story with no idea how the story will end. He mentions in the Dark Tower series that, halfway through its lengthy, nearly 30-year writing period, King received a letter from a woman with cancer who asked how the book would end¹, because she was unlikely to live long enough to read it. He stated that he didn't know. King believes strongly in this style, stating that his best writing comes from free writing.
He is known for his great eye for detail, for continuity, and for inside references; many stories that may seem unrelated are often linked by secondary characters, fictional towns, or off-hand references to events in previous books. Read as a whole, King's work (which he claims is cantered around his Dark Tower creates a remarkable history that stretches from present day all the way back to the beginning of time (with a unique creation myth).
King's books are filled with references to American history and American culture, particularly the darker, more fearful side of these. These references are generally spun into the stories of characters, often explaining their fears. Recurrent references include crime, war (especially the Vietnam War), and racism.
King is also known for his folksy, informal narration, often referring to his fans as "Constant Readers" or "friends and neighbours." This familiar style contrasts with the horrific content of many of his stories.
King has a very simple formula for learning to write well: "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."
King also has a simple definition for talent in writing: "If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented" (from "Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully — in Ten Minutes").
Shortly after his accident, King wrote the first draft of the book Dreamcatcher with a notebook and a Waterman fountain pen, "the world's finest word processor."
King's recent years
In 1996, King won an O. Henry Award for his short story, "The Man in the Black Suit." In 2003, King was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Awards. There was an uproar in the literary community over the choice of King.
Others in the writing community expressed their contempt of the slight towards King. Orson Scott Card wrote "Let me assure you that King's work most definitely is literature, because it was written to be published and is read with admiration. What Richard Snyder [former CEO of Simon & Schuster, who described King's work as non-literature] really means is that it is not the literature preferred by the academic-literary elite."
King also wrote one short story, The Fifth Quarter, under the name John Swithen. The Fifth Quarter, was reprinted in King's collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 under his own name.
King used to play guitar in the band Rock Bottom Remainders but has not joined them on stage for some years. The band's members include: Dave Barry; Ridley Pearson; Scott Turow; Amy Tan; James McBride; Mitch Albom; Roy Blount Jr; Matt Groening; Kathi Kamen Goldmark; and Greg Iles.
In 2002, King announced he would stop writing, apparently motivated in part by frustration with his injuries, which had made sitting uncomfortable, and reduced his stamina. He has since written several books. 
Since 2003, King has provided his take on pop culture in a column appearing on the back page of Entertainment Weekly, usually every third week. The column is called "The Pop Of King", a reference to "The King of Pop", Michael Jackson.
In October 2005, King has signed up with Marvel Comics] this will be his first time writing original material for the comic book medium other than two pages in a benefit comic for African hunger relief in the 1980s. The 31 issue series will see him adapting and expanding his
In January 2006, King participated in the Writers in Paradise program at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL.
Stephen King is a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox, and is frequently found at both home and away baseball games.
In his private role as father, King helped coach his son Owen's Bangor West team to the Maine Little League Championship in 1989. This experience is recounted in the New Yorker essay Head Down, which also appears in the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes. King has called Head Down his best piece of non-fiction writing.
In 1999 King wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which involved former Red Sox team member[Tom Gordon as a major character. King recently co-wrote a book entitled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season with Stewart O'Nan. This work recounts the authors' roller coaster reaction to the Red Sox's 2004 season, a season culminating in the Sox winning the 2004 American League Championship Series and World Series.
In 1992, Mansfield Stadium, a Little League ballpark (which also host High School and Senior League games) opened in Bangor, Maine. This facility, nicknamed the Field Of Screams, was made possible through the efforts and donations of King and his wife Tabitha.
After publishing many wildly successful novels under his own name, King wanted to know if some of his early works (those written before Carrie) would sell without having his name on them. He also worried that many of the non-horror novels he wanted to write would clash with the expectations of his fans. So he convinced his publisher, Signet Books, to print these novels under a pseudonym. The name "Richard Bachman" was supposedly chosen partly in tribute to crime author Donald E. Westlake's long-running pseudonym [Richard Stark, and partly in honour of Bachman Turner Overdrive, a band King was listening to at the time he chose his pen name.
King dedicated all of Bachman's early books to people close to him and worked in obscure references to his own identity. When fans picked up on these clues, not to mention the similarity between the two authors' literary styles, horror fans' and retailers' suspicions were aroused. Still, King steadfastly denied any connection to Bachman, and to throw fans off the trail Bachman's 1984 novel Thinner was dedicated to "Claudia Inez Bachman", supposedly Bachman's wife. There was also a phoney author photo of Bachman on the dust jacket, credited to Claudia.
Nevertheless, a persistent bookstore clerk couldn't believe that Bachman and King were not one and the same, and eventually located publisher's records at the Library of Congress naming King as the author of one of Bachman's novels. At that point, the link became undeniable. This led to a press release heralding Bachman's "death" -- supposedly from "cancer of the pseudonym". At the time of the announcement in 1985, King was working on Misery which he had planned to release as a Bachman book.
The Bachman story didn't quite end with Thinner, though. In 1996, Bachman's The Regulators came out, with the publishers claiming the book's manuscript was found among Bachman's leftover papers by his widow. Still, it was obvious from the book's packaging and marketing campaign that it was really written by King. There was a picture of a young King on the inside back cover, and the "also by this author" page listed not only works Bachman was credited with writing, but also works he wrote "as Stephen King". Furthermore, The Regulators was released the same day as the King novel Desperation, and the two novels featured many of the same characters. As well, the two book covers were designed to be placed together to form a single picture.
Around the time of The Regulators release, King said that there may be another Bachman novel left to be "found". This statement finally came to fruition in 2007 when King released the novel Blaze with the Bachman by-line.
King has taken full ownership of the Bachman name on numerous occasions, such as in the introduction to The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Stephen King. This introduction, entitled "Why I Was Bachman", lays bare the whole Bachman/King story in clear, undeniable detail.
King also used the "relationship" between him and Bachman as a concept in his book The Dark Half, a story in which a writer's darker pseudonym takes on a life of its own. King dedicated The Dark Half to "the deceased Richard Bachman".
Richard Bachman appeared in King's Dark Tower series, albeit indirectly. In the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, the sinister children's book Charlie the Choo Choo is revealed to be written by 'Claudia y Inez Bachman'. The spelling discrepancy of the added 'y' was later explained as a deus ex machina on the part of "The White" (a force of good throughout King's Tower series which works to assist the ka-tet of the gunslinger, Roland) to bring the total total number of letters in her name nineteen, a number prominent in King's series.
Richard Bachman slowly built up a readership despite being published in original paperbacks. Thinner was Bachman's first title to be published in hardback. It sold 28,000 copies before it became widely known that the author was really Stephen King, whereupon sales went up tenfold.
The original editions of the first four Bachman books are now among the world's most sought after original paperback novels, with resale prices in the hundreds of dollars.
The first four Bachman titles were also republished in a single volume as The Bachman Books in 1985. After the Columbine High School massacre, King announced that he would allow Rage to go out of print, fearing that it might inspire similar tragedies. Bachman's other novels are now available in separate volumes.
King is a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, discusses him at length in Danse Macabre, and has used several of Lovecraft's writing techniques in his own work. Lovecraft is probably influential on King's invention of bizarre, ancient deities, subtle connections between all of his tales, and the integration of fabricated newspaper clippings, trial transcripts and documents as narrative devices. King's invented trio of afflicted New England towns Jerusalem's Lot, Castle Rock and Derry are reminiscent of Lovecraft's Arkham, Dunwich and Innsmouth. However, in On Writing, King is critical of Lovecraft's dialogue-writing skills, using passages from The Colour Out of Space as particularly poor examples.
Edgar Allan Poe, one of the fathers to the contemporary literary horror genre, exerts a noticeable influence over King's writing as well. One of the best examples of this is shown with The Shining. The mangled phrase, "And the red death held sway over all," hearkens back to the original, "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all," from Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death." King's novel parallels Poe's short story fairly accurately. The two men also share the common theme of the doppelganger, although one might argue that this is prevalent throughout the entire horror genre and cannot be relegated as specific to one author. In addition, the theme of the short story "Dolan's Cadillac" bears an almost identical comparison to Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," up to and including a paraphrase of Fortunato's famous plea, "for the love of God, Montresor!" In The Shining, King refers to Poe as "the Great American Hack".
King has also openly declared his admiration for another, far less prolific author: Shirley Jackson. The novel Salem's Lot opens with a quotation from Jackson's '[The Haunting of Hill House. Tony, an imaginary playmate from The Shining bears a striking resemblance to another imaginary playmate with the same name from Jackson's Hangsaman. There are also many similarities between the character of Carrie from Carrie and that of Eleanor from The Haunting of Hill House. King claims that Carrie is actually based on two victims of bullying that he knew from school. A pivotal scene in Storm of the Century is based on Jackson's The Lottery.
King may well owe the most to John D. MacDonald. King was a big fan of MacDonald as he was growing up, and the debt he owes the older writer seems clear enough. Just as King is a popular master of the horror genre, so was MacDonald a peerless master of the crime procedural. King very likely learned much of the art of penetrating deep into character from MacDonald's best work. the ways King and MacDonald develop characters, even down to certain turns of language, are strikingly similar. And both men display an intense love of a good story, told well and clearly and in the vernacular of real people, living in the real world. Even their work-habits, in their respective primes, are similar: both spent a lot of time learning their craft, and a lot of time practicing it every single day. King's comment that you can't be a serious writer until you read four hours a day and write four hours a day could have come straight from MacDonald, who felt much the same way about the matter. MacDonald wrote an admiring preface to an early paperback version of Night Shift, and even had his famous character, Travis McGee, reading Cujo in one of the last McGee novels. King dedicated the novella Sun Dog to MacDonald, saying "I miss you, old friend."
In On Writing, King claimed that the one book he wishes he'd written is Lord of the Flies.
King has written two novels with acclaimed horror novelist Peter Straub, The Talisman and a sequel, Black House. King has indicated that he and Straub will likely write the third and concluding book in this series, the tale of Jack Sawyer, but has set no timeline for its completion.
King also wrote the non-fiction book, Faithful with novelist and fellow Red Sox fanatic Stewart O'Nan.
Donnie comes home from school. In another scene Donnie's father is reading The Tommyknockers] while in bed, although the cover to the book is missing.
Novels and short fiction collections
General information and publishers