Neil Gaiman interviews Stephen King

Thoughts while reading the rough copy of Neil Gaiman’s interview of Stephen King, for the Sunday Times Magazine (of the United Kingdom), as found on Gaiman’s website.

Gaiman was a journalist, once, and I suppose he still is.

No writer’s copy starts out pristine, but it’s nice to be reminded that this is as true for Gaiman as anyone else.

Even the font changes at one point, which made the journal entry look a lot like any forum post on the now defunct Wizard’s of the Coast forums.

If there was one thing WotC was consistently good at, it was making life hard for its forum users…but I digress.

King’s writing wisdom makes its first appearance in the second paragraph: write as little as 300 words a day and you’ll have a novel in one year.

That reminds me: I need to pick up a copy of Danse Macabre, King’s collection of essays on horror and writing.

I’d assumed King did all of his writing in Maine. Florida is fortunate to have him for a good part of the year.

King succeeds as a writer because he “forces you to care what happens, page after page.”

Reminder: buy a book by John D. MacDonald.

Probably tens of thousands of people have thought about going back in time to save John F. Kennedy. The TV show Quantum Leap tackled the idea perfectly. Of course King would have the balls to write a story about it, titled 11/22/63.

I don’t remember owning a copy of Different Seasons–King’s collection of four short stories, none of which are horror books–but somehow I read Apt Pupil and The Breathing Method. Those stories fucked with me, the former more than the later, and each was horrific in its own way. Sometimes real life is more than enough.

Balls of iron: King wrote a sequel to The Shinning and gave it the title Doctor Sleep. There’s a lesson here: don’t be afraid to go there.

Remember this the next time you get to thinking your writing situation is less than ideal: King wrote at a makeshift desk, between a washer and dryer.

“Wrote” not as in longhand with a pen or pencil, but plunking away on a typewriter, which was probably a heavy lump of metal, which sat on a makeshift desk, between a fucking washer and dryer.

I don’t know if King had children back then, when his first novel sold for two hundred grand (Carrie, after his wife Tabitha rescued it out of the trash and bade him finish), but if he did then his wife was probably doing the heavy lifting each day, and I know first hand how hard it is to watch a pair of kids.

Credit where credit is due: King’s wife is awesome. Without her, we might not have got King the writer.

King responding to Gaiman’s question about the difficulty of writing characters working blue-collar jobs in 2012, when it’s been years since King had to do that: But look, here’s the bottom line: if you can imagine all the fabulous stuff that happened in American Gods, and if I can imagine Magic Doors and everything then surely I can still put my imagination to work and go: look, this is what I imagine it’s like to work a ten hour day in a blue collar job.

The lesson? Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Hope your editor is equipped to call bullshit.

I keep thinking The Green Mile was part of Different Seasons, but it wasn’t. Apparently it was serialized.

THIS is so you (emphasis mine): “King writes every day. If he doesn’t write he’s not happy. If he writes, the world is a good place.”

I like how King and Gaiman talk about stories happening as you go along. You have this idea, you dive in and start to write, and you don’t know exactly where you’re headed but just about every time you need to come up with something, well there it is in your mind, having revealed itself only because you wrote yourself right up to it. And the process continues.

Gaiman is right to say King’s body of work could be (a substitute) for history books on the feel or mood from the early 70s to now. It’s hard not to feel like you’re locked into whatever time period King writes in; his words are barbed.

Most important lesson: I want people to like the work, not me.

{Back to Writers on Writing}


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