Stephen King turned 75 this week, but he’s not going to sit behind the geraniums for a while. The king of horror recently published his 65th novel and the next one is already in the works. King is one of the world’s most successful writers and continues to be a major influence on the horror genre and the next generation of authors.By Hasna Elbaamranic
“I own all his books, but actually they own me. After Shakespeare, King’s cultural influence is the greatest,” says author Benjamin Percy (The Ninth Metal, The Unfamiliar Garden) about the work of Stephen King. According to author Tom Perrotta (Election, Little Children) King is more than the main horror author. “He is a language artist and a master storyteller.”
King started writing short stories as a teenager, which he sold to magazines. When he started teaching at a high school in 1971, he continued to write in the evenings and weekends. His first novel, careerpublished in 1974. The book is about a teenage girl who has telekinetic powers that she uses against the classmates who systematically bully her.
The book became a great success, but not before King’s perseverance was put to the test: the manuscript was rejected no less than thirty times by publishers.
After career follow 64 novels, hundreds of short stories and dozens of film adaptations. His work is loved by horror fans, but also for people who have nothing to do with the genre, titles such as The Shining, it, misery, The Green Mile, Pet Sematary and The Stand. Much of King’s stories have been filmed, sometimes multiple times.
Loved, but also criticized
King is the unbeatable bestseller in the horror genre. No other author has sold as many books as he has: over 350 million copies worldwide. According to the fans, the writer’s success lies in his writing style and in dynamic characters that the reader can identify with.
Yet he has always been criticized by fellow authors. According to critics, King’s work has no artistic or literary value. He is dismissed as a ‘genre writer’, someone who only writes horror. That is not true; the author’s body of work includes science fiction, fantasy, thriller, and historical fiction. King’s response to the criticism has always been the same: he continues to write.
Getting a lot of strength from King’s work
Author Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies, Matrix) said in an interview earlier that she was greatly inspired by King’s enjoyment of writing and the gratitude he radiates. “I see in other authors that they see their work mainly as a source of pain and that they are full of self-pity.”
“When the Losers Club (a group of teenagers from it who is the target of bullying, ed.) If I could conquer bullies and a monstrous clown, I could certainly survive my high school years,” says author Robin Wasserman (Chasing Yesterday, Seven Deadly Sins), who got a lot of strength from reading the book.
According to experts, this typifies King’s work. He does not shy away from social themes and writes in his books not only about bullying, but also about religious fanaticism and the drinking and drug problem.
King launched Dutch author’s career
King is also loved by authors from the Netherlands. The American author contributed to the writing ambition of Thomas Olde Heuvelt (HEX, November), Olde Heuvelt tells NU.nl. “I was about eleven when I read my first book by Stephen King. My mother thought I was too young for that, but after a lot of nagging I was allowed to pick out a few books. The book Pet Semetary had a special meaning to me. The story is about loss and I lost my father at a young age. King’s books are like a mirror to real life.”
Decades later, Olde Heuvelt was in turn hailed by King: HEX was read by the 75-year-old author and a message followed on Twitter. King described Olde Heuvelt’s book as “brilliant and completely original”. That short tweet launched Olde Heuvelt’s career, who until then was unknown to the general public.
King’s last book Fairy Tale, came out on September 6 this year. He recently announced in a podcast that the next book, called holly, ready. For now, King is not thinking about quitting yet: “I write because it makes me happy and because it makes others happy.”