I like Stephen King for two reasons.
One, the first big, “real” novel I read and actually enjoyed was It, a wonderfully creepy tale about a really bad place with a really bad clown. It’s long and gory and scary, and I enjoyed the small rebellion of it all. It was not very uplifting or wholesome, and I knew my folks wouldn’t really approve, which therefore made it awesome (like buying Run DMC’s album Raising Hell just because it had a bad word in the title, which I did. Word.). And it got me away from school-assigned novels or the books my parents were reading, neither of which were not terribly exciting to me at the time (The Red Pony remains, to this day, a book I have no desire to revisit). Plus, my dad was – and is – really into large genre tomes of fantasy and sci-fi, which I’ve never enjoyed much (everything after Tolkien and CS Lewis being a step down, of course).
So, in short, I owe Stephen King a big portion of why I love reading and writing.
But I also admire SK as a writer who demonstrates with every page that he loves his craft, and doesn’t apologize for being prolific, or even publishing work that can be, at times, not terribly great. He said once that his work is “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries,” which is at once a powerful statement of goal and brand. I’ll not dwell on the brand aspect (maybe my Brand-Guru brother Dennis can do so), but I think there’s something to a writer who has the chops to write pretty much any kind of novel he wants, but chooses to focus on work he enjoys writing and knows others will enjoy too.
He spoke with Jian Ghomeshi on Q recently and, once again, reminded me how intelligent yet down to earth this great writer really is. He said that he really writes books that he hopes people want to read, the measure of success being a reader not being able to stop turning pages, even if there are close to a thousand of them. I like that. Less about volume as a measure of quality and more about reader satisfaction.
Could he spend ten years and pen the next great American literary classic? I – and a few others – think he probably could (and I would buy the hard cover, darn it), but he chooses to sit down at the machine every day and work for his readers, focusing on storytelling and craft, rather than just the craft.
I get that. I’m a pretty good writer, I think, but at this stage I’m really enjoying the stories I tell and hope the writing carries them. It’s great to have someone to look up to who does the same.