Saturday, April 2, 2011

Author of the Month: Stephen King

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. —Stephen King
King has long been a favorite author of mine, especially when I’ve felt the need to be scared out of my wits. To this day, I can’t drive past a corn field without recalling the images he created in, Children of the Corn or wonder what would happen if a virus like the one in The Stand killed all but a few. And what if machines came to life like they did in, The Mangler? And yet in spite of the scary gore we often associate with his works, his writing flows and pulls the reader along to places they never thought of going and continue to relive long after the story ends.

Of course, we assume authors like King are overnight successes. Maybe it’s because that’s the point in their career when we, the readers, come in. The truth is, King’s overnight success developed over numerous year of dedication to the craft. He’s written about 49 novels, has 166 published works that include short stories, essays, novellas, and poems, and 51 movies adapted from his writings and yet his journey is one that many of us could easily relate to.

King’s first professional short story sale, The Glass Floor to Startling Mystery stories was in 1967. Years later, several of his short stories were collected into his Night Shift collection. In college he wrote for the school newspaper. In 1970 he graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Main in Oron, but was unable to find a teaching position for several months and supported himself and his wife by working as a laborer at an industrial laundry. He eventually did go on to teach high school English and continued to write in the evenings and weekends to produce short stories and work on his novels.

So far this scenario sounds vaguely familiar.

His first major break came in the spring of 1973 when Doubleday & Co. accepted his novel Carrie. It was published a year later. The sales from this book allowed him to quit his teaching job and dedicate his time to being a full-time writer and the rest, as they say, is history. Although I couldn’t find any reference on his website about his frustration with this book—how he tossed the pages in the trash and his wife made him pull them out and finish it. I have to wonder if the dedication he wrote in the book implies this is so, "This is for Tabby, who got me into it- and then bailed me out of it."

It’s comforting to know that even the greats need someone to believe in them—to nudge them along and prod them on to achieving their dreams. Where would I or any one of us be without our private cheer block? And so, when I feel alone, frustrated with the writing, it helps to know that others have walked the same path, survived, and flourished. It also makes me realize that in comparison, I have only just begun my journey. Whether my path to success is long or short, it all depends on perseverance and to quote King, “… a lot of hard work.”

About the author:

Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. She is currently working on the third book in her Sam Harper Crime Mystery series, Grave Witness.


Susan Whitfield said...

Marta, good tribute post! I, too, am a Stephen King fan and rate him a genius and hard worker. My favorite book so far is Secret Window, made into a movie starring Depp as the deranged author. I can somewhat relate to carrying mad men around in my head for a while as I was writing Just North of Luck, but I am hopefully not a mad writer. I look forward to more from King and from you.

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Susan. I have a copy of King's "Full Dark, No Stars" sitting on my desk right now. I'm sure I'll write about it soon!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Marta. Wonderful tribute to a master. My favorite part of King's style in all his books is his dialogue. I think there's NO dialogue in the world more authentic sounding or natural sounding as his. I also love his book, On Writing - it's one of my top favorites. ;o)

Kim Smith said...

Read a lot of King when I was younger. Great writer!

Nathan Weaver said...

The man's a beast.