Alex DiBlasi ’23
No one conjures horror more than novelist Stephen King. His ability to transport millions to fictional places like Castle Rock where they confront their darkest fears is unparalleled. Since 1974, the Maine native has sold over 350 million books and he has won countless prestigious writing awards such as the National Book Award. This month, King’s newest novel, “The Institute” hit bookstores everywhere and reviews are claiming that it is his best work yet! Through the years, several of his earlier works have been turned into blockbuster movies like Salem’s Lot, The Green Mile, and Misery. It is the highest grossing horror movie of all time and recently released It Chapter Two will not be far behind.
I had the privilege to interview Mr. King regarding his inspirations, philanthropy, and education.
In your youth, what inspired you to become a novelist and develop characters such as Carrie White, Jack Torrance, and Pennywise?
I just loved writing and making stuff up. And I liked to involve people in my stories, get a reaction from them. Laughing, crying, screaming. All were good. I will admit I loved scaring the crap out of people.
Several of your books like The Body and It, have a nostalgic theme. Primarily, the strong friendships that the characters have with each other, which in the end gave them the strength to escape bullies and demonic creatures. Are these friendships indicative of your childhood relationships?
The Body was based very roughly on the friends I grew up with. I’ve often used little bits of my history in the stories I write. Chris in The Body was based on a supposed bad kid who got accused of everything. Some stuff he did, other things—like stealing the milk money—he didn’t. He just got blamed. The scene with the leeches really happened, but most of the other stuff is made up. Nostalgia is a dangerous idea, because it tends to blur reality with the so-called “romance of childhood.” I tried to keep the kids in that story as real as I could. The Body strikes some as nostalgic, I’d say that’s in their minds rather than mine.
Throughout the past decade, there has been a steady decline of English majors graduating each year from universities across America. The humanities seem to be losing the battle against the lucrative world of finance. As a high school Scholastic Art Writing Award winner, what do you think schools can do to nurture a student’s passion for writing and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The basic problem is that education is seen as a device to improve the bank account rather than the mind. It’s very easy for students to forget that the true purpose of education at all levels—but especially the higher levels—is to improve one’s ability to think clearly. Most kids love stories, but too many are told (by parents and teachers) that pursuing that love will never make them good consumers—what Jackson Browne calls “happy idiots in pursuit of the legal tender.” Teachers and parents who nurture the love of stories and the desire of readers to write their own stories are extremely important. That’s one step. The other is for teachers and parents to drop this idea that college is basically an academic ATM machine. No. The goal is to grow intellectually, and if that means becoming an English major (or a philosophy major, or whatever), then that’s terrific.
The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation chaired by you and your wife has been extremely generous through the years, especially to libraries in your home state of Maine. Nationwide libraries are witnessing a decline in funding and support. Are you fearful for their survival in the digital age?
Nope. Wikipedia will never replace libraries and the research that goes on there. Libraries are becoming more and more focused on digital technology, but that makes them easier to access, especially for young people of your generation. Fossils like me have a harder time, but we adapt.
As you are an avid Red Sox fan, which Sox team do you think was the best of all time and why?
The one that captured the last World Series is by far the best. The pitching could use a bit of improvement, but otherwise… the best ever. And we have the trophy to prove it!
“People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.” – Stephen King