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“They pay me absurd amounts of money,” he observes, “For something that I would do for free.”.
April 28, 2012 12:23 PM   Subscribe

A Stephen King interview: by Neil Gaiman "I interviewed Stephen King for the UK Sunday Times Magazine. The interview appeared a few weeks ago. The Times keeps its site paywalled, so I thought I'd post the original version of the interview here. (This is the raw copy, and it's somewhat longer than the interview as published.) I don't do much journalism any more, and this was mostly an excuse to drive across Florida back in February and spend a day with some very nice people I do not get to see enough. I hope you enjoy it."
posted by Fizz (51 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This time it's not some blogger who stole content. Neil Gaiman approved.
posted by Fizz at 12:24 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This doesn't work on my iPhone for some reason.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:42 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great piece. Ends strangely.
posted by churl at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2012


Whoa, it definitely ends strangely. Is that a nod to It?
posted by mannequito at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2012


No, no, no. The turtle is good! The turtle would not rape a rock.
posted by The Confessor at 1:08 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe the rock was asking for it...
posted by Chekhovian at 1:44 PM on April 28, 2012


it wasn't a rock...

It was a Rock Lobster!!!!!111!1!11!!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:00 PM on April 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


Over the years, my reaction to Stephen King's books has varied from "liked it a lot" to "meh," but King himself seems like a mensch - apparently still quite hard-working, and fairly level-headed for someone who's been a best-selling author for such a long time. I think it would have been interesting if King and Gaiman had discussed the creative process a bit more, but this was an enjoyable article anyway.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 2:20 PM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it would have been interesting if King and Gaiman had discussed the creative process a bit more,

You may want to check out: On Writing & Prince of Stories.
posted by Fizz at 2:34 PM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it would have been interesting if King and Gaiman had discussed the creative process a bit more,

Eh, King's written whole books on that, and Gaiman regularly blogs about his process.

What would have been interesting would have been for them to go to Dean Koontz's house, leave a flaming bag of dog poo on the porch, ring his doorbell, and hide giggling in the bushes. THAT would have been interesting.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:41 PM on April 28, 2012 [26 favorites]


The turtle's name is Big Ben.
posted by benzenedream at 2:47 PM on April 28, 2012


This would have been a lot more interesting -- IMO -- if the article had been written less in the first person. Yes, I know Gaiman's a celebrity writer, but after a while the authorial insertions and the "I, the great and good Neil Gaiman, blah blah blah" got a little boring.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:07 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not really about the article, but what are likely the copyright rules here? Presumably the Times paid Mr. Gaiman for the interview-- is he free to repost it after that? Could he sell it to another website?
posted by justkevin at 3:08 PM on April 28, 2012


It's super fun to imagine Gaiman's bits in his voice and King's bits in his. Gaiman is, of course, known for readings of his own work; I've got King reading The Gunslinger on cassette (which I should probably digitize while I still have a cassette player that works), and I've also listened to Rose Madder in which he does the parts from the POV of Norman Daniels, the evil cop, and you wouldn't think that that would be a voice that you could listen to for very long, but somehow it works.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2012


Whoa, it definitely ends strangely. Is that a nod to It?

This comment makes me wary to read the link. Is there a) a preteen gangbang or b) a giant cosmic spider?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cool. Also, Vulture ranked all his books. www.vulture.com/2012/04/ranking-all-62-stephen-king-books.html
posted by Doctormobogo at 3:24 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I think it would have been interesting if King and Gaiman had discussed the creative process a bit more"

Their writings on writing are not nearly as insightful as you would believe. Entertaining, yes, but only because they are both good writers to start.
posted by Ardiril at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2012


Is there a) a preteen gangbang or b) a giant cosmic spider?

With all that silk inside the spider, it's gotta be both.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:46 PM on April 28, 2012


I love interviews like this, where it’s not just "answer this list of questions", because you know the people being interviewed hate the by-the-numbers kind and just fall into automatic mode to get through it.
posted by bongo_x at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2012


Doctormobogo and others who missed it, see here. We had a nice talk about that.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2012


Whoa, it definitely ends strangely. Is that a nod to It?

This comment makes me wary to read the link. Is there a) a preteen gangbang or b) a giant cosmic spider?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:16 PM on 4/28


You are in the ballpark.
posted by Bwithh at 4:00 PM on April 28, 2012


Under the deadlights, so to speak..
posted by mannequito at 4:24 PM on April 28, 2012


It was a Rock Lobster!!!!!111!1!11!!

A rock lobstrosity, surely?
posted by Mezentian at 5:02 PM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


b) a giant cosmic spider?

There are always spiders in the subtext.
posted by sammyo at 5:16 PM on April 28, 2012


What would have been interesting would have been for them to go to Dean Koontz's house, leave a flaming bag of dog poo on the porch

You're forgetting that Jeff Goldblum was in the film version of Hideaway. Total absolution.
posted by Beardman at 5:24 PM on April 28, 2012


Stephen King is gradually -- very gradually -- George Lucasing himself. The Stephen King who wrote everything through It was one of my favorite authors. I am even one of the three people who thought The Tommyknockers was, if imperfect, still brilliant. I have read that guy's novels so much that pages are falling out of my copies and people have told me his voice seeps into my own writing, and I consider that the highest possible compliment.

After It, though, King seems to have run out of things to say. Nearly everything he's done since has been at best meh, mostly overlong rehashing of stuff he did better when he was younger. (The Green Mile was a notable exception.) For many years it was a fixed ritual that I'd get the new SK novel in hardback for Christmas; I read It in a 25 hour jag starting the morning of December 26.

After Dreamcatcher I asked my wife to stop doing that. And I still haven't been able to talk myself into reading the last Dark Tower book after he made himself a character in #6. I mean that is just so fucking cheap. I did shit like that in the crappy crap I knew was crap as I was writing it when I was twelve.

So what's his newest brilliantest plan? To rewrite The Dark Tower. Really. Steve, you should just fucking retire and take up fishing or something. Let us remember you for Salem's Lot and The Shining, not for the novellas padded out to 3,000 page character studies you've been doing since you blew out the jams with It.
posted by localroger at 6:45 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm with you on that, even The Tommyknockers. Give that last Dark Tower book a read, it's not mind blowing, but boy did it feel good to finally be done with it.
posted by sanka at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2012


Thanks to those who have pointed out that King and Gaiman both have written about their creative process before. Believe it or not, I knew that, and in this case, my interest would have been in hearing them compare notes & talk about that subject together, which doesn't really happen in this article.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 7:08 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stephen King is gradually -- very gradually -- George Lucasing himself

Most greatness ends up Lucasing itself. That's why artists should be killed at 40.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:18 PM on April 28, 2012


That is my new favorite SK line- about 'being paid absurd amounts of money for something I'd do for free'. Definitely living the dream there.

My second favorite line was somewhere else (On Writing?) When King was asked why, after he'd been so successful, did he still live in Bangor? He responded, where are am I supposed to live? Monaco?'. I thought that was so hilarious and again thought provoking. Do you leave where you're from because you have tonnes of money? Is a french press coffee and an expensive french dinner better than going to the waffle house? (Well, for me, actually yeah but that's because I can't afford it so it is an exciting experience.)

Also, did not like the turtle raping the rock end line. Not sure if that's what Tabitha actually said so the author wanted to 'keep it real' but it was kind of jarring and uncool.
posted by bquarters at 9:50 PM on April 28, 2012


And I still haven't been able to talk myself into reading the last Dark Tower book after he made himself a character in #6. I mean that is just so fucking cheap. I did shit like that in the crappy crap I knew was crap as I was writing it when I was twelve.

Lots of people think that they have it all figured out when they're twelve (I did, to a certain degree), but you may want to rethink this particular bit.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:58 PM on April 28, 2012


Not sure if that's what Tabitha actually said so the author wanted to 'keep it real' but it was kind of jarring and uncool.

I can't imagine Gaiman ever saying anything even remotely offensive (and if he did I am sure Amanda Palmer would give him a metaphorical slap around the gills with her theoretical pimp hand), I expect it happened exactly as stated.

I'd venture it had come up in conversation a lot.
I kinda feel sorry for the turtle.
posted by Mezentian at 11:41 PM on April 28, 2012


Stephen King absolutely needs to rewrite The Dark Tower, and I'm gratified to hear that he's thinking along those lines. He rushed through those last three books -- clearly, I think, in the throes of some existential anguish, feeling death looming and afraid of leaving his magnum opus unfinished. Those books do feel rushed, with wide swaths of story either given short shrift or passed over entirely. But now that he's apparently out of that post-accident gloom, and has the basic story complete, he can go back and take his time filling in the gaps and sanding down the rough edges.

And while I'll defend his inserting himself into the story -- I found that to be some of the most uncomfortably personal, vulnerable writing I've ever seen from King in fiction or nonfiction -- I can see why King might want to revise himself out of it. It feels like the kind of dark-of-the-night anguished confessional stuff that people post to their blogs at 3 a.m., then wake up in the morning and rush to the computer to delete it.

Stuff I'd like to see in a Dark Tower overhaul: more history of the Tet Corporation, and the adventures of Moses Carver, John Cullum, and Aaron Deepneau fighting off the Sombra Corporation; some of the stories from the Dark Tower comics (those that are actually King's creations, at least) incorporated into the books. And I'd love to actually get to read some of the untold stories that King tantalizingly hints at in the books, especially the tale of when Roland encountered Thomas and Dennis (from The Eyes of the Dragon) on the hunt for Flagg:
Hot on his heels had come two young men who looked desperate and yet grim, men named Dennis and Thomas. These three had crossed only a tiny part of what had been a confused and confusing time in the gunslinger’s life, but he would never forget seeing Flagg change a man who had irritated him into a howling dog. (The Drawing of the Three)
I've been waiting about 25 years to hear that story told!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:44 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


especially the tale of when Roland encountered Thomas and Dennis (from The Eyes of the Dragon) on the hunt for Flagg

So that's what that was about.
I haven't read all King's work (and what I have read has been over three decades) but there are so many bits I felt I should have gotten.

I don't like King being in at the end, really, but I think it works as much as anything as part of the narrative. It puts Roland in OUR world (or the closest to it), and lays it all on the line.
But it was all so self-centered.
posted by Mezentian at 12:50 AM on April 29, 2012


I couldn't agree more with localroger. I'm on my second copy of Tommyknockers because the first one is in pieces. It is due for a second copy too. Thank God my copy of The Stand is hardcover (yes, unabridged).

For me, the I'm-falling-out-of-love point was Rose Madder. I didn't finish it. I've read the vast majority of books before that point, and almost none after (excepting the Dark Tower series, and for some regretable reason Dreamcatcher).
posted by sbutler at 1:54 AM on April 29, 2012


I'm all for King revising the last 2-3 Dark Tower books, which I remember almost nothing about other than that they just felt like a big, rushed "Oh my god I have to finish this" and/or "Oh my god I'm so sick of this story and don't know how to end it" mess. I won't compare him to George Lucas until he somehow buys and destroys every used copy of the original versions and then refuses to re-release them along with the new, improved ones.
posted by usonian at 5:05 AM on April 29, 2012


While a few of King's characters are obviously author avatars, I'd disagree that most of them are. Part of King's problem is that since the age of 25 or so, he has not collected much in the way of new life experiences; his entire experience since publishing Carrie has been being a professional writer, so for him the low-hanging fruit is writing about writers. While some of King's writer characters are obviously him, I'd say that most aren't.

And even within the TVtrope, very few authors are tacky enough to insert their author avatar under their own name. I find it kind of amusing that the TVtropes article felt it necessary to shield the spoiler from book 7 -- really, is there anybody capable of breathing and reading English who couldn't see that coming? That's part of the problem with the gimmick. It's not just tacky, it's obvious.

And on the subject of SK's life experiences -- there is an odd thing about the few he has collected since turning bigshot writer; they don't seem to work very well. When he writes about the laundry you can almost hear the pounding machinery and smell the hot linen. When he writes about aviation, there's a marked Moby Dick feel to the background infodump.
posted by localroger at 5:32 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I won't compare him to George Lucas until he somehow buys and destroys every used copy of the original versions and then refuses to re-release them along with the new, improved ones.

How many times has King updated The Stand? In 1978, the setting was 1980. Then in 1980, the date was changed to 1985. Then with The Complete & Uncut Edition, it was moved to 1990, and had such timely additions as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references thrown in.

So yeah, the George Lucas comparison is pretty apt.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2012


I can't imagine Gaiman ever saying anything even remotely offensive (and if he did I am sure Amanda Palmer would give him a metaphorical slap around the gills with her theoretical pimp hand)
You don't say. (NSFW)
posted by pxe2000 at 1:46 PM on April 29, 2012


And even within the TVtrope, very few authors are tacky enough to insert their author avatar under their own name.

One should be careful when one finds oneself referring to Borges as 'tacky.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2012


Borges makes it work because he is Borges. Stephen King definitely did not make it work in DT.
posted by localroger at 2:15 PM on April 29, 2012


Or Grant Morrison, Chris Ware or Seth, to name some comics creators who have put themselves in fictional works. In fact, pretty much the entire Marvel Bullpen got in on the action in the late seventies, and Alan Moore shows up late in Promethea for a cameo.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:32 PM on April 29, 2012


Also: Paul Auster.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:43 PM on April 29, 2012


What King did in DT was not a cameo and he did not appear as a color commentator; he made himself the most important character in the story and the mission of the other characters, who we've been reading about for approximately 5,000 pages with no warning that this is about to happen (unless that bit about the rose in the vacant lot being the tower made our bowels loosen a bit) boils down to saving his sorry ass from a car accident and his own substance abuse that happened in our RL so that he can finish writing their story.

Really, show me a non-tacky example of a favorite author who did something like that. The closest I can think of is Philip K. Dick's self-appearance in Radio Free Albemuth and, while that was actually working pretty well, Dick decided not to finish it that way.
posted by localroger at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can certainly argue that it wasn't a good use of author insertion, but that's moving the goalposts more than a bit than "it's such a bad idea to do so at all that even twelve-year-olds know better." That was kind of my point.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:57 PM on April 29, 2012


from, rather than than.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:57 PM on April 29, 2012


In ten years Stephen King will look ike the old guy from the movie "Up." Check it out:
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2012/04/popular-writers-stephen-king-interview.html
posted by wenestvedt at 6:12 PM on April 29, 2012


I didn't say author insertion as you linked via tvtropes was such a bad idea that a twelve year old would know better. I said that what Stephen King did in DK was that bad of an idea. You were the one who linked the TVT article which is actually about a much broader and mostly more forgivable range of author behavior.
posted by localroger at 6:13 PM on April 29, 2012


I was just arguing with the statement you made, which was that an author inserting an avatar with his/her own name is tacky. I'm not saying King did a great job, I'm saying your original assertion as to why it's tacky was overbroad.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:17 PM on April 29, 2012


I said what Stephen King did was tacky. You said Borges did the same thing and oh all those other people in the TVtropes link. Well, really, they didn't when you think about it even a little.
posted by localroger at 6:32 PM on April 29, 2012


On review: Okay, I mispoke a bit. It's possible to insert yourself by name in a way that is positive to the story if you are a peripheral character or a commenter, and a number (thought not a big number) of authors have pulled that off. But making yoruself a major character out of nowhere in the seventh act of a seven act course deserves all the scorn poured on every Mary Sue fanfic author.
posted by localroger at 6:36 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


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