Stephen King Full Biography – He’s not afraid of nightmares, it’s nightmares that are afraid of him. The king whose name is emblazoned on the covers of millions of books around the world. They say he sold his soul to Satan, once being on the verge of death… and now he’s in league with it. No one believed in him except his mother and himself,
but he proved to the whole world that he knows how to scare. He is the most productive,
best-selling and most filmed author on the planet! He is Richard Bachman… Right? And today we will tell you whether it is possible to love, respect and fear one person? It is possible if we are talking about Stephen King.
Get comfortable and let’s start. Difficult childhood Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947. As it turns out later, it’s his favorite state. The child was not just sickly – he was born by a miracle. His mother was recognized by doctors as infertile. Almost from childhood, Stephen has had to wear thick glasses all his life, because of poor eyesight.
His father Donald Edwin King was born in Indiana with the surname Pollock, but growing up, he changed it to a rather bright King. Stephen’s mother, Nellie Ruth King, née Pillsbury, met Donald in her youth and on July 23, 1939, the couple married. For a while they lived in Chicago with Donald’s family, for a while in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, but by the end of the war, the future parents moved back to Maine.
After returning from World War II, Donald was a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman. Nellie was fond of writing and piano, but her main occupation was motherhood. You probably know all these jokes about the father who went to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned? So that’s what really happened to Stephen.
The father left the family when young King was 2 years old and since then Nellie had become a single mother. Nellie raised Stephen and his older brother David on her own, working in the laundry, which caused the family to experience financial difficulties. She was saving on rent, living with her children with relatives.
They moved from Scarborough and were largely dependent on relatives in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Massachusetts and even Connecticut. They even dressed the kids, collecting hand-me-downs from the neighbors. “I realized early on that life is not a sugar donut”
(Stephen King) Stephen and David were raised by nannies… a lot of nannies who changed either not from a better life, or because they didn’t get along with the children. At the age of 4, Stephen remembered only one of them, “Eula-Beulah”, who was a big 14-year-old girl with an infectious laugh and capable of slapping.
In his youth, King was an avid reader. He remembered: “I read everything from Nancy Drew to Psycho. My favorite was The Shrinking Man, by Richard Matheson – I was 8 when I found that. I also loved comic books, and my favorite characters… I can’t remember any I’d call ‘beloved’… were Plastic man and his clueless sidekick, Woozy Winks.”
(Stephen King) Perhaps, already at this age, he first thought about what he wanted to do for a living in the future. It happened when Stephen and his older brother were cleaning the attic at home and came across a box with his father’s books and comics. This box gave him inspiration for his future works and a love of horror.
Here’s how he recalled it in his memoir “On Writing”: “The box I found that day was a treasure trove of old Avon paperbacks… The pick of the litter, however, was an H. P. Lovecraft collection from 1947 called The Lurking Fear and Other Stories… I
was on my way. Lovecraft – courtesy of my father – opened the way for me.” (Stephen King)
Stephen first started writing when he was about 6 or 7. He just copied pictures from comics and came up with his own stories for them. In addition, he loved movies very much and since childhood acquired the ability to think in images and pictures. According to him, movies on TV were the only interesting entertainment, since his childhood was absolutely ordinary.
But the TV in the King family appeared later. And it was “Tales From the Crypt” and other horror comics that scared him for the first time and he realized that he wanted to do exactly that – to scare others. Although there was a story much more creepy and shocking in the childhood of young Stephen, which seriously affected the psyche of the future writer.
One day, after leaving home in the morning to play with friends, King returned speechless and in complete shock. Only later the family found out that one of his friends was hit to death by a train, but Stephen himself admitted that he didn’t remember the events of that day at all – fear erased the terrible memories that he witnessed.
Perhaps the already conscious King remembers the details of the incident, but they are so unpleasant that no one wants to talk about them. When Stephen turned 11, the family finally moved to Durham to his maternal grandparents. From now on, Nellie took care of her children and her parents, until their death.
She also got a job as a nurse in a local boarding school for the mentally retarded. She liked to take care of those who needed it. Young Stephen attended Durham Primary School. He spent almost the entire first grade at home in bed, as he was ill with something that started with measles, a sore throat, and then spread to his ears.
He had a temperature of 104°F and with every sip of water, the pain flashed like a light bulb. One afternoon his mother called a taxi and they went to the doctor. The doctor with a huge needle examined Stephen’s ears and promised that it would not hurt, and after that he pierced the eardrum.
It was the worst pain in his life. He didn’t trust the doctors anymore. A week later, Stephen had another two ear injection. Since the repeated eardrum-lancings when I was six, one of my life’s firmest principles has been this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Fool me three times, shame on both of us. (Stephen King) At the beginning of 1954, Stephen no longer treated his ears, but treated his throat – it turned out that it was all about the tonsils that needed to be removed. Fortunately, this time the operation was under anesthesia.
That year, his 7-year-old brother got to 4th grade, and Stephen was taken out of school altogether, as he missed too much to continue his studies. Stephen was recommended to start studying again next fall. He spent a whole year at home reading various literature. The boy read about 6 tons of comics, read Tom Swift, Jack London’s animal stories.
Eventually he read William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, whom King loved very much and considered an example of a great novel, and in the future he referred to it. At some point, he began composing, imitating what he had read. Not knowing the correct meanings of words and some swear words, Stephen used them in his children’s texts and at some point decided to show his brilliant creations to his mother.
According to King, he had never seen such an expression on her face. And yet she liked it. After finding out from her son whether he wrote it himself, Nellie gave him a notebook and advised him to write something of his own, saying: “ I bet you could do better. Write one of your own.”
Stephen began to practice writing and soon wrote his first 4-page story about magical animals, where the main character was a bunny named Mr. Rabbit Trick. Mom liked the story, she thought that this could be published in some book.
Stephen wrote 4 more stories about the Mr. Rabbit Trick, and for each he received a quarter from his mother. That way he earned his first dollar when he was 8 years old. It wasn’t until 1958 that the first television appeared in the King House. Years later, in his memoirs, the writer was pleasantly nostalgic about the first programs, like “Highway Patrol” with Broderick Crawford, or the movie “Robot Monster”.
But he was glad that this entertainment appeared in their house quite late: I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit. This might not be important.
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, Stephen King wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. (Stephen King)
At least something similar happened to Stephen and his older brother when David was making a “Super Duper Electromagnet” for a school project. Soon on his 11th birthday, mother gave Stephen his first “Royal” typewriter. It wasn’t new, but it didn’t matter to him. A year later, the boy began to send his stories to magazines.
He sent his first story to forrest J Ackerman’s magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. The story was not accepted, but Ackerman kept it and many years later even signed it at Stephen’s autograph session. Soon the boy entered Lisbon High School in Lisbon Falls, Maine. He listened to records by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Freddy Cannon and Fats Domino on a Webcor phonograph.
And he continued to write and receive rejections from various magazines. He put a nail in the wall for refusals and began hanging sheets of paper with the title of the story on it. The first rejection was from ”Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” when he was 14 years old.
By the age of 16, this nail could barely withstand the accumulated refusals, which were not so critical and even praised the novice author. So, the then editor of “Fantasy & Science Fiction”, Algis Budrys, wrote the following: “This is good. Not for us, but good. You have talent. Submit again.” (Algis Budrys)
But his first published story took place in 1965 in Mike Garrett’s science fiction and Horror magazine. And although it was originally called “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber”, the story was published under the title “In a Half-World of Terror”. And Stephen was awarded the Scholastic Art and Writing Award.
Around the same time period, when the Kings were still studying at Lisbon High School, Stephen’s older brother was frankly bored at school. So he came up with the idea to create a school newspaper “Dave’s Rag”, which they published together with the help of a mimeograph in their basement.
The initial circulation of 5 copies for relatives increased to 50-60 ones and was published 1-2 times a month. It was something like a local newspaper, with its own jokes, which sold well. And Stephen’s stories, like “The Pit and the Pendulum,” inspired by trips to the cinema for horror films, sold even better.
He printed them himself and brought them to school for the price of a quarter, and earned up to $ 10 per day. He claimed that this time he understood how to make money on “fiction”. Later, in his senior year, Stephen was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper “The Drum”, although he did not really want to do it.
The newspaper was not popular and one day he turned it into a satirical newspaper, entitled “The Village Vomit”. Having arranged a “roast” for the teachers, Stephen got on the carpet of the director and was on the verge of expulsion.
However, his creativity and energy were put to use by appointing him a sports reporter for the Weekly Enterprise newspaper. Its editor, John Gould, taught him what was not taught in school: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all of the things that are not the story… Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
(Stephen King) From that moment, school life came to an end, and work and writing came to the fore. In 1966, Stephen enrolled at the University of Maine, when his brother David was already graduating with honors. Stephen worked part-time at the spinning and weaving factory of Worumbo and did not particularly like this business.
He thought that if he didn’t enroll, he would go to war in Southeast Asia, but his mother dissuaded him, because with “his eyes, he is the first one to be shot.”.. Stephen got accepted. Formation and first success In the summer of 1967, at the age of 19, King wrote a short story,
“The Glass Floor”, which sold for $35 and was published in the fall of the same year in the magazine Startling Mystery Stories. This was his first official earnings as a writer, and in the next couple of years the young man sold another story until he unexpectedly “broke the bank”.
King often says that ideas for works come to him by themselves. After working at the Worumbo weaving factory in 1966, Stephen found out that giant rats lived in the basement. He recalled how on July 4, everyone at the factory was given the right to choose: He couldn’t get it out of his head. In the last semester of college, Stephen remembered about overgrown creatures and began writing a story about rats the size of a dog, called “Night Shift”.
And if it started as entertainment for the evening, then after 2 months the magazine “Cavalier” bought this story for $ 200 (It’s about $ 2,000 for today). It was the first big fee for one story. Stephen literally took his breath away – in an instant he became rich.
Of course, his mother knew that Stephen was going to be a writer, but she persuaded him to get a teaching education “just in case.” He was grateful for the inspiration of two university professors, Edward Holmes and Burton Hatlen. Thanks to them, he wrote the Steve King’s Garbage Truck column for the student newspaper The Maine Campus, and also participated in a writer’s workshop organized by Hatlen.
During his studies at the University of Maine, Stephen managed to work as a janitor, gas station attendant and at the University’s Raymond H. Fogler Library. By the way, it was there that he once met Tabitha Spruce, whom he mistook for a waitress from a local pizzeria who loved to read books.
Working together in the library, Steve fell in love with Tabitha in the fall of 1969 at a poetry seminar when she read her poem. It was beautiful, and Tabitha, according to Stephen, was beautiful too. She knew what she was writing about.
Soon they had a relationship… and it was so strong that in 1970, after graduating from Bachelor of Arts in English, Stephen and Tabitha became parents for the first time. The couple named their daughter, born on June 1, Naomi Rachel King. They got married in 1971 and the following year the couple had a second child, a son Joe King.
Naomi constantly suffered from pain in her ears. Joe was healthy, but it seemed to Stephen that he did not sleep at all. The newly-minted parents were happy with the children, but the newlyweds complicated their lives, since finances in the family have always been an acute issue.
Stephen King is now the best-selling author in the world, who made a fortune on his work and its film adaptations, but in the early 70s, after graduating from university with a teacher’s degree, Stephen simply could not find a job in his specialty. He had to get a job as a laundry worker in Bangor, not far from the family home.
This work was especially remembered by the writer, as it was full of surprises. Clothes were always dirty, smelled of spoiled seafood from local fish restaurants, but he especially remembered the sheets from the hospital, which were not only wormy: he often came across wrapped surgical supplies, metal vessels, and once even teeth.
“They stank, which was bad, and they were squirming with maggots. But I washed ‘em and by God they came out clean. ” (Stephen King) Laundry, and sometimes sewage, have become the second main fear of the horror author after rats. But the most ironic thing about this story was that when he returned home after work to sit down to write, the laundry room served as his working room.
Probably because of this, laundry, or dirty clothes stained with blood, are now and then found in many of King’s works. Of course, sometimes Stephen managed to sell another creepy story to some men’s magazine, but this money was just as quickly gone as it came.
For example, the story “The Raft” published in Adam magazine saved Stephen from not paying a fine. Yeah, once the writer was arrested for stealing a traffic cone… You won’t believe it, but it happend after it knocked out the muffler on his car. Stephen got angry and took the cone, after which he was fined $ 250 for petty theft.
Just at that moment, he received a check for “The Raft” and had to cash it to pay the fine. In the middle of 1971, Stephen finally managed to find a job as a teacher and leave the hated laundry. He was hired as an English teacher at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine.
All this time he continued to write and by that time already had two drafts: the dystopian novel The Long Walk and the anti-war novel Sword in the Darkness. However, both works were unreleased for a long time. It is worth noting at once the fruitfulness of a novice writer. The volume and pace of Stephen’s work remain colossal to this day.
Even a full day is not enough to tell about all his writings, because in this video we will touch on the main and most important of his works. And what is your favorite work of the King of Horrors? “Pet Cemetery“, “It”, or maybe The Dark Tower series? Be sure to write in the comments under the video – we will be happy to discuss these masterpieces with you!
Stephen was glad to finally start earning not a couple of dollars a day, but $6,400 a year, but he did not appreciate the scale of the work. He liked to teach kids, even the most spoiled ones, but it took too much time and effort to attend teachers’ meetings and check notebooks. For the first time, writing began to seem like a bad idea to him.
The family lived in a trailer in Hermon, a city that Stephen considered too beautiful to be the “asshole of the world” and rightly called it the “armpit of the world”. He drove a Buick with a broken gearbox, Tabitha worked in a doughnut shop. Stephen came home from work so stressed that it felt like he had been connected to the electric chair all week.
He seriously wondered who he would be in 30 years: a man with a beer belly falling out of an old tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, thick glasses and a smoker’s cough from thousands of Pall Mall cigarettes, he would carry his 6 manuscripts everywhere and lie to himself that he still had time for them.
It was at this moment that Tabitha returned his faith, who, even in difficult times, never doubted Stephen and believed that he would succeed. “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
(Stephen King) While working at school, he came up with the cherished idea of a young woman with paranormal abilities. Paying attention to the behavior of children, their anger, aggression and bullying towards other children, King wondered what would happen if all this energy accumulated somewhere.
So, he started working on a novel called “Carrie”. It all started as a story for Cavalier magazine, which he wrote on his wife’s portable typewriter. But after writing 3 pages,
he evaluated them properly and threw them in the trash under the table. Stephen could not write about women’s problems in adolescence on behalf of a female character. Tabitha found these pages, and after reading them, returned them to Stephen with a request to continue the work.
She promised that she would help her husband make everything realistic from a female point of view. “You’ve got something here. I really think you do.” (Tabitha King) In the end, King was able to connect emotionally with Carrie thanks to the influence of two girls he knew.
One was constantly abused at school because of her family’s poverty, which caused her to wear only one outfit to school. The other was a timid girl from a very religious family. The story turned out to be a 98-page novella, in which Stephen initially did not believe and wrote only for Tabitha.
He received a dozen refusals from publishers. Then he rewrote it again, imitating the style of periodicals such as Esquire and Reader’s Digest, and sent the resulting manuscript to a friend, editor Bill Thompson. In November 1973, in the wake of the success of the horror novel “Rosemary’s Baby”, Doubleday publishing house saw the potential in the manuscript… But the writer was asked to simplify the ending, in which Carrie grew demonic horns and destroyed a plane a thousand miles away.
Stephen’s mother was very ill with cancer by that time. She died too early to have time to rejoice at his success and appreciate what heights he had achieved. From the very beginning of her son’s career, she was with him and supported him in every possible way. Years later, the writer bitterly recalled: “There were bound galleys of “Carrie”.
She was dying by that point, and she was too weak to hold a book, so her sister Evelyn read it to her” and Ruthie just said: ‘my son wrote that’.” (Stephen King) In 1973, after many improvements, the first copies of “Carrie” were sent out for which the writer initially had to receive an advance payment of $ 1,500.
As a result, Thompson convinced Doubleday to increase the advance to $ 2,500, which at that time was not a very high number for a debut novel. Thompson couldn’t report the news by phone – it turned out that the Kings had turned it off. That’s why he sent Stephen a telegram: “Carrie Officially A Doubleday Book. $2,500
Advance Against Royalties. Congrats, Kid – The Future Lies Ahead, Bill.” (Bill Thompson) According to King, with this advance he bought a brand new Ford Pinto. The book was published on April 5, 1974 with a circulation of 30,000 copies. But that’s not all. In May, the British publishing house New English Library received “Carrie” and its president Bob Tanner, after reading the book in a single night, New American Library.
They offered Doubleday $400,000 for the rights to publish the book, half of which was intended for Stephen King. In his joy, he was looking for some extravagant gift to his wife, but he bought a hair dryer. So in April 1975 they released a paperback edition, which became a bestseller, reaching four million sales.
Of course, it was not without the help of the film adaptation… After all, immediately after the release of the book, director Brian De Palma began to promote the idea for the film. He found out that at that time no one had bought the rights to the film adaptation and he was very lucky.
Work on the picture began only half a year later. The script of the film carefully followed the original plot of the book. “Carrie” was released in 1976 and with a budget of $1.8 million collected $ 33.8 million at the box office, got positive reviews from critics and became extremely successful.
The film is still considered a classic of the genre today and has been repeatedly reshot in attempts to surpass the outdated original. It is also worth noting that it was from “Carrie” that Stephen King’s manifesto for banning firearms began. Teenage cruelty and shooting in American schools is a too frequent phenomenon to turn a blind eye to.
And over the years, the author paid more and more attention to this. But more on that later. Fame and fight with himself Success is no accident, right? At least Stephen’s success was not limited to one novel, but brought a whole wave of victories and new ideas. Since “Carrie” was going to be published for about a year, Stephen managed to sign a contract for the next year as a teacher.
While teaching a fantasy and science fiction course for Hampden Academy students, King was inspired by “Dracula”, a novel by Bram Stoker. He wondered what would have happened if the vampires of the Ancient World had come to a small New England town. “One night over supper I wondered aloud what would happen if Dracula came back in the twentieth century, to America.
‘He’d probably be run over by a Yellow Cab on Park Avenue and killed,’ my wife said.” (Stephen King) So there was an idea for a new King novel. He took up a new manuscript, which was originally called “Second Coming”. Stephen called the finished book “Jerusalem’s Lot”, but Tabitha considered the title more suitable for some vulgar romantic story, and the publishers considered it too religious and shortened it to “’Salem’s Lot”.
Stephen received $550 thousand dollars for it. “It was my favorite of my books, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!” (Stephen King)
Later, the novel also received its adaptation in the form of a mini-series. And Stephen returned to the story of Salem a couple of times in the next few years, in the short stories “Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One For the Road”. Already at this moment, Stephen’s stories began to form their own universe.
Another bestseller, which received an excellent film adaptation, was also completed during that time period. After the death of Stephen’s mother, the King family moved to Boulder, Colorado. Deciding to relax, they settled for a while at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The writer recalled:
“My wife and I went up there in October. It was their last weekend of the season, so the hotel was almost completely empty. They asked me if I could pay cash because they were taking the credit card receipts back down to Denver. I went past the first sign that said, Roads may be closed after November 1, and I said, Jeez, there’s a story up here.” (Stephen King)
This is how the idea of the novel “The Shining” about an alcohol-addicted writer who went crazy in a huge empty Overlook Hotel, and whose dreams come true appeared. The paranormal forces described in the book were called the shining and later appeared more than once in other Stephen King novels.
Stephen successfully combined his own impressions of relaxing in an empty hotel, the writer’s experience and his own growing dependence on alcohol in his book and in January 1977 “The Shining” was published. King’s third published novel became the first hardcover bestseller.
This success firmly established Stephen as an outstanding author in the horror genre. And on February 21 of that year, the King family was replenished with a third child, who was named Owen Philip King. At this time, director Stanley Kubrick, disappointed by the failure of his last film, realized that he needed a film that would be commercially viable and artistic.
Kubrick’s staff brought him stacks of horror books when he settled into his office to find a suitable one for the film adaptation. King recalled: “Kubrick’s secretary heard the sound of each book hitting the wall as the director flung it into a reject pile after reading the first few pages.
Finally one day the secretary noticed it had been a while since she had heard the thud of another writer’s work biting the dust. She walked in to check on her boss and found Kubrick deeply engrossed in reading The Shining” (Stephen King) Kubrick rejected Stephen’s personal scenario adaptation, and changed the narrative in the story quite a lot, which the author of the book did not really like.
King believed in the traditional biblical distinctions of good and evil, where the role of evil was assigned to ghosts and demons. Kubrick had a much more pessimistic and subtle idea of what was meant by the word “horror”. Stephen was not happy that the director’s
“Shining” radically differed in some ideas from his own, but what could he do… Jack Nicholson was chosen for the main role, which seemed to be one of the best solutions for fans of the film, but it did not correspond to the writer’s ideas at all. King believed that Torrance was inherently a good guy, “who was bent one way and then the other by various cosmic forces of evil.”
Kubrick masterfully blurred these generally accepted definitions of morality, making Torrance a psychopath. He thought the horror of humanity was much more convincing. “The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat.
All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change” (Stephen King) Stephen King hated Kubrick’s adaptation so much that in 1997 he took part in the creation of the eponymous three-part TV series directed by Mick Garris.
In addition, Stephen performed a small cameo role of Gage Creed, the orchestra conductor. It’s safe to say that while the 1997 attempt was more faithful to the author’s original book, it lacked Kubrick’s cinematic skills. Nevertheless, Kubrick’s film was one of the first to be shot with the help of the breakthrough technology at that time, Steadicam.
And the picture turned out great! With a budget of $19 million, the film was well received by critics and audiences. Having collected 47.3 million dollars at the box office, it became a cult and changed the whole genre of horror. Pop culture to this day is full of references to “The Shining”, and even Stephen in his much later novel “The Institute” mentions the film.
After the novel’s release, the King family returned to Auburn, Maine. There Stephen finished working on the apocalyptic novel “The Stand” about a terrible pandemic that wiped out part of humanity and its grim consequences. Does it remind you of anything? Fortunately, life is not so scary and we do not live in the universe of the King of Horrors.
“The Stand” was written for a long time – Stephen intended to create his epic in the spirit of “The Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien, whom he greatly appreciated. He could not figure out how the manuscript should end for a long time. There were too many characters and storylines. As a result, many of them throw in the trash and in the end it all came down to a bomb that changed the outcome of all destinies.
In 1978, Doubleday published the novel and it was well received. But it was a little different from the book that Stephen originally wrote. The publisher insisted on reducing the material: After 10 years, Stephen still decided to return the discarded 400 pages of text, changed the order of the chapters and moved the events to 1990.