Stephen King: biography
Stephen Edward King was born in fall 1947 in the American state Maine, in Portland. That the boy was born may be called a miracle – Nellie Ruth Pillsbury, the future writer’s mother, was diagnosed with infertility. When the woman married for the second time, her husband Donald Edwin King, the captain of the merchant ship, and she made a decision to adopt a boy. They called their foster son David Victor. In two years, Nellie surprisingly got pregnant, and the couple’s second child Stephen Edwin was born.
However, the child together could not make his parents’ marriage stronger. The father had a reputation of a womanizer. As a seaman, he was traveling all over the world. After the Second World War, he retired from the navy and started working as a commercial agent selling vacuum cleaners. The family life burdened him. When Stephen was 2, the father disappeared from his life – the man left the house to buy cigarettes and got lost. The mother explained to the sons that their father was abducted by the Martians. According to some sources, the woman had a hunch that “the Martians” were actually a pretty waitress from Connecticut.
Jumping ahead, the crew of one of the American TV channels that worked on Stephen King’s biographical movie in the 1990s, managed to find his neglectful parent. As it turned out, he lived not far, in the neighboring state Pennsylvania with a Brazilian wife and four children.
After her husband’s escape, Ruth, who was a pianist by training, had faced many challenges. She was taking up any low-wage job to support her sons, worked as a salesperson in a bakery or a servant in rich houses. Searching for a good job, the woman was moving from one state to another. The family lived in Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Connecticut. Finally, the family stayed for a long time in the town Durham, Maine.
Although his mother never complained, Stephen King realized how hard things were for her. As a young person, he understood that the equality-based society is a myth for naïve people – in fact, life is hard and unjust.
In childhood, Steve accidentally witnessed a terrible tragedy: he saw his peer die under the upcoming goods train. King survived a bad shock after which the pictures of the appalling death faded from the boy’s memory for some time. They came back in several years when he was told about the tragedy. The writer’s biographers claim that this event influenced his writing and inspired him to create some works.
Frequent moving undermined Stephen King’s health which had already been weak. Measles was particularly hard for him. After that, he suffered from strep throat that transformed into some form of ear infection that was not subject to the antibiotic treatment. Three times, the boy endured the hellish pain when his eardrum was pierced. Because of the illness, King was in the first grade for two years.
All these life ordeals have probably shaped the young man’s gloomy worldview and tastes. He loved horror movies. “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Asylum,” “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “Halls of Montezuma,” and “Sands of Iwo Jima.” In his youth, Stephen King was so sensitive that even watching the cartoon “Bambi” with the forest fire scene provoked tantalizing nightmares.
“Hulk,” “Spiderman,” “Superman,” Ray Bradbury’s novel, and the comics about evil spirits “Tomb of Horror” and “Tales from the Crypt” were among the boys’ favorite books. Later, Stephen King said that he liked the feeling of fear and “the sense of losing control over the feelings completely.”
To distract himself from frequent illnesses, the boy began to write, and his mother encouraged that. His test of pen tool place at 7: Stephen King created a short story about the adventures of Captain Cayce. The source of the inspiration was the comics about the courageous captain – the boy retold what he had read. The mother gave praise to the work but noticed that Steve could create something of his own. Soon, the would-be writer submitted four stories about a white little rabbit to her approval. For each story, the mother paid him his first earned 25 cents.
Since that moment, Stephen King has been creating without stopping. His novella based on the movie “The Pit and the Pendulum” became his first “bestseller” – the young man printed out 40 copies of his work with a hectograph.
In 1959, 18-year -old Stephen and his brother David began to publish the newsletter “Dave’s Sheet.” The young men distributed it with the old mimeograph and sold for 5 cents to their friends, neighbors, and relatives. David was writing about the local news while Steve was creating movie reviews and his own short stories. At that time, Stephen read Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s books – he became the boy’s favorite writer. As he admitted, having read the ominous stories of the collection “The Lurker at the Threshold,” he had the feeling of coming back home.
At high school, King could not decide what to do next: to apply for a university or volunteer to Vietnam to collect interesting facts for his future work. He had no doubts that his further life would be connected to writing. The mother persuaded her son, who had problems with his eyesight, to give up the idea to go to Vietnam.
King went to the college and started preparing to enter the university. He also began to work at the weaving mill – it was necessary to earn money for his studies. Steve would glue the package for products and put them in containers; during his breaks, he had to drive away dozens of aggressive rats that lived in the basement. Later, these impressions became the fundament for the short story “Night Shift.”
In August 1966, Stephen King entered the University of Maine and chose the Faculty of the English Literature. Simultaneously, he studied at the pedagogical college. Steve and Dave experienced much trouble because their mother would send them only 5 dollars per week for their daily expenses because she was underfed herself.
At the university, the future “king of horrors” married. Having finished the university and received his Bachelor’s Degree, he made a decision to earn for living by writing, but it was not beneficial. Stephen King and his young family had to live on his humble wage he had at the laundry, his wife’s student loan, and small earnings from the short stories published in magazines.
In fall 1971, Stephen King began to work as an English teacher in a school at Hampden, Maine. He continued to write, but he seemed to have lost confidence in his writing abilities. Once, his wife found the manuscript of the novel “Carrie” that Stephen had tossed in the garbage. He tossed it without having completed the work; his wife read the novel and asked her husband to finish it.
In winter 1973, Stephen King’s mother passed away; the woman died a year shy of her son’s first success. In 1974, one of the publishing houses accepted the novel “Carrie” and paid the writer $2500. Strange as it was for Steve, the audience liked the novel. The publishing house “Doubleday” sold the copyright to another, bigger publishing house “NAL” for $400000. A half of this money was given to Stephen King.
The writer quitted teaching and moved to the neighboring state Colorado. Here, in Boulder, his second successful novel “The Shining” was created.
In the late 1970s, Stephen King was working under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Some biographers of the writer claim that publishing books under a fake name was explained by the writer’s personal insecurity. He believed that the success he had achieved was accidental, and he wanted to repeat it under a different name. The book “Rage” was published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. However, King removed it from the market after the novel was found among the things belonging to a juvenile delinquent who had shot his classmates in Kansas.
The name Richard Bachman was used in several King’s novels: “The Long Walk,” “Roadwork,” “The Running Man,” and “Thinner.” It is peculiar that the surname Bachman was taken by the writer because he was an avid fan of the popular in those times rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Stephen King had to abandon his pseudonym after an attentive salesperson working in one of the Washington bookstores revealed his identity. The writer announced that Bachman had died of cancer.
In the 1980-1990s, Stephen King’s best books appeared: first of all, it is the novel “The Gunslinger,” the first of the book series “The Dark Tower.” In the same year, 1982, he wrote the 300-page novel “The Running Man” – the work on it took record 10 days.
In 1996, the book “The Green Mile” was out. It is one of Stephen King’s favorite novels. In a year, the writer signed an agreement with the publishing house “Simon & Schuster” that paid him the $8 million advance for his novel “Bag of Bones” and was obliged to give him 50% of income from sales.
Many works by the “king of horror” have been turned into movies. In 1998, Stephen King worked as a scriptwriter for one of the most popular series of that time – the project “X-Files” in which Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny starred.
In summer 1999, the writer who was walking his dog was run over by a van. Stephen King was diagnosed with numerous fractures in his right leg, a femur fracture, traumas of lungs and head. The leg was miraculously saved from amputation. For a long time, the writer could sit for no more than 40 minutes after which the pain in the fractured femur would become tormenting. This event was the fundament of the 7th part of “The Dark Tower” series; it was also reflected in one of the “Kingdom Hospital” episodes.
In 2002, Stephen King distressed his fans by the news that he was going to end his writing career. It was still hard for him to sit, and it was distracting him from working on a new masterpiece. However, to the joy of the fans, the writer broke his promise.
In 2004, the last part of the epic series “The Dark Tower” came out. Two years later, the novelist presented his new work “Lisey’s Story.”
In 2006, the mystifier Stephen King announced he had discovered an unpublished novel by Bachman “Blaze.” In fact, it was his own manuscript created when the writer was a student – all this time, it was being stored at the university.
From 2008 to 2016, Stephen King presented to his readers the collection of stories “Just After Sunset” and novels “Duma Key,” “Under the Dome,” “Doctor Sleep,” “Mr. Mercedes,” and “Revival.” In summer 2016, “the king of horror” published the third part of the novel “Mr. Mercedes” entitled “End of Watch.”
In the same year, King’s fans were glad to watch the literary evening where two famous writers– Stephen King and George Martin – took part. The meeting took place in Albuquerque.
As it has been mentioned above, the novelist met his future wife Tabitha Spruce at the university. In those harsh years, their children Joseph and Naomi were born. Later, the second son Owen was born. Tabitha is also familiar with literature – she tried to write, but her nine novels were not successful.
Stephen King’s personal life has been happy. Together with his wife, he overcame many difficulties: at the beginning of their life together, it was poverty; later, it was the novelist’s alcohol and drug addiction. In 1999, in one of the satirical newspaper, there was a letter allegedly written by Stephen King. In this letter, he admitted that the period when he was working on the novel “The Tommyknockers” fell out of his memory.
As it turned out, the 1980s were actually marred by King’s addiction to drinking and drugs. To persuade the writer who denied his bad habits that he needed medical help, his relatives collected evidence: they threw out the trash beer cans, empty valium, cocaine, and marihuana packages. Having seen all this stuff on the carpet, Stephen King admitted he was ill and consulted specialists.
The novel “Needful Things” was the first work created by the writer after his recovery.
Together with his wife, Stephen King owns three mansions in Bangor, Lovell, and Sarasota. The latter is situated on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida; the family visits it in winter.
Today, the writer and his wife have four grandchildren.
Stephen King’s sons have also taken first steps in writing. His daughter Naomi is not fond of writing – she is known for her relationship with the theology teacher Thandeka.
In his spare time, Stephen King visits the games of his favorite baseball team “Boston Red Sox.” In the 1990s, the Kings financially supported the stadium “Mansfield” construction. In 2014 the writer took part in fund-raising for patients with amyotrophic sclerosis.
- 1974 – “Carrie”
- 1977 – “The Shining”
- 1982 – “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger”
- 1983 – “Pet Sematary”
- 1987 – “The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three”
- 1991 – “The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands”
- 1996 – “The Green Mile”
- 1997 – “The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass”
- 2003 – “The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla”
- 2004 – “The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah”
- 2004 – “The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower”
- 2012 – “The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole”