Stephen, Owen King come to Lindenwood for book talk

Stephen King and his son Owen King discuss working together as father and son on their novel "Sleeping Beauties." Stephen and Owen were at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts on Oct. 1 to promote their new book.
Photo by Lindsey Fiala

Video from LUTV News. 

J.T. BUCHHEIT Chief Copy Editor

Stephen and his son Owen King arrived at Lindenwood on Sunday, Oct. 1, in the Lindenwood Theater of the J. Scheidegger Center, where they talked about their new co-authored novel and fielded questions.

The audience was full of King aficionados. One man, Jim Kramer from Tucson, Arizona, has traveled to King talks in Naperville, Illinois; Milwaukee; and now St. Charles in attempts to get Stephen to sign his valuable first-edition hardback of hs first novel, “Carrie.” Kramer said that a signed copy would be worth anywhere from $35,000 to $105,000, and his current unsigned copy is worth $2,000. When Kramer was at the Kings’ talk in Milwaukee on Sept. 30, he stepped up to the mic and mentioned how he was struck by the fact that only three people were at his first book signing of “Carrie” and asked Stephen if he would sign his book.

“I held up the book and said, ‘Will you sign this?’” Kramer said. “It was almost like Reagan, ‘Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.’ And Stephen was just looking down, and he said, ‘You know, the thing is, a lot of people have come here tonight, they’re not going to get their book signed. They’re going to go home disappointed, so my answer is no.’ And look, I respect that. I took a shot.”

The Kings came onstage to a crowd of about 1,200 people who burst into wild applause. They took turns reading an excerpt from their latest novel, “Sleeping Beauties.” The discussion that took place immediately afterward was about where the idea for “Sleeping Beauties” came from.

“We do a lot of idea pitching,” Owen King said. “I just had this one-sentence idea, and it was ‘What if one day, none of the women in the world woke up?’ … And I thought to myself, ‘Well if that happened, the results would be horrible.’ And then I thought of my dad. So I called him up and gave him the idea, and he liked it.”

After Stephen gave his son the green light, they began collaborating on the first draft.

“I don’t hate critics, except that it takes awhile before you realize that critics are not teachers and the grade that they give you is something in their own mind, and maybe it’s right and maybe it’s bullshit.”

-Stephen King

“It was an idea that I really wanted to write,” Stephen said. “I really wanted to take this and run. The first thing that I thought of was when my mother used to say, ‘If all the women in the world disappeared, the men wouldn’t have anything to wear because none of them know how to fold a shirt.’ That was just the first thing I thought of, and everything grows from there.”

Stephen said “Sleeping Beauties” was receiving the most polarizing reviews he had ever gotten, with people either loving or hating it. This led Owen to ask his father about his view of critics.

“I don’t hate critics, except that it takes awhile before you realize that critics are not teachers and the grade that they give you is something in their own mind, and maybe it’s right and maybe it’s bullshit,” Stephen said.

The discussion then changed topic to the Kings’ career history. Stephen talked about his original ideas for titles for some of his books, such as one that he first wanted to call “Second Coming.”

“The publisher said, ‘We don’t really like this title; it doesn’t really say anything for us,'” Stephen said. “‘Offer some alternate titles.’ So I said, ‘Well, how about “‘Salem’s Lot”? So we gave it that because it was the name of the town [in the novel]; it gave it a kind of spooky feel. Then my wife said, ‘Anyway, “Second Coming” sounds like a sex manual or something.’”

Many of Stephen’s books have movie adaptations that invariably have changes from the books. He approves of some of the changes and is less satisfied of others. One instance he mentioned that he was fine with was when the producers wanted to have the little boy in “Cujo” survive instead of die of heat exhaustion in a car as he does in the book.

“When I saw the movie, I saw that earlier in the movie, Cujo in his pre-rabid state licked that little boy’s face, and I was thinking, ‘Yes, he lived through the car, but he died horribly of rabies afterward,’” Stephen said.

They began taking questions from the audience about 40 minutes into the talk. One question involved the weirdest gift a fan sent Stephen.

“When I was a kid, I found this picture that somebody had sent him,” Owen said. “It was him, but with little bat wings, and he was flying over our house. It was the most gloriously ugly portrait I’d ever seen, and I loved it, and he hated it. I would get it, and I’d put it wherever I knew he’d be, and he would put it somewhere else where he’d think I wouldn’t be able to find it, but I’d always find it. It would be waiting for him when he went to bed. I think it finally went to the great Stephen King dump in the sky.”

The talk lasted approximately an hour, and afterward, people could buy copies of the book “It” with a chance of obtaining a signed copy. The Kings’ next stop will be Oct. 2 in Missoula, Montana.

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