- Early life
- Appearances and adaptations in other media
- Political views and activism
- Personal life
Stephen King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted into films, television series, miniseries, and comic books. He has published 61 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and six non-fiction books. He has written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.
King has received Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire bibliography, such as the 2004 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and the 2007 Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. In 2015, he was awarded with a National Medal of Arts from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror”, a play on his surname and a reference to his high standing in pop culture.
Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947. His father, Donald Edwin King, was a merchant seaman who was born with the surname Pollock but changed it to King as an adult. King’s mother was Nellie Ruth (née Pillsbury). His parents were married in Scarborough, Maine, on July 23, 1939. Shortly afterwards, they lived with Donald’s family in Chicago before moving to Croton-on-Hudson, New York. King’s parents returned to Maine towards the end of World War II, living in a modest house in Scarborough. When King was two years old, his father left the family. His mother raised him and his older brother David by herself, sometimes under great financial strain. They moved from Scarborough and depended on relatives in Chicago; Croton-on-Hudson; West De Pere, Wisconsin; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Malden, Massachusetts; and Stratford, Connecticut. When King was 11, his family moved to Durham, Maine, where his mother cared for her parents until their deaths. She then became a caregiver in a local residential facility for the mentally challenged. King was raised Methodist, but lost his belief in organized religion while in high school. While no longer religious, he says he chooses to believe in the existence of God.
As a child, King apparently witnessed one of his friends being struck and killed by a train, though he has no memory of the event. His family told him that after leaving home to play with the boy, King returned speechless and seemingly in shock. Only later did the family learn of the friend’s death. Some commentators have suggested that this event may have psychologically inspired some of King’s darker works, but King makes no mention of it in his memoir On Writing (2000). He related in detail his primary inspiration for writing horror fiction in his non-fiction Danse Macabre (1981), in a chapter titled “An Annoying Autobiographical Pause”. He compared his uncle’s dowsing for water using the bough of an apple branch with the sudden realization of what he wanted to do for a living. That inspiration occurred while browsing through an attic with his elder brother, when King uncovered a paperback version of an H. P. Lovecraft collection of short stories he remembers as The Lurker in the Shadows, that had belonged to his father. King told Barnes & Noble Studios during a 2009 interview, “I knew that I’d found home when I read that book.”
King attended Durham Elementary School and graduated from Lisbon Falls High School in Lisbon Falls, Maine, in 1966. He displayed an early interest in horror as an avid reader of EC horror comics, including Tales from the Crypt, and he later paid tribute to the comics in his screenplay for Creepshow. He began writing for fun while still in school, contributing articles to Dave’s Rag, the newspaper his brother published with a mimeograph machine, and later began selling stories to his friends based on movies he had seen (he was forced to return the profits though when discovered by his teachers). The first of his stories to be independently published was “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber”, which was serialized over four issues (three published and one unpublished) of a fanzine, Comics Review, in 1965. That story was published the following year in a revised form as “In a Half-World of Terror” in another fanzine, Stories of Suspense, edited by Marv Wolfman. As a teen, King also won a Scholastic Art and Writing Award.
From 1966, King studied at the University of Maine, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. That year, his daughter Naomi Rachel was born. He wrote a column, Steve King’s Garbage Truck, for the student newspaper, The Maine Campus, and participated in a writing workshop organized by Burton Hatlen. King held a variety of jobs to pay for his studies, including janitor, gas pump attendant, and worker at an industrial laundry. King met his future wife, fellow student Tabitha Spruce, at the University’s Fogler Library after one of Professor Hatlen’s workshops; they wed in 1971.
King sold his first professional short story, “The Glass Floor”, to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967.
After graduating from the University of Maine, King earned a certificate to teach high school but, unable to find a teaching post immediately, initially supplemented his laboring wage by selling short stories to men’s magazines such as Cavalier. Many of these early stories have been republished in the collection Night Shift. The short story “The Raft” was published in Adam, a men’s magazine. After being arrested for driving over a traffic cone, he was fined $250 and had no money to pay the petty larceny fine. However, payment arrived for the short story “The Raft” (then entitled “The Float”), and King was able to pay the fine. In 1971, King was hired as a teacher at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. He continued to contribute short stories to magazines and worked on ideas for novels.
Carrie and aftermath
In 1973, King’s novel Carrie was accepted by publishing house Doubleday. Carrie was King’s fourth novel, but it was the first to be published. It was written on a portable typewriter that belonged to his wife. The novel began as a short story intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage can. Tabitha King fished the pages out of the garbage can and encouraged him to finish the story, saying that she would help him with the female perspective; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel. King said, “I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas… my considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser.” According to The Guardian, Carrie “is the story of Carrie White, a high-school student with latent—and then, as the novel progresses, developing—telekinetic powers. It’s brutal in places, affecting in others (Carrie’s relationship with her almost hysterically religious mother being a particularly damaged one), and gory in even more.”
When Carrie was chosen for publication, King’s phone was out of service. Doubleday editor William Thompson – who would eventually become King’s close friend – sent a telegram to King’s house in late March or early April 1973 which read: “Carrie Officially A Doubleday Book. $2,500 Advance Against Royalties. Congrats, Kid – The Future Lies Ahead, Bill.” According to King, he bought a new Ford Pinto with the money from the advance. On May 13, 1973, New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which—in accordance with King’s contract with Doubleday—was split between them. Carrie set King’s career in motion and became a significant novel in the horror genre. In 1976, it was made into a successful horror film.
King’s ‘Salem’s Lot was published in 1975. In a 1987 issue of The Highway Patrolman magazine, he stated, “The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!” After his mother’s death, King and his family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where King wrote The Shining (published 1977). The family returned to western Maine in 1975, where King completed his fourth novel, The Stand (published 1978). In 1977, the family, with the addition of Owen Phillip (his third and last child), traveled briefly to England, returning to Maine that fall, where King began teaching creative writing at the University of Maine.
In 1982, King published Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas with a more serious dramatic bent than the horror fiction for which King is famous. The collection is notable for having had three of its four novellas turned into Hollywood films: Stand by Me (1986) was adapted from the novella The Body, The Shawshank Redemption (1994) was adapted from the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and Apt Pupil (1998) was adapted from the novella of the same name.
In 1985, King wrote his first work for the comic book medium, writing a few pages of the benefit X-Men comic book Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men. The book, whose profits were donated to assist with famine relief in Africa, was written by a number of different authors in the comic book field, such as Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, and Alan Moore, as well as authors not primarily associated with that industry, such as Harlan Ellison. The following year, King published It (1986), which was the best-selling hard-cover novel in the United States that year, and wrote the introduction to Batman No. 400, an anniversary issue in which he expressed his preference for that character over Superman.
The Dark Tower books
In the late 1970s, King began what became a series of interconnected stories about a lone gunslinger, Roland, who pursues the “Man in Black” in an alternate-reality universe that is a cross between J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and the American Wild West as depicted by Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone in their spaghetti Westerns. The first of these stories, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, was initially published in five installments by The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Edward L. Ferman, from 1977 to 1981. The Gunslinger was continued as an eight-book epic series called The Dark Tower, whose books King wrote and published infrequently over four decades.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, King published a handful of short novels—Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982) and Thinner (1984)—under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The idea behind this was to test whether he could replicate his success again and to allay his fears that his popularity was an accident. An alternate explanation was that publishing standards at the time allowed only a single book a year. He picked up the name from the hard rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, of which he is a fan.
Richard Bachman was exposed as King’s pseudonym by a persistent Washington, D.C. bookstore clerk, Steve Brown, who noticed similarities between the works and later located publisher’s records at the Library of Congress that named King as the author of one of Bachman’s novels. This led to a press release heralding Bachman’s “death”—supposedly from “cancer of the pseudonym”. King dedicated his 1989 book The Dark Half, about a pseudonym turning on a writer, to “the deceased Richard Bachman”, and in 1996, when the Stephen King novel Desperation was released, the companion novel The Regulators carried the “Bachman” byline.
In 2006, during a press conference in London, King declared that he had discovered another Bachman novel, titled Blaze. It was published on June 12, 2007. In fact, the original manuscript had been held at King’s alma mater, the University of Maine in Orono, for many years and had been covered by numerous King experts. King rewrote the original 1973 manuscript for its publication.
King has used other pseudonyms. The short story “The Fifth Quarter” was published under the pseudonym John Swithen (the name of a character in the novel Carrie), by Cavalier in April 1972. The story was reprinted in King’s collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 under his own name. In the introduction to the Bachman novel Blaze, King claims, with tongue-in-cheek, that “Bachman” was the person using the Swithen pseudonym.
The “children’s book” Charlie the Choo-Choo: From the World of The Dark Tower was published in 2016 under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, who was portrayed by actress Allison Davies during a book signing at San Diego Comic-Con, and illustrated by Ned Dameron. It is adapted from a fictional book central to the plot of King’s previous novel The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands.
In 2000, King published online a serialized horror novel, The Plant. At first the public presumed that King had abandoned the project because sales were unsuccessful, but King later stated that he had simply run out of stories. The unfinished epistolary novel is still available from King’s official site, now free. Also in 2000, he wrote a digital novella, Riding the Bullet, and has said he sees e-books becoming 50% of the market “probably by 2013 and maybe by 2012”. But he also warns: “Here’s the thing—people tire of the new toys quickly.”
King wrote the first draft of the 2001 novel Dreamcatcher with a notebook and a Waterman fountain pen, which he called “the world’s finest word processor”.
In August 2003, King began writing a column on pop culture appearing in Entertainment Weekly, usually every third week. The column was called The Pop of King (a play on the nickname “The King of Pop” commonly attributed to Michael Jackson).
In 2006, King published an apocalyptic novel, Cell. The book features a sudden force in which every cell phone user turns into a mindless killer. King noted in the book’s introduction that he does not use cell phones.
In 2008, King published both a novel, Duma Key, and a collection, Just After Sunset. The latter featured 13 short stories, including a previously unpublished novella, N. Starting July 28, 2008, N. was released as a serialized animated series to lead up to the release of Just After Sunset.
In 2009, King published Ur, a novella written exclusively for the launch of the second-generation Amazon Kindle and available only on Amazon.com, and Throttle, a novella co-written with his son Joe Hill and released later as an audiobook titled Road Rage, which included Richard Matheson’s short story “Duel”. King’s novel Under the Dome was published on November 10 of that year; it is a reworking of an unfinished novel he tried writing twice in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and at 1,074 pages, it is the largest novel he has written since It (1986). Under the Dome debuted at No. 1 in The New York Times Bestseller List.
On February 16, 2010, King announced on his Web site that his next book would be a collection of four previously unpublished novellas called Full Dark, No Stars. In April of that year, King published Blockade Billy, an original novella issued first by independent small press Cemetery Dance Publications and later released in mass-market paperback by Simon & Schuster. The following month, DC Comics premiered American Vampire, a monthly comic book series written by King with short-story writer Scott Snyder, and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, which represents King’s first original comics work. King wrote the background history of the very first American vampire, Skinner Sweet, in the first five-issues story arc. Scott Snyder wrote the story of Pearl.
King’s next novel, 11/22/63, was published November 8, 2011, and was nominated for the 2012 World Fantasy Award Best Novel. The eighth Dark Tower volume, The Wind Through the Keyhole, was published in 2012. King’s next book was Joyland, a novel about “an amusement-park serial killer”, according to an article in The Sunday Times, published on April 8, 2012.
During his Chancellor’s Speaker Series talk at University of Massachusetts Lowell on December 7, 2012, King indicated that he was writing a crime novel about a retired policeman being taunted by a murderer. With a working title Mr. Mercedes and inspired by a true event about a woman driving her car into a McDonald’s restaurant, it was originally meant to be a short story just a few pages long. In an interview with Parade, published May 26, 2013, King confirmed that the novel was “more or less” completed he published it in June 2013. Later, on June 20, 2013, while doing a video chat with fans as part of promoting the upcoming Under the Dome TV series, King mentioned he was halfway through writing his next novel, Revival, which was released November 11, 2014.
King announced in June 2014 that Mr. Mercedes is part of a trilogy; the second book, Finders Keepers, was released on June 2, 2015. On April 22, 2015, it was revealed that King was working on the third book of the trilogy, End of Watch, which was ultimately released on June 7, 2016.
During a tour to promote End of Watch, King revealed that he had collaborated on a novel, set in a women’s prison in West Virginia, with his son, Owen King to be titled Sleeping Beauties.
King has written two novels with horror novelist Peter Straub: The Talisman (1984) and a sequel, Black House (2001). King has indicated that he and Straub will likely write the third and concluding book in this series, the tale of Jack Sawyer, but has set no deadline for its completion.
King produced an artist’s book with designer Barbara Kruger, My Pretty Pony (1989), published in a limited edition of 250 by the Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Alfred A. Knopf released it in a general trade edition.
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red (2001) was a paperback tie-in for the King-penned miniseries Rose Red (2002). Published under anonymous authorship, the book was written by Ridley Pearson. The novel is written in the form of a diary by Ellen Rimbauer, and annotated by the fictional professor of paranormal activity, Joyce Reardon. The novel also presents a fictional afterword by Ellen Rimbauer’s grandson, Steven. Intended to be a promotional item rather than a stand-alone work, its popularity spawned a 2003 prequel television miniseries to Rose Red, titled The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. This spin-off is a rare occasion of another author being granted permission to write commercial work using characters and story elements invented by King. The novel tie-in idea was repeated on Stephen King’s next project, the miniseries Kingdom Hospital. Richard Dooling, King’s collaborator on Kingdom Hospital and writer of several episodes in the miniseries, published a fictional diary, The Journals of Eleanor Druse, in 2004. Eleanor Druse is a key character in Kingdom Hospital, much as Dr. Joyce Readon and Ellen Rimbauer are key characters in Rose Red.
Throttle (2009), a novella written in collaboration with his son Joe Hill, appears in the anthology He Is Legend: Celebrating Richard Matheson. Their second novella collaboration, In the Tall Grass (2012), was published in two parts in Esquire. It was later released in e-book and audiobook formats, the latter read by Stephen Lang.
King and his son Owen King wrote the novel Sleeping Beauties, released in 2017, that is set in a women’s prison.
In 1988, the band Blue Öyster Cult recorded an updated version of its 1974 song “Astronomy”. The single released for radio play featured a narrative intro spoken by King. The Blue Öyster Cult song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was also used in the King TV series The Stand.
King collaborated with Michael Jackson to create Ghosts (1996), a 40-minute musical video. King states he was motivated to collaborate as he is “always interested in trying something new, and for (him), writing a minimusical would be new”. In 2012 King collaborated with musician Shooter Jennings and his band Hierophant, providing the narration for their album, Black Ribbons. King played guitar for the rock band Rock Bottom Remainders, several of whose members are authors. Other members include Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Sam Barry, and Greg Iles. King and the other band members collaborated to release an e-book called Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All (June 2013). King wrote a musical entitled Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (2012) with musician John Mellencamp.
Writing style and approach
King’s formula for learning to write well is: “Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.” He sets out each day with a quota of 2000 words and will not stop writing until it is met. He also has a simple definition for talent in writing: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”
When asked why he writes, King responds: “The answer to that is fairly simple—there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.” He is also often asked why he writes such terrifying stories and he answers with another question: “Why do you assume I have a choice?” King usually begins the story creation process by imagining a “what if” scenario, such as what would happen if a writer is kidnapped by a sadistic nurse in Colorado.
King often uses authors as characters, or includes mention of fictional books in his stories, novellas and novels, such as Paul Sheldon, who is the main character in Misery, adult Bill Denbrough in It, Ben Mears in ‘Salem’s Lot, and Jack Torrance in The Shining. He has extended this to breaking the fourth wall by including himself as a character in The Dark Tower series from The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla onwards. In September 2009 it was announced he would serve as a writer for Fangoria.
King has called Richard Matheson “the author who influenced me most as a writer.” In a current edition of Matheson’s The Shrinking Man, King is quoted as saying, “A horror story if there ever was one…a great adventure story—it is certainly one of that select handful that I have given to people, envying them the experience of the first reading.”
Other acknowledged influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Payne Brennan, Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald, and Don Robertson.
King’s The Shining is immersed in gothic influences, including “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe (which was directly influenced by the first gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto). The Overlook Hotel acts as a replacement for the traditional gothic castle, and Jack Torrance is a tragic villain seeking redemption.
King’s favorite books are (in order): The Golden Argosy; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Satanic Verses; McTeague; Lord of the Flies; Bleak House; Nineteen Eighty-Four; The Raj Quartet; Light in August; and Blood Meridian.
Science fiction editors John Clute and Peter Nicholls offer a largely favorable appraisal of King, noting his “pungent prose, sharp ear for dialogue, disarmingly laid-back, frank style, along with his passionately fierce denunciation of human stupidity and cruelty (especially to children) [all of which rank] him among the more distinguished ‘popular’ writers.”
In his book The Philosophy of Horror (1990), Noël Carroll discusses King’s work as an exemplar of modern horror fiction. Analyzing both the narrative structure of King’s fiction and King’s non-fiction ruminations on the art and craft of writing, Carroll writes that for King, “the horror story is always a contest between the normal and the abnormal such that the normal is reinstated and, therefore, affirmed.”
In her book Stephen King as a Postmodern Author (2013), Clotilde Landais looks at writers and their Doppelganger in some of King’s fictions and offers a reading of these stories as reflections on the artistic identity.
In his analysis of post–World War II horror fiction, The Modern Weird Tale (2001), critic S. T. Joshi devotes a chapter to King’s work. Joshi argues that King’s best-known works (his supernatural novels) are his worst, describing them as mostly bloated, illogical, maudlin and prone to deus ex machina endings. Despite these criticisms, Joshi argues that since Gerald’s Game (1993), King has been tempering the worst of his writing faults, producing books that are leaner, more believable and generally better written.
In 1996, King won an O. Henry Award for his short story “The Man in the Black Suit”.
In his short story collection A Century of Great Suspense Stories, editor Jeffery Deaver noted that King “singlehandedly made popular fiction grow up. While there were many good best-selling writers before him, King, more than anybody since John D. MacDonald, brought reality to genre novels. He has often remarked that ‘Salem’s Lot was “Peyton Place meets Dracula. And so it was. The rich characterization, the careful and caring social eye, the interplay of story line and character development announced that writers could take worn themes such as vampirism and make them fresh again. Before King, many popular writers found their efforts to make their books serious blue-penciled by their editors. ‘Stuff like that gets in the way of the story,’ they were told. Well, it’s stuff like that that has made King so popular, and helped free the popular name from the shackles of simple genre writing. He is a master of masters.”
In 2003, King was honored by the National Book Awards with a lifetime achievement award, the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Some in the literary community expressed disapproval of the award: Richard E. Snyder, the former CEO of Simon & Schuster, described King’s work as “non-literature” and critic Harold Bloom denounced the choice:
The decision to give the National Book Foundation’s annual award for “distinguished contribution” to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I’ve described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe. What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.
Orson Scott Card responded:
Let me assure you that King’s work most definitely is literature, because it was written to be published and is read with admiration. What Snyder really means is that it is not the literature preferred by the academic-literary elite.
In 2008, King’s book On Writing was ranked 21st on Entertainment Weekly list of “The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads from 1983 to 2008”.
Appearances and adaptations in other media
King and his wife Tabitha own Zone Radio Corp, a radio station group consisting of WZON/620 AM, WKIT-FM/100.3 & WZLO/103.1.
King tried his hand at directing with Maximum Overdrive, in which he also made a cameo appearance as a man using a malfunctioning ATM.
King produced and acted in a television series, Kingdom Hospital, which is based on the Danish miniseries Riget by Lars von Trier.
In 2010, King appeared in a cameo role as a cleaner named Bachman (a reference to his pen name Richard Bachman) on the FX series Sons of Anarchy.
The Syfy TV series Haven is based on King’s novella, The Colorado Kid.
In 2019, King appeared in a cameo role as a thrift store owner in It Chapter Two.
Political views and activism
In April 2008, King spoke out against HB 1423, a bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature that would restrict or ban the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. King argued that such laws allow legislators to ignore the economic divide between the rich and poor and the easy availability of guns, which he believed were the actual causes of violence.
A controversy emerged on May 5, 2008, when Noel Sheppard posted a clip of King at a Library of Congress reading event on the Web site NewsBusters. King, talking to high-school students, had said: “If you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that.” The comment was described by the blog as “another in a long line of liberal media members bashing the military”, and likened to John Kerry’s similar remark from 2006. King responded later that day, saying, “That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt…I live in a national guard town, and I support our troops, but I don’t support either the war or educational policies that limit the options of young men and women to any one career—military or otherwise.” King later expressed regret for the remark, saying that he misspoke. King added that during the Vietnam War, serving in the military was a great career for some.
During the 2008 presidential election, King voiced his support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. King was quoted as calling conservative commentator Glenn Beck “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother”.
On March 8, 2011, King spoke at a political rally in Sarasota aimed against Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), voicing his opposition to the Tea Party movement.
On April 30, 2012, King published an article in The Daily Beast calling for rich Americans, including himself, to pay more taxes, citing it as “a practical necessity and moral imperative that those who have received much should be obligated to pay … in the same proportion”.
On January 25, 2013, King published an essay titled “Guns” via Amazon.com’s Kindle single feature, which discusses the gun debate in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. King called for gun owners to support a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, writing, “Autos and semi-autos are weapons of mass destruction…When lunatics want to make war on the unarmed and unprepared, these are the weapons they use.” The essay became the fifth-bestselling non-fiction title for the Kindle.
King has criticized Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King, deeming them racists.
In June 2018, King called for the release of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is jailed in Russia.
King endorsed Shenna Bellows in the 2014 U.S. Senate election for the seat held by Republican Susan Collins.
King publicly criticized Paul LePage during LePage’s tenure as Governor of Maine, referring to him as one of The Three Stooges (with then-Florida Governor Rick Scott and then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker being the other two). He was critical of LePage for incorrectly suggesting in a 2015 radio address that King avoided paying Maine income taxes by living out of state for part of the year. The statement was later corrected by the Governor’s office, but no apology was issued. King said LePage was “full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green” and demanded that LePage “man up and apologize”. LePage declined to apologize to King, stating, “I never said Stephen King did not pay income taxes. What I said was, Stephen King’s not in Maine right now. That’s what I said.”
The attention garnered by the LePage criticism led to efforts to encourage King to run for Governor of Maine in 2018. King stated he would not run or serve. King sent a tweet on June 30, 2015, calling LePage “a terrible embarrassment to the state I live in and love. If he won’t govern, he should resign.” He later clarified that he was not calling on LePage to resign, but to “go to work or go back home”. On August 27, 2016, King called LePage “a bigot, a homophobe, and a racist”.
King has stated that he donates approximately $4 million per year “to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organisations that underwrite the arts.”
The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, chaired by King and his wife, ranks sixth among Maine charities in terms of average annual giving with over $2.8 million in grants per year, according to The Grantsmanship Center.
In November 2011, the STK Foundation donated $70,000 in matched funding via his radio station to help pay the heating bills for families in need in his home town of Bangor, Maine, during the winter.
King married Tabitha Spruce on January 2, 1971. She too is a novelist and philanthropic activist. The couple own and divide their time between three houses: one in Bangor, Maine (set to become a museum and writer’s retreat); one in Lovell, Maine; and for the winter a waterfront mansion located off the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota, Florida. The Kings have three children, a daughter and two sons, and four grandchildren. Their daughter Naomi is a Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Plantation, Florida, with her lesbian partner, Rev. Dr. Thandeka. Both of the Kings’ sons are authors: Owen King published his first collection of stories, We’re All in This Together: A Novella and Stories, in 2005. Joseph Hillstrom King, who writes as Joe Hill, published a collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, in 2005. His debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box (2007), was optioned by Warners Bros.
In the early 1970s, King developed a drinking problem which would plague him for more than a decade. Soon after Carrie’s release in 1974, King’s mother died of uterine cancer; King has written of his severe drinking problem at this time, stating that he was drunk while delivering the eulogy at his mother’s funeral. King’s addictions to alcohol and other drugs were so serious during the 1980s that, as he acknowledged in On Writing in 2000, he can barely remember writing Cujo. Shortly after the novel’s publication, King’s family and friends staged an intervention, dumping on the rug in front of him evidence of his addictions taken from his office including beer cans, cigarette butts, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, dextromethorphan (cough medicine) and marijuana. As King related in his memoir, he then sought help, quit all drugs (including alcohol) in the late 1980s, and has remained sober since. The first novel he wrote after becoming sober was Needful Things.
Car accident and aftermath
On June 19, 1999, at about 4:30 p.m., King was walking on the shoulder of Maine State Route 5, in Lovell, Maine. Driver Bryan Edwin Smith, distracted by an unrestrained dog moving in the back of his minivan, struck King, who landed in a depression in the ground about 14 feet (four meters) from the pavement of Route 5. Early reports at the time from Oxford County Sheriff deputy Matt Baker, claimed King was hit from behind and some witnesses said the driver was not speeding, reckless, or drinking. However Smith would later be arrested and charged with driving to endanger and aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of driving to endanger and was sentenced to six months in county jail (suspended), and had his driving license suspended for a year. In his book On Writing, King states he was heading north, walking against the traffic. Shortly before the accident took place, a woman in a car, also northbound, passed King first and then the light-blue Dodge van. The van was looping from one side of the road to the other, and the woman told her passenger she hoped “that guy in the van doesn’t hit him.”
King was conscious enough to give the deputy phone numbers to contact his family, but was in considerable pain. He was transported to Northern Cumberland Hospital in Bridgton and then flown by air ambulance to Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) in Lewiston. His injuries—a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of his right leg, scalp laceration and a broken hip—kept him at CMMC until July 9. His leg bones were so shattered that doctors initially considered amputating his leg, but stabilized the bones in the leg with an external fixator. After five operations in 10 days and physical therapy, King resumed work on On Writing in July, though his hip was still shattered and he could sit for only about 40 minutes before the pain became unbearable.
King’s lawyer and two others purchased Smith’s van for $1,500, reportedly to prevent it from appearing on eBay. The van was later crushed at a junkyard, to King’s disappointment, as he had fantasized about smashing it.