”]In the literary world Stephen King is a name brand for horror writers. I imagine there are few people in existence who don’t recognize his name or not know what he writes. Until I picked up my first Stephen King book, Carrie, I was mostly reading romance books and anything I could get my hands on concerning paranormal phenomena. Yeah, two very different genres I know, but one was for enjoyment, the other for survival! You see, I was living in a bona fide haunted house at the time and dealing with dead people. I needed to know how to protect myself from things going bump in the night (and sometimes during the day), and I needed to understand just what, exactly, was going on. Why was our house haunted? What on Earth did they (the ghosts) want? Why didn’t they float off to heaven and stay there?
But, I digress. I read Carrie when I was in the eighth grade. My homeroom teacher was disgusted with the book and ordered me to take it home and not bring that filth back into his classroom. True story! He only read a few random pages, not sure what part turned him off so badly but needless to say, I was pretty surprised by the reaction. Can a teacher do that? Can they tell you what you can read on your own time even if you are at school? This, folks, was many years ago. I hesitate to admit how many but it was long before all the crap going on today in which every aspect of our lives (or so it seems!) is under attack by someone!
I told my mom about my teacher’s reaction and she just piffed (my own word but I think you get the picture) it away. “Who cares what he thinks. I’m your mother and if you want to read that book, then read it.” Yeah, my mom was a great one for going all “mother bear” when it came to defending her “babies”. In any case, I did read the book and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to read more of King’s work. One of them became very influential on my life…The Shining. Speaking of which, I recently learned that King has a sequel to that book coming out in 2013 titled “Dr. Sleep“. I’m quite excited about that and can’t wait to read it!
When I read “The Shining“, it scared the crap out of me. And strangely enough, I’m not talking about the mallet bashing psycho intent on whacking his poor family into the afterlife. No, it was all the ghosts hanging out at that hotel that scared me to death. I was, after all, living with a bunch of ghosts myself and here was a book where a family is dealing with the same thing. On a more evil scale of course. Thank God for small mercies, right? I have to admit, the one part that scared the bejeezus out of me was that danged dead woman in room 217. That, my friends, totally creeped me out!
The Shining spurred my interest in reading other works of fiction in which ghosts were involved (it is only natural, is it not, that I would go on to write ghost stories myself?). You want to know a really cool thing about all this? I met Stephen King the summer after I read that book! I lived in Maine, he lived in Maine (a mere 15 miles away…not even a stone’s throw by Maine standards!). We were bound to meet at some point, right? Not. I got LUCKY! I was waitressing at a really cool place right on the shores of Alamoosic Lake (my best friend’s parents owned the place) and King rented the facilities to treat his family and friends to a bona fide Maine picnic complete with lobsters, steamed clams, crabs, shrimp…you name it, he had it on the menu. What a nice guy, right? So anyway, I’m standing behind the buffet line keeping a close eye on the food levels, making sure nothing runs low, and this man starts by that looks awfully darned familiar. My heart starts pounding (I was a teen at the time and quite impressed with celebrity anything) and I think to myself, “Is that Stephen King?” Then, realizing the unlikelihood of such a thing, immediately dismissed the thought, “No, of course that isn’t Stephen King. What would he be doing here?” But then the woman next to him said, “When’s your next book due out?” and I KNEW!! Instead of standing there gaping like a starstruck idiot, I ran for the kitchen and grabbed my friend. “Stephen King is going through the buffet line!” Of course she didn’t believe me and headed for the buffet line post haste to see for herself. Seconds later she returns and heads for her father (head chef for the day). “Dad, is Stephen King supposed to be here today?” Her dad is clueless. “Who?” And once he realizes how excited we are, he offers to go get the check because now that he thinks of it, he did seem to recall that the man paying for the event was somewhat well known. Somewhat well known? Seriously? Once it was confirmed, my friend and I commenced to spy, covertly of course, on the famous man within our midst. Was he normal? Was he as weird as his books? He did write some pretty bizarre stuff after all.
Well, I’m here to tell you, we noticed nothing strange or unusual about this master of the macabre. He was very friendly and attentive to everyone, especially his kids. We wanted to meet him something fierce but didn’t want to bother him. That didn’t stop my friend, however, from fetching one of his books from her room and asking her dad to get it autographed for her. We peeked through the doorway as her father did her bidding. King didn’t seem the least annoyed to have his meal interrupted by the request. He happily obliged. Then her dad points to the door where we were trying our best to stay out of view. As King turns to look our way, we squeal (we were teenage girls remember) with embarrassment, pull our heads back into the kitchen and slam the door closed. I was so danged jealous that my friend just snagged an autograph and it was me that started reading him first and who was the bigger fan and who wanted, after all, to be a famous writer someday! Since we were not just the waitresses but the dish washers, food preparers, cleaner uppers and whatever else my friend’s parents threw our way, we began to wash the big pots waiting for us in the sink. There we were, up to elbows in soapy water and my friend’s dad comes into the kitchen and says, “Ladies, guess who wants to meet you!”
NO WAY! Oh yes. Way. Stephen King gallantly kissed our soapy hands, chatted with us for a bit and then thanked us for doing such a great job. Yeah…(sigh)…he really is a nice man.
When the movie for The Shining came out, I went to see it for my birthday. It was, I’ll admit, my first ever date (with a real boy and everything!) The movie disappointed me somewhat because they (Hollywood) changed it so much but the scenery was magnificent! I decided right then and there that I wanted to go to Colorado. A year later, I joined the US Air Force. I mentioned in another post (Military Lessons: Yes I Can and So Can You!) that I entered a career field which had recently opened to women, it’s primary job was bomb building and the like. I wasn’t all that enthused to work with explosives until my recruiter said the magic words. “You’ll be attending your technical training at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado.” Colorado?! “I’ll take it,” I said and just like that, I made a career decision that was to affect me for the next 20 years, 5 months and 17 days. A decision, mind you, based on a Stephen King novel (because it was the book, after all, that led to the movie).
Shortly after arriving to basic training, I was pulled aside by an important looking official who proceeded to offer me a different job. My first question, “Where is the school for it?” The man, very obviously convinced that this other job was a much better career choice, said, “California.” And I made another decision based on that dang movie (and thus, the book!). “I don’t want to go to California, I want to go to Colorado.” The man looked at me as if I were daft (and yes, I can say now that I was). “You are basing your decision on the state in which the school is located?” I could feel my face go hot because it did sound stupid and I didn’t like looking stupid. Who does? But I remained firm with my decision. It was something I would live to regret but you know, things go how they are supposed to go. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a single, solitary thing.
I do think it interesting how things can influence us so profoundly (though we don’t really realize it at the time) and how differently our lives can go based on those influences. Mine took a pretty drastic turn because of a book I read.
That, my friends, is the power of a book! Until another time, blessings to all and Peace Out!!
- Stephen King Reads An Excerpt From The Shining Sequel (neatorama.com)
- 25 Page Prologue of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep To Be Included In The Wind Through The Keyhole Audiobook CD (firewireblog.com)
- Stephen King Reads First Chapter of his SHINING Sequel, DR. SLEEP (geektyrant.com)
- Writing Wednesday – On Writing by Stephen King (kikiwritesabout.com)