Writing & Publishing

A Conversation With Stephen King

Last week I got to cross a big item off the Bucket List. One that I never really thought would get crossed off, so I actually had forgotten about it until the opportunity presented itself in crazy, random sort of happenstance way.

Stephen King was in Dallas last week promoting his new novel 11/22/63 (about a guy who goes back in time to try to stop the assassination of JFK), and at the last minute I found myself a ticket to attend. It was a live interview hosted by journalist Lee Cullom, who sounded a lot like Barbra Walters with a head cold.

So I’m sitting in the second balcony at the Majestic Theater about 3 rows from the back and out walks Mr. King on to the small stage. This was an incredible, pinch-me-am-I-dreaming? moment. My early teenage years were cram packed with Stephen King novels. I’ve seen all of his book-turned-movies. I watched The Shining repetitively as a kid and freaked out when I learned it was a real hotel. But on top of that, I look to Stephen King as a sort of mentor on my Path to Publication. I’ve read his book On Writing several times and I always find a little pearl of wisdom that I hadn’t found before, and it’s always just enough to keep me going.

The interview was perfection.

The first thing Mr. King says to the audience is “You know, I was just going over insurance plans for car insurance, and I came across an interesting statistic. 50% of people who attend and event – like this one – forget to lock their cars. So…anyone could climb in the back and hide there.”

The audience laughed, pleased that their favorite horror writer was just as creepy as they’d hoped.

“Everyone laughs when they’re all together,” he continued, “But sooner or later…you’re going to be alone.”

Loved. It.

The of course discussed the new novel and the research that went into it, but they also talked about some really off-the-wall stuff that had nothing to do with anything. For example, Stephen King has just finished a series with Marvel called American Vampire (yay!) so Lee the journalist asked Mr. King what his favorite comic books were.

“I’ve always preferred Batman over Superman. One reason is because Batman is like a real guy. But the other thing is…well, I’ve never been able to understand how Superman and Lois Lane would have sex.”

Queue audience laughter and slightly frightened journalist.

“Because, I mean…okay, when Superman goes to the bathroom that has got to be like the shit of steel. Right? And when he needs to blow his nose, what does he blow his nose on? You see where I’m going with this…”

As everyone, myself included, was laughing hysterically and the journalist was covering her face trying to regain composure, I thought to myself – “This is awesome. That totally sounds like a conversation I would have with one of my friends!”

Stephen King also talked about his experience working with Michael Jackson on a music video. I personally don’t know what video they’re talking about and Mr. King couldn’t even remember the song it was before, but he said it ended up being like “Son of Thriller.”  Anyway, the story goes like this:

Mr. King was working on the set of The Stand when his assistant told him he had a phone call. Mr. King said, “I’m kind of busy. Take a message.”

To which the assistant responded very excitedly, “But it’s Michael Jackson.”

Mr. King said, “Alright, I’m curious.” So he took the call.

According to him, he heard a very high pitched voice say “Stephen, I want to make the scariest music video anyone has ever seen. Will you help me do it?”

Mr. King answered in an equally high pitched voice, “Okay Michael.”

He said he never worked face to face with Michael and never got to meet him; his work was all more behind the scenes kind of stuff. Then, several months after Mr.King had finished his part of the video Michael Jackson called his house in Maine. Mr. King wasn’t there but his wife had answered and gave Michael the number where her husband could be reached.

5 minutes later, Michael Jackson calls back and he is weeping. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “When you gave me the number I didn’t have a pen so I wrote it out in the carpet, and when I went to dial the number the carpet had sprung back up!”

I had tears in my eyes. I mean, who does that??

“So,” said Stephen King, “My working experience with Michael Jackson was very brief, and very weird.”

I didn’t get to meet Stephen King but I got to be in the same room with him and see him “in real life” and that was good enough for me. The evening did not disappoint. I got to hear the greatest story I had ever heard in my life about Michael Jackson.

“It’s not nice to laugh at someone who has passed away,” Stephen King scolded us. “But let’s do it anyway!”


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