Today, on his birthday, we’ll tell you the biography of Stephen King, an American author, born on 21 September 1947 in Portland. World famous writer, his name has become a real brand generally associated with the horror genre.
However, his novels are more focused on the fantasy genre, with a mix of horror, science fiction, and yes, fantasy; he has sometimes also written detective novels. But, as you would do with a good book, let’s start from the beginning!
The young Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King was born in 1947 in Portland (Maine), into a more than modest family. His father, Donald Edwin King is a merchant navy captain while his mother Nellie Ruth Pillsbury is a housewife.
A relatively lonely child, both in personality and in background, the young Stephen has discovered a real passion for reading and has taken refuge in all the books he has put his hands on … including a box of fantastic books that belonged to his father who he discovers with his brother David in the attic of the house, when his father leaves the family home under the pretext of going to buy a pack of cigarettes, never to return. The story of cigarettes, now a sort of meme, was a reality for the young King!
A frequent reader, he also discovered his talent for the imagination of storytelling, first making movie novels, such as “The Well and the Pendulum” that he sold in the park, then imagining and writing his first stories.
In 1965 he managed to publish his first ever short story “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber” published under the title “In a Half-World of Terror” in a horror fanzine. Only two years later, when he was just 20, Stephen King managed to sell “The Glass Floor” to “Startling Mystery Stories” magazine.
He thus receives his first check for a story, the first in a long series since he will long publish stories in men’s magazines like Playboy or Penthouse that pay more than dignity for fiction texts.
Becoming a writer is not easy
As a young adult and still very poor, Stephen King nevertheless completed a university course, discovering literature at the University of Maine d’Orono. He also meets Tabitha Jane Spruce, who will become his wife.
Stephen King then began working first as a janitor and in a laundry, also inspiring various characters and stories, before becoming a university professor of English.
Since the beginning, Stephen King has encountered a lot of rejection regarding the manuscripts of short stories and novels he submits to publishers. Having had several children with his wife, facing rejection from publishers, King somehow lives with his family in a mobile home, doing odd jobs and writing to somehow try to get checks from magazines, so that he can cover the his children’s medical expenses. And in the face of these difficulties, he gradually sinks into alcoholism.
Despite the hardships, Stephen King’s wife Tabitha continues to support him. And this support will not be trivial since it will be her who, in 1974, retrieves a multi-page manuscript that he had thrown in the trash and encourages him to continue it. And she was right because after many reworkings, this story was developed and purchased by the publisher Doubleday who would publish the novel “Carrie” in 1974.
Stephen King reaches success
Unfortunately, Stephen King’s mother will not see the release of her son’s first novel because the latter will die sometime earlier. But she will get to know, before her death, that her son was finally able to sell one of her novels, for an initial sum of $ 2500, and that will be the beginning of the glory.
However, the new writer cannot yet quit his job to devote himself exclusively to writing with this allowance.
This will happen a few months later when his editor tells him that the rights to his novel “Carrie” have been sold for $ 400,000, half of which will go to his pocket! A considerable amount at the time, and even more so for someone who, until then, lived in a mobile home dividing himself between various jobs and writing to make ends meet.
The year after the publication of “Carrie”, Doubleday, who had signed a 6-book contract with the author, publishes “Salem”. Also the following year, in 1976, “Carrie” also became a film directed by Brian de Palma. A film that is a huge success.
The success is present but it will undeniably be the book “Shining, the child of light”, published in 1977 by Doubleday that will launch the author’s career even more. This third novel confirms Stephen King’s talent and interest in the horror novel genre: it is the Torrance family who spends the winter in an isolated mountain hotel so that her husband can write a book. But this huge hotel is haunted by ghosts.
The book quickly became popular, both commercially and with the public, as sales quickly exceeded 50,000 copies and entered the New York Times bestseller list. A first for Stephen King, but the first of a long series that continues today.
The commercial success of Stephen King’s book “The Shining” attracted the attention of director Stanley Kubrick who decided to make a film of it: “The Shining” was released in 1980 with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. The success was tremendous and this film still remains one of the most popular and well-known films in the world today. While the film is relatively different from Stephen King’s book, it will obviously contribute to the author’s international influence.
Since then, Stephen King writes and publishes several novels a year, including the world-famous IT, Misery and The Green Mile.
Stephen King’s accident and what happened after
On June 19, 1999, Stephen King was the victim of an accident that nearly took his life. And which, of course, had a significant impact on the rest of his literary work. He was in fact run over by a minivan. The seven surgical operations necessary to heal and the long and painful convalescence interrupt the proverbial discipline of the writer, no longer able to work continuously four hours every morning to write 2,500 words every day.
After making the decision to retire, King resumes writing in early 2000.
And he still has many arrows in his bow. between In October 2005, King signed a comic transposition of the series, The Dark Tower for Marvel Comics.
Speaking of The Dark Tower, we must not forget that this is also Stephen King’s greatest work: written in more than 30 years, this saga contains 8 books, but also and above all ramifications in most of his stories. Call this the “Jupiter of his solar system”.
Beyond “The Dark Tower”, Stephen King also multiplies the internal references to his work, not hesitating to mention here and there a character, a place from another book.
The Black Tower was also made into a film, as was the case with most of his works. The author does not hesitate to get involved in adaptation projects: sometimes writing the screenplay directly, or contributing to it. Furthermore, he does not hesitate, like Alfred Hitchcock, to use his image to embody a character seen briefly during a scene in one of these movies and TV movies.
Stephen King’s career
Only in 2022 were two King novels released, Gwendy’s Last Mission and Fairy Tale.
Since the beginning of his career, the author has sold more than 400 million books around the world, translated into more than thirty languages. Having become one of the most popular authors of horror and fantasy, he is one of those emblematic writers whose popularity and wealth are desired by any apprentice author. His books generally integrate ordinary characters, the average American so to speak, who face supernatural elements or horrors in their daily lives.
Meanwhile, King is writing a new book: Holly, set during the Coronavirus pandemic we are going through. But it is not the first time that King has dealt with pandemic viruses. The novel The Stand, published in 1978, was cited countless times in 2020 as an ominous description of what was happening.
This novel describes the death of almost the entire population of North America, and subsequently of the world through outbreaks, following the dispersion of a bacteriological weapon that escaped human control from the laboratories of the US government. The virus is a lethal mutation of the flu, characterized by a very high infectivity and mortality rate. It is impossible to formulate a vaccine as King’s flu changes every time a person’s immune system comes to a defense position: even if the correct antibody is produced to defend against the virus, the latter has already mutated and death is inviting. Does it sound familiar to you? Fortunately, we didn’t get to copy the novel!
For all the news about the author there is an international website: stephenking.com . We recommend the FAQ section because it has a lot of interesting trivia and anecdotes!
In his life as a writer Stephen King has repeatedly used a pseudonym. First of all John Swithen for the publication of a short story in the 70s, but also and above all that of Richard Bachman.
The reason for this choice was because the author had written books in different tones to those to which his readers were accustomed, but also in order not to flood the market with Stephen King’s books.
Five Stephen King books were published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman “in his lifetime”. Then the pseudonym was pronounced dead of “pseudonym cancer”. This book will also inspire Stephen King’s book “The Dark Share” about a writer who kills his pseudonym for taking up too much space in his life.
However, Richard Bachman’s “death” will not prevent him from publishing other books under this pseudonym as many have been published posthumously. We mention for example “The Regulators” and “Blaze”, released on the pretext that the widow Bachman found a chest of manuscripts in the attic.
As we said before, Stephen King’s books and short stories have been adapted many times for film and television. To date, there are about a hundred “official” adaptations and another considerable number of further inspirations.
Stephen King has not only flooded the world with his works, but also with his generosity.
Since the 1980s, Stephen and Tabitha have redistributed some of their annual income through local donations or through their various foundations.
Considering that Stephen King earns around $ 15 million each year, what is donated must not be peanuts.
In addition to recognition for his philanthropic activities, Stephen King has received numerous literary awards over the course of his career, mainly in the fields of horror and fantasy. But the real change came mainly in the early 2000s, when King received awards for his career and contribution to American literature.
Among the most rewarding awards is undoubtedly the National Medal of Arts, presented to the White House by President Barack Obama in September 2016.
Who knows what will be next!