Monday, June 1, 2009

Stephen King: The Man Behind The Horror

Stephen Edwin King was born September 21, 1947 in Portland, Maine. When Stephen was two years old his father went to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Stephen's mother Ruth was left to raise Stephen and his older brother David alone. Ruth would take any job she could find to support her family and often the family would have to move as she found jobs in different places. The family often ended up living with different relatives. Stephen was a sickly child and spent most of grade one in bed with different ailments. To keep himself occupied he read a variety of different books and comics. It was during that time he started to write and sold his first stories to his mother for a quarter each. He loved to read science fiction and horror comics, the more gruesome the better. Stephen enjoyed going to the movies to see cheesy horror movies like "Earth vs. the flying saucers" as well as other types of movies. Believe it or not, one of the movies that gave him nightmares for weeks was the forest fire scene in "Bambi".

As a child Stephen had many bizarre fears. Some of these were the fear of falling into the toilet, the dark, bats, snakes, rats, squishy things, and spiders. One of his strangest fears was number 13. To this day, the fear of 13 continues to affect his everyday life. He continues to have these childhood fears, as well as several others that have developed over the years. Stephen is able to deal with his fears by in some way incorporating them into his stories.

By the crowds in the theatres watching scary tales and the increasing popularity of horror stories, Steve saw a way to make money. At the age of fourteen Steve spent his summer typing up stories to be submitted to magazines. He typed so much that the letter "m" fell off and he had to write it in by hand. He would remember this later when he wrote the story "Misery" and his character had to do the same. Through high school Stephen excelled in English and continued to submit stories to magazines, never letting the rejection letters discourage him. Finally in 1965 his first story was published "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber" by the magazine Comics Review.

In his graduate year, Stephen received a full scholarship to the University of Maine. He was enrolled as English major and also took courses in education. After sixty rejections for his stories he finally sold "The Glass Floor" for $35 to Startling Mystery Stories. Stephen continued to persevere with his writing throughout college. Unhappy with the English courses being taught, he convinced the faculty to allow him to teach a course on Popular Literature and Culture. It was during his college years that he began using drugs and drinking alcohol, leading to a long time addiction.

In his senior year of college Stephen met his future wife Tabitha Spruce. Tabitha was as much interested in writing as Stephen and she would go on to become a bestselling author. In January 1970, Stephen taught as a student teacher at Hampden Academy. In the spring he graduated from the University of Maine and his first child Naomi was born. To support himself and his family he held many menial jobs.

By 1971 he was hired into a teaching position at Hampden Academy and had the occasional short story published in magazines. Finally in 1973 Stephen sold his first story "Carrie" to Doubleday publishing, which he eventually received $200,000 for. With this large amount of money Steve was able to quit teaching and focus on writing. Over the next few years his family grew, and his collection of published novels grew as well. His drinking and drug use also increased as time went on. King also created the pseudonym Richard Bachman and had several of his previous rejected stories published in that name.

In 1978 the Kings rented a house on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine. It was events that happened at this house that eventually would lead to the creation of the book 'Pet Semetary'. Stephen thought the story as his most terrifying and he put the manuscript away. The book was eventually published and made into a blockbuster movie. Over the next few years King continued to write stories that were similar to his life. The character of "Paul Sheldon", who is a author in the novel "Misery" is kidnapped by a obsessed fan. Stephen has had fans that have been extreme, but thankfully not like the character "Annie" form "Misery". Steve could also relate to the character of "Jack Torrence" from his book "The Shining". At the time of writing the novel, Steve was drinking and doing drugs excessively and was having anger issues towards his children, as a result the character of the psychotic father "Jack" emerged. Do to his many successes Steve was very generous financially with helping out friends as well as strangers. They have given money for scholarships as well as donated time and money to many charities.

By the late 80's Stephen's drug and alcohol addiction had taken over. He was frequently hung over and having blackouts. Some days he was sober for only 3 hours in the day. As many of his books were written while he was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol, Steve was afraid quitting would affect his writing. Tabitha was eventually able to help him admit he had a problem and needed help. With the help of his wife, family and friends he quit drinking and using drugs, attends A.A. and N.A. meetings and continues to write successfully.

June 19, 1999 was a date that made a huge impact on Stephen King's life. Out for a walk near his home, he was struck by a van. Steve suffered severe injuries to his body that required several surgeries and to deal with the pain he was once again dependent on drugs. He was very determined to not let the drugs take over his life, through much determination he was able to overcome his addiction to painkillers. Many of the events that happened to Steve during his hospitalization and the accident itself became the foundation for his TV series "Kingdom Hospital". Eerily enough, at the time of the accident King was writing the story "Buick 8", about a car that supposedly kills someone in a random accident. A year after the accident, the driver of the van that hit Steve, died of a drug overdose on Kings birthday.

Since that time, King has continued to write bestselling novels, has e- books on the internet, has had movies made out of his books, become a grandfather, seen his sons become published authors and his daughter graduate with honours and become a minister. Stephen also developed the Haven Foundation, which financially helps freelance artists who are ill or injured and don't have an income. He donated $450,000 the money received from his law-suite, to the paediatric unit at the Central Maine Medical Centre. The Kings' also donated $1.5 million to upgrade a baseball stadium for the kids in their community. One of Stephen King's greatest achievements was to receive the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

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