Stephen King

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Stephen King (1947- ). Prolific United States author who is most known for his horror novels, which often involve an unremarkable middle-class family being submerged into increasingly horrifying circumstances. King also produces more typically "literary" work, as can be seen in the novellas "The Body" and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (later adapted as the movies Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, respectively), as well as in The Green Mile. King evinces a thorough knowledge of the horror genre, as shown in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, which chronicles several decades of notable works in both literature and cinema.

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine to Donald and Ruth Pillsbury King. When Stephen was very young, his father left the family and Ruth raised Stephen and his older brother David herself, sometimes under great financial strain.

Stephen King has been writing since an early age. When in school, he wrote stories (plagiarized from what he'd been reading lately) and sold to his friends. This was not popular among his teachers, and he was forced to return his profits when he was discovered.

The stories were copied using a mimeo machine that his brother David used to copy his magazine called "Dave's Rag" that he published himself. "Dave's Rag" was about local events, and Stephen would often contribute. At the age of about thirteen, Stephen discovered a box of his father's old books at his aunt's house, mainly horror and science fiction. He was immediately hooked.

From 1966 to 1970, King studied English at the University of Maine at Orono. Here, King wrote a column in the school magazine called "King's Garbage Truck". At the university he also first met Tabitha Spruce to whom he was married in 1971. To afford his studies, King took odd jobs on the side. One of them was at an industrial laundry, giving him material for the short story "The Mangler". This period in his life shows through in the second part of Hearts in Atlantis.

After finishing his university studies with a B.S. in English, King took a job as an English teacher at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. He lived with Tabitha and at least one child in a trailer. Making ends meet was sometimes difficult, and the money that came from short stories, published mainly in men's magazines, was very useful. King also developed a drinking problem.

During this period, he began a number of novels. One of them told the story of a young girl with psychic powers. Frustrated with it, he threw it into the trash. Later, he discovered that Tabitha has rescued it, and encouraged him to finish it as Carrie. He sent it to a friend at Doubleday and more or less forgot about it. Some time later, he received an offer to buy it for $2,500 (not a large sum for a novel, even at that time). Years later, the paperback rights sold for $400,000.

King fans will note that the relative wealth of King's characters has risen through the decades, but not as precipitously as King's wealth itself: his earliest works (Carrie, The Shining, as well as much of the work in Night Shift) dealt with working-class families struggling from paycheck to paycheck in minimum-wage jobs; his late-80s work involved middle-class people like teachers and authors; his late 90s work, airplane pilots and others who can frequently afford a second house. Regardless, his work has remained immensely popular.

Stephen King has also written many books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. King staged a mock funeral for Bachman after the pseudonym was made public, which in turn inspired the book The Dark Half, in which a novelist stages the burial of his horror author pseudonym after having a "serious" novel published, only to find that his alter ego does not want to leave quite so easily. Stephen King lives in Bangor, Maine with his wife Tabitha King, who is also a novelist. Their three children, Naomi Rachel, Joe Hill, and Owen Phillip, are now grown and living on their own.


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King optioned his films to student filmmakers for one dollar; yet, disgusted with the treatment most of his work had gotten in film, in 1986 he decided to direct Maximum Overdrive himself, using a screenplay he had written based on his short story "Trucks." The experience seems to have sated his desire to direct.