Stephen King on his best and worst books, and returning to The Dark Tower

Stephen King

This year marks four decades as a published novelist for Stephen King, and since Carrie first hit shelves in the spring of 1974 he's written more than 50 novels, dozens of short stories, screenplays and nonfiction in various forms. He's sold hundreds of millions of books, seen countless movies of varying quality adapted from his work and, at 67, remains one of the most recognizable names in fiction. King's latest novel, Revival, hits stores next week, so the author's been making the publicity rounds lately, and in a far-reaching new interview with Rolling Stone, he talked everything from music to politics to his own writing at its best and worst. 

Every King fan has their own idea about what his worst book might be (I will admit that, for me, it's Gerald's Game), and King has his own ideas. For him, his work hit its lowest point when drug abuse began to affect his writing, something that seems to have peaked with his 1987 novel The Tommyknockers

"I mean, The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act," King said. "And I've thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, 'There's really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.' The book is about 700 pages long, and I'm thinking, 'There's probably a good 350-page novel in there.'"

King gave up drugs in the late '80s but notes that writing while high would come back to haunt him one more time when, after being struck by a van in 1999, he began taking Oxycontin to manage the pain brought on by multiple serious injuries and surgeries. The novel that came from that period of his life, 2001's Dreamcatcher, is also not one of his favorites. 

"Well, I don't like Dreamcatcher very much. Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. [In 1999, King was hit by a van while taking a walk and left severely injured.] I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain. And I couldn't work on a computer back then because it hurt too much to sit in that position," King said. "So I wrote the whole thing longhand. And I was pretty stoned when I wrote it, because of the Oxy, and that's another book that shows the drugs at work."

As for his best work, while a lot of fans might say The Stand or The Shining, King turns to a 2006 book that earned him his fourth (of five so far) Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel: Lisey's Story

"That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I'd never written about that," King said. "I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there's still things that we don't know about each other."

And no King interview would be complete without a little talk about The Dark Tower, his eight-novel fantasy epic that's spawned a Marvel Comics series and may yet get a long-gestating TV/film hybrid adaptation. The Dark Tower is easily King's most ambitious work, and in some ways it's grown to not just surpass, but contain many of his other stories. King completed the initial seven-book story with The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower in 2004, more than 20 years after the first book was published, then returned to the saga in 2012 with The Wind Through the Keyhole, a relatively self-contained book set between the fourth and fifth volumes of the series. These days, most questions surrounding The Dark Tower are about the film adaptation, but what about more books? King admits that he's got at least one more story he'd like to tell.

"I'm never done with The Dark Tower. The thing about The Dark Tower is that those books were never edited, so I look at them as first drafts. And by the time I got to the fifth or sixth book, I'm thinking to myself, 'This is really all one novel.' It drives me crazy. The thing is to try to find the time to rewrite them. There's a missing element -- a big battle at a place called Jericho Hill. And that whole thing should be written, and I've thought about it several times, and I don't know how to get into it."

For more from King, including his favorite film adaptations of his work, the best concert he's ever been to and more, head over to Rolling Stone.

(Via Rolling Stone)

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