It started as I was procrastinating, which is not surprising. I was supposed to be studying for my first exams in grade 9, so that makes it January 1985. I don’t remember which exam at this distant remove. My parents had borrowed Stephen King’s novel, Christine, from the library, and I found it in our family room. Rather than reviewing my text book or notes, I picked it up, opened to the first page and began reading.
It didn’t take long to hook me. Maybe a few pages; it’s hard to remember. What I do remember is that I read it fast, devoting vast swaths of time to it, and furtively, since I think I suspected my parents wouldn’t approve. Maybe I thought they wouldn’t approve of me reading a grownup book like that, or just that I should have been spending time prepping for exams. Irrelevant now.
Very quickly, I went through subsequent books: The Stand, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cujo, Carrie, Night Shift, Pet Semetary, It, and anything else. By then my exams were long over, and my parents knew all about my reading choices.
I loved how King could draw characters in what seemed like short-hand, and how he gave them a vivid inner life. He could make me care for them, or fear for them. The danger was always real, because they got hurt, and they would be killed. It was a heartless, world and frequently cruel, but things usually worked out…sort of…for some of them. Or at least there’d be an interesting hook at the end.
The influence this had on my writing wasn’t just in subject matter, although my “return to work” project takes some cues from Christine, it’s in what I aspire do with my characters.