NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pop culture consumes authors, musicians and actors and quickly moves on. Only a few have staying power, and Stephen King is one of those rare figures.
With the release this week of “Doctor Sleep,” his much anticipated sequel to “The Shining,” the 66-year-old King continues to release and inspire new projects more than four decades after he first started to scare the bejeezus out of everybody. A stage musical he wrote with John Mellencamp is about to begin touring the country, “Under the Dome” was a surprise television hit of the summer and a film project based on his novella “A Good Marriage” is in the works as well.
“I always knew that if I hung around that I’d get hot again,” King says with a laugh. “Sooner or later everything that goes around comes around. I just thought of guys like Billy Joel. I thought if Billy Joel can come back, I can come back.”
With “Doctor Sleep,” King revisits a grown-up Danny Torrance and the extra creepy best-selling novel that became a milestone film for Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson. In this update, Dan is a recovering alcoholic and a mentor to a 12-year-old whose shining is stronger than his own.
King spoke with The Associated Press earlier this summer about how he approached the tricky task of writing “Doctor Sleep” and the home life that has produced two more literary voices:
AP: Writing a sequel to a beloved book so many years later had to be tricky. How did you approach it?
King: When I went into it I thought to myself, if I do this I can probably never satisfy the expectations of the audience because so many people who read “The Shining,” I got them while they were young and malleable, they were young adults, teenagers. I meet people all the time who say, “That book scared the s--- out of me,” and I’ll say, “How old were you when you read the book or saw the movie?” and they’ll say 16. And if you were 16 then, you’re probably 50 now and a little bit case hardened when it comes to scary things. I was curious. I wanted to see what happens to Danny Torrance, so I took my shot.
AP: What do you think of the book now that you’re done with it?
King: I like it. I think it’s pretty good. I kind of approached it with the idea of it’s a movie sequel where the story’s supposed to be different but it’s supposed to have the elements of the original that were successful, and I thought that’s a real challenge. Let me see if I can do something that’s really good, that has some of the elements that scared people in “The Shining” and create a story that’s entirely on its own and that people could pick up and read even if they never read “The Shining” in their life. It was fun to take the shot.
AP: That’s going to be one of the literary events of 2013. Do you enjoy the attention of moments like those?
King: The short answer is no, I really don’t know how to cope with that. I think one of the reasons writers are writers is because they’re introverts basically. I’m pretty comfortable in a room by myself, creating stories. I don’t have any sense that people are looking over my shoulder. It’s a one-man game. When you write a book you don’t have a whole team of writers in the way there is, for instance, on “Under the Dome” or some of the film projects that I’ve worked on. So I like that a lot. But I would be lying to you if I didn’t say when you meet a big group of people that come to a reading or a talk or something like that, there’s a certain validation. When they put their hands together, you say, “You know what? Somebody was out there the whole time and they were paying attention.” That’s a good thing and it warms you up.
AP: You aren’t the only King with a new book this year. Both of your sons, Joe Hill and Owen King, published novels last spring.
King: Joe knocked it out with “NOS4A2.” I love that book. He’s in his wheelhouse now. No question. Owen published his first novel, “Double Feature,” in March and it’s an entirely different thing. It’s funny. It’s fall on your knees funny, just roll on the floor funny, and that’s a different kind of sensibility entirely.
AP: In a past interview, Joe described his upbringing with Owen and their sister Naomi in idyllic terms with parents who encouraged reading and imagination. Was it really like that?
King: We all had our noses in books. And we lived way out in the country. There wasn’t a lot in the way of TV the way that there is now with these satellite deals and everything. We were a little bit constrained there. We all loved the movies and I’d pick them up at school on Friday afternoon and if there was a Spielberg picture or something, we’d go to Portland and see “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or whatever it was, and just have a blast. ... I used to get them to read me books on cassette tapes. I would pay $10 a cassette or something like that, and they would read me all kinds of stuff. And, of course, Joe has blocked out all of his memories of me chaining them up in the cellar and driving nails into their little legs and stuff.
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.