Weird Facts About Stephen King
Stephen King is one of the most well-known horror authors on the planet. He's thrilled and terrified readers with his stories for years, making their own worst nightmares come to life. Many of his works have had major film and television adaptations.
But, what about Stephen King himself? Where does his inspiration come from? We’ve gathered the most tantalizing facts about Stephen King and his writing, and some of them are exactly what you'd expect from the master of horror!
After sending out query after query only to receive rejection letters time and again, King had his first novel, Carrie, finally accepted by publishers. It tells the story of a bullied teen who has telekinetic abilities who uses her powers to get revenge.
King received an advance of just $2,500 but later went on to earn upwards of $400,000 for the paperback rights. Since then, there have been two film adaptations of the debut novel. The first starred Sissy Spacek, while the newer release featured Chloe Grace Mortez in the leading role of Carrie.
He's Used Pen Names
King used a pseudonym, Richard Bachmann, to publish some of his work. He did this in part because publishers were reluctant to release more than one book by a given author per year, but also because he wanted to see if he could duplicate his publishing success.
A bookstore owner from Washington actually ousted the author as King. He didn’t seem to mind, though, as he continued to experiment with different writing styles using the name. There’s speculation that he's used other names in the past as well, but it's unclear if anybody positively identified them or not.
Lots of Cameos
Stephen King is known for making small cameos in many of his film adaptations. He actually has 22 different film appearances on his resume. One classic example is in the original Pet Semetary, when King played the role of a minister.
More recently, we King appeared on the big screen again in It: Chapter 2. He was the owner of the shop where a main character's childhood bike ended up. It would seem that King has no plans to settle down when it comes to being actively involved in the entertainment industry, and we're all glad for it!
Not a Nicholson Fan
Stephen King may have approved of most of the film adaptations of his work, but that was certainly not the case when it came to The Shining. In particular, he did not like the casting choices made. While fans adored Stanley Kubrick's work on the film, King was less than impressed.
He stated that he didn't understand the hype surrounding the movie. He also said that he wasn't a fan of the way Jack Nicholson portrayed Jack Torrance. He wanted the character to show a "slow descent into madness" instead of being so "maniacal."
His Favorite Work
Everybody has a favorite when it comes to the works of Stephen King. His favorite, however, is one of his bestsellers: Salem's Lot. The story is centered on a character who returns home to discover that the residents of a small town are becoming vampires.
Salem's Lot was made into a television mini-series in 1979 and again in 2004, and there are rumors that a movie adaptation of the novel is currently in the works. Should they prove true, fans will certainly be excited!
Pennywise Was Originally a Troll
One of Stephen King's most well-known novels is the hit It. When he originally came up with the concept, Pennywise was a troll living under a bridge who preyed on unsuspecting children.
After some consideration, King decided that Pennywise as a clown was much scarier. Fans are certainly glad that the classic horror character was changed, as a troll just doesn’t have the same power as the horrific Pennywise. However, King did leave some references to the troll idea in the final piece.
He Doesn't Remember Writing Cujo
Most fans of Stephen King are aware of his past struggles with drugs and alcohol. His substance abuse issues were so bad that he has no memory of writing the hit novel Cujo. King was on an alcohol- and coke-fueled binge and doesn't remember a single word of the popular story.
He’s expressed regret that he doesn't remember the process of writing the piece. However, it does go to show that even at his worst, King can still produce pretty amazing stories. That's quite impressive!
A Real Haunted Prison
Castle Rock is another adaptation of King's work. The town in the series is the site of the Shawshank State Prison. Many of the scenes were filmed in the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, and the real penitentiary is said to be one of the most haunted places in America.
Before it was closed down, the prison housed some truly horrendous prisoners. 85 executions took place there among other horrors like rape, murder and many suicides. People travel from all over to walk through the alleged haunted site, making it a perfect filming location.
Advice to Writers
Stephen King wrote a book called On Writing that has been used in creative writing classes around the country. In the book, he discussed his writing process and how he developed his craft over time. He admitted that the journey wasn't an easy one.
Some of his best advice for writers is to constantly read and write. Practice does make perfect, and given the number of books he’s written, it’s certainly how King himself found success. There's certainly nobody better to give writing advice.
Too Graphic for the Film
If you've never read the novel, It, you're likely unaware of a scene so graphic and controversial that it didn't make it into the movie. It took place after the famous Loser's Club defeated Pennywise, at which point they all engaged in group sex. It's understandable that this scene would be cut from a movie featuring young kids!
King explained in interviews that he wrote the scene with a theme of "coming of age" in mind. That makes a certain kind of sense, but the scene still causes controversy even among fans, and it’s understandable that it didn’t make it onto the silver screen.
He Was Hit by a Van in 1999
While taking a walk in June of 1999, Stephen King was hit by a van after the driver became distracted by a dog moving around in the back seat. The accident left King with broken bones in his ribs, legs and hip. He also suffered a punctured lung and lacerations.
After the accident, King actually bought the van to allegedly "smash it with a sledgehammer." In truth, it was his lawyers that purchased it so that nobody could profit from the accident by selling the vehicle. The van was crushed at a scrapyard.
It seems that some actors really enjoy being in King's work, as many have appeared in multiple adaptations. Thomas Jane, for instance, has appeared in The Mist, Dreamcatcher and 1922. Other actors such as John Cusack, Kathy Bates and other famous actors have appeared in multiple Stephen King works, and many say they would love to do so again.
Stephen King writes deep and complex characters, so it's no wonder that many actors are eager to take on those roles. They provide actors with a chance to show their acting range in stories that audiences are likely to enjoy.
Book Signings Only
Stephen King is not a fan of being a celebrity. If you approach him on the street, it’s highly unlikely that you will get yourself an autograph. He only gives out autographs to fans when on official tours.
So, if you spot Mr. King at a local cafe in Maine, it would be best to wait until a book signing to get your hands on an autograph. For being such a household name, he doesn't necessarily adore the limelight that comes along with the gig. And hey, we can all respect that!
Writing Runs in the Family
Stephen isn't the only writer in his family. One of his sons, Joseph King, has published successful novels and short stories under the pen name Joe Hill. His novel Horns was adapted into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe, while the comic book series Locke and Key was made into a Netflix series.
Stephen's wife Tabitha is an acclaimed writer of mystery novels. His other son, Owen King, has published various short stories, a standalone novel and Sleeping Beauties, which he wrote alongside his father.
As a child, Stephen King witnessed his friend being killed by a train. He has no memory of the incident, but many speculate that the experience was inspiration for some of his darker work. King has never verified that theory.
After the incident, King walked back home where his mother said he was silent and appeared to be in shock. It wasn't until later that she learned of the death of his friend and that Stephen had likely witnessed the entire tragedy. He was only four at the time of the incident.
He Makes Bank
Many writers may be starving artists, but Stephen King doesn't exactly fall into that category. With so many hit novels and TV and movie adaptations, King has an estimated net worth of $400 million. Even though he’s had some flops, it’s done nothing to dull his net worth.
King owns multiple properties and vehicles and is one of the highest-paid authors in the world. Since he's been able to produce hit after hit, it isn't too surprising that he has made a good amount of bank over the years.
H.P Lovecraft Inspired Him
As a child, King discovered a paperback copy of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story collections in the attic of his childhood home. "Now that time has given us some perspective on his work," said King years later, "I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."
Most of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories fall under the larger umbrella of the Cthulhu Mythos, a shared universe where unfathomable monsters and deities lurk just beyond the perception of humankind. It’s no wonder that King is a fan.
Lots of Rejection
When Stephen King was first starting out, he used his rejection letters as a "fuel" of sorts. Instead of becoming angry and tossing them out, King nailed the letters to the wall. He received so many rejection letters early on that he had to replace the nail with a camping stake.
King shared this anecdote in On Writing has inspired many other would-be authors to do the same. Mustering that kind of determination is no easy feat, but it certainly paid off for King. His success in the writing world is nearly unmatched.
He Writes to Rock Music
Many writers listen to music while they write, and each one has their own preferences. Stephen King’s is for rock music. Given his style of writing and the type of content he writes, it makes sense that he would find the most inspiration in classic rock.
Some of his favorites include AC/DC and The Ramones. Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill, also wrote a book about an aging rock star who purchases a haunted suite. It seems they have more in common than just writing.
He Owns a Radio Station
Along with his wife, King owns a radio station. It’s a mainstream rock radio station (of course) located in Brewer, Maine. WKIT is part of the Zone Corporation, which is also owned by Tabitha and Stephen.
The station is quite popular in the area and is advertised as being owned by the master of horror himself, likely drawing in more fans. It’s also one of the few remaining locally-owned radio stations in the country.
The Most Film Adaptations
Stephen King holds a world record for the most film adaptations. Estimates vary, but they number at least in the dozens, and while other stories by king have been made into television series, comic books, radio dramas and more.
King is on his way to 300 writer credits for feature-length films on IMDB. He also has a habit of letting new directors adapt his work for the bargain price of a single dollar. The catch is that films made under such deals can’t be commercially distributed or made available online.
Fear of Flying
Surprisingly, Stephen King has a powerful fear of flying. It's hard to believe that the master of horror would have such an ordinary phobia. While he’s willing to fly when he absolutely has to, he doesn’t relish the occasion. When King was younger, he drove his motorcycle to book signings no matter how far away they were.
"The difference is," King explained, "if your car breaks down, you pull over into the breakdown lane. If you’re at 40,000 feet and your plane has trouble, you die." It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Like the rest of us, Stephen King has his favorite television series. Some of them include Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and The Americans. He also stated that he was a fan of Sons of Anarchy. Before long, he was given the chance to make a surprise cameo on the popular series!
He played the role of a "clean-up" guy who arrives at crime scenes to help characters dispose of a body. It seemed like a fitting role for everybody's favorite master of horror. Many viewers didn't even recognize him initially.
His Books Never Go Out of Print
Unlike many other authors, the works of Stephen King almost never go out of print. This is why you can find so many different covers on even older works by Stephen King. They are always being printed because they are always selling more copies. Because of this, early editions of King’s work are coveted by fans and sometimes even worth decent money.
King also created his own publishing house, Philtrum press, for work he either didn’t think would find mainstream success or that had special significance. Don’t expect to find a copy of anything by Philtrum at your local bookstore, however — all works published under the label had extremely small press runs of only a couple thousand or so.
In the '80s, King's drinking and cocaine use became so bad that his family staged an intervention for him, during which his wife Tabitha collected all his drug paraphernalia and dumped it in the living room in front of friends and family. She even threatened to divorce him.
Luckily, King realized he had a problem and needed to get better, and he did. While he’d been afraid that his work would suffer while sober, King released some of his most notable work after breaking the habit, including The Green Mile and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
An Entire Universe
The Dark Tower series includes the novels that Stephen King says tie all his other works together. Similar to other cinematic universes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Conjuring Universe, all of the stories take place in the same universe — or at least, series of universes.
Connected works often include references to the main villains of the series, the Crimson King and his servant, Randall Flagg. Others mention the hero, the Gunslinger. Books with indisputable connections to King’s greater universe include ‘Salem’s Lot, Hearts in Atlantis, The Stand and more.
A Fear of 13
On top of a fear of flying, King also has a more superstitious fear: triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13. It’s certainly odd, but then again, considering the importance of the number 19 in The Dark Tower, maybe King just has an intense relationship with numbers.
When writing, King refuses to stop when he gets to the 13th page, and he even avoids multiples of the number. Maybe it’s just a habit, or maybe it really is a genuine fear. Whatever the case, if it keeps King speeding through his next novel, it’s not entirely a bad thing.
He Banned His Own Book
Rage was a book that Stephen King wrote way back in the '70s under the name Richard Bachman. The story followed a troubled teenager who brought a gun to school and killed his teachers. Actual school shootings didn’t start cropping up until the '80s and '90s, so publishers let it go to print.
After several school shooters were connected to the book, including a senior in high school who took 30 classmates hostage and told authorities that the book was one of his sources of inspiration for the act, King had it pulled from publication. He also wrote an anti-gun violence essay in 2013 titled Guns and has been an outspoken gun control advocate since.
While most of King's work was successful and well-received, it’s no secret that he’s had a few flops as well. Beyond bad movies like Maximum Overdrive — his own attempt at directing a movie — King also wrote a few musicals that flopped.
Ghosts starred Michael Jackson and came out in 1996. It was not critically well-received. He also did a musical with John Mellencamp titled Ghost Brothers of Darkland County in 2013 that faded into obscurity almost as soon as it came out.
350 Million Copies
King has sold over 350 million copies of his books, making him not just one of the most successful horror writers, but one of the most accomplished writers ever, period. His work has been professionally translated into 3,354 languages.
King is also one of the fastest writers around, producing almost 2,000 words every day. With that kind of output, he no doubt has quite a few more novels and short stories in him. Hats off to you, Mr. King!