What makes Stephen King a good writer

Literature: How Stephen King Learned to Love Horror

He never really got to like Carrie, writes bestselling author Stephen King. But he had known girls who were like her. You were in high school, where he taught when he was in your mid-twenties. Jesus cried on the cross on the wall of their room at home, and day after day they wore the same clothes to school: "Their classmates hated them. They were everything they were afraid of."

In "Carrie" a tortured teenager uses his telekinetic powers to burn down an entire small town: great cinema in the head, great film. With "Carrie" Brian de Palma made his breakthrough as a director in 1976. Stephen King was already a star by then.

He knew his wife before the success

Gone are the days of the caravan without a phone in which the English teacher King lived with his family of four. In 1973, with his first novel sold, King entered the world of mega-sellers, which did not decrease after "Carrie". "It's not about how you become a writer," says King firmly. "It's about how you stay a writer."

"Carrie" was the entry of horror into mass literature, an achievement from which many authors after King profited, and which his predecessors only partially credit him. "His breakthrough was a lucky coincidence," says horror veteran Harlan Ellison, one of King's role models. "It was this shower scene in which Carrie began to menstruate and the other girls laughed at her. Suddenly everyone was talking about this brilliant young writer. But actually they meant that scene."


34 years have passed since then. Stephen King will be 60 years old on September 21st. He's published around 50 novels and roughly twice as many short stories, starred in films, and stopped taking drugs and bought a mansion in Maine with iron Batman bats flying over the front gate. Eight years ago he was the victim of a serious accident, he recovered and continued to write bestsellers. His books have sold over the counter 200 million times worldwide. He is still married to the woman he shared the trailer with before "Carrie", Tabitha King, also a writer.

King is on the list of "tastemakers"

Anyone looking for Stephen King's books in local libraries - King is the classic library author - will find him in the fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, crime and youth literature departments. In the branches of the Hamburg public library, King is represented 187 times and in nine languages, compared, as an example, with 116 books by G√ľnter Grass. In search of easy beach reading, there is no getting around the Maine Scary Master.

Anyone who is so successful is often objected that they cannot be a particularly valuable writer. But on the Forbes list of ten literary "Tastemakers" from 2007, King and his novel "Love" are next to authors such as Houellebecq, Updike and Alice Munro. And at the same time as "Love" he released "Cell" in 2006, for those horror fans who didn't particularly like the other book.

"I'm always looking for ways to keep my writing fresh and interesting for myself," explains King in the preface to "In the Cabinet of Death". He owes that to himself and his readers. "We're at the exit together. We should have fun. We should dance!"

Scare games like teenagers

And immediately afterwards he recommends his dance partners not only to buy his story collection - "probably another bestseller. I'm lucky in that regard" - but also that of a lesser-known author. Because reading short stories is one of the nicest things he knows.