On Stephen King


26 July 2010

Writers write from experience. They also generally make up a whole bunch of stuff which is ironed into truth through extensive research. They are also inspired by other writers.

When I was a kid, let’s say around that awkward and impressionable age of thirteen, my parents didn’t have much of a budget for buying things on days that weren’t my birthday or Christmas. Especially not new books. I remember seeing a Terry Pratchett at Wordsworths and wanting it more than anything in the whole world. The cover was smooth and shiny, and the pages smelled new and crisp. My father said no straight away. His reasons: number one, it was too expensive, and number two, I’d read it once and never again.

I had a suitcase full of books left over from my childhood, one of those old brown square cases which contained a variety of Enid Blyton, The Munch Bunch, and the odd Nancy Drew given to me by various aunts and grandmothers, but I had no “grown up” books to read as I got older.

Other than the school library, which to me contained a collection as outdated as my own, I had no choice but to read what my parents read. I had to disregard any book my father owned immediately. He’s a big reader, but his taste leaves something to be desired. Almost every Sunday he’d lie in bed with his paperback Able Team, or The Destroyer, his eyes dancing across the pages like they were real page turners. If the Bourne books were around back then he’d have them too.

My mother, on the other hand, was a goldmine. She had a fanatical need to buy and swop second hand books at Tommy’s Book Exchange in Long Street, with the result that she owned practically every single Stephen King novel that was available at the time. King was my favourite.

I had a rope swing in the back yard, another relic from childhood, which was the perfect place to read. I’d perch on the rain-stained wooden seat (which my dad crafted himself); my arms hooked around the thick Fishermans rope, and gently rock back and forth while I escaped into King’s world.

I especially loved the novels which featured kids – Salem’s Lot, The Body (Different Seasons) and Apt Pupil (Different Seasons)

The adult characters in these novels are inconsequential (except in Salem’s Lot) and it’s the kids that undertake the journey to the end. What struck me the most about these books is how the characters lose their innocence during the story, how the horrors of their world force them to grow up too quickly, to make decisions they never should have had to make.

When I started writing my own stories I started exploring this theme myself. There are boxes filled with notebooks of early stories gathering dust at my parent’s house.
For a long time I scribbled about two kids who run away from home (which later morphed into Fuse but there was another story in my mind that was pushing to come out.

I never intentionally set out to write a young adult novel. In my mind, the teenage boys of The Goblet Club were natural choices. I wanted to write a book about lost innocence, the hard realities of life, how the wrong influences can lead to catastrophe. I wanted to write the type of book I was interested in reading, explore the themes that Stephen King explored in his books.

Like Dr Frankenstein I ended up creating little monsters. Mark, the spoiled little rich kid that commits murder, Trent, the villainous mastermind hellbent on revenge, Francis, a victim of his own self-destruction. In Fuse I breathed life into Justin, who chooses a life on the street rather than seeing his brother go to jail, and Craig, who dreams of killing his schoolmates.

I’ve grown comfortable with the young adult genre. So thank you Mr King, you may be a best-selling horror writer, but you opened my eyes to the world of youth literature.

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