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Interview von Joseph B. Mauceri mit Stephen King

The question is, how do you write an introduction to a Stephen King interview?

You could mention the fact that since 1973 he has published some forty books, which include novels, collections of short stories and a six-part chapbook series. You could talk about his alter-ego, Richard Bachman, the books he published under that name and all the issues concerning the creation of the pseudonym. Even if you devoted vast volumes to those literary subjects, you'd fail to scratch the surface of his other special, limited, rare, introductions and literary comments he's written.

You could writes tomes in relation to the author and the entertainment industry. You'd then have to talk about his work as a director, screenwriter, executive producer and actor.

You could talk the radio station he owns in Bangor, Maine. You could talk about the rock band he plays in. You might ask him about his literary wife, Tabatha, his three children and life in Maine. Then again you might want to ask him about himself, but for your own safety please don't ask, "So, what scares Stephen King?"

There is so much that could be said, and so much that has been said. In a cover story for Time Magazine he was referred to as "King, Inc." While that maybe the case, it couldn't be farther from the truth. Often put off by his ascorbic sense of humor, those who are allowed to see the man behind the mask find a compassionate, witty and intelligent, if not at times opinionated, man. There was a troubled time in his life when King seemed to retreat to a tower of melancholy and solitude. In fact, he claimed that he would not write or publish anything for years. However, he could not escape his nature. Stephen King is a writer. He's introduced us to numerous memorable characters, taken us on a vast number of trips into the other, darker side of human nature and I'm sure he's scared a few of us on the way.

A gracious host, Mr. King made some time in a extremely busy schedule to talk about some of things he's been working on recently.

Joseph B. Mauceri: I've heard that THE REGULATORS resulted from a conversation you had with Sam Peckinpah. Having read the novel, I can understand how some people can make those assumptions. What is the story behind the book and your meeting with Sam?

Stephen King: The truth is I had a screenplay long before I met Sam, which was towards the end of his life. We talked at the U.N. Plaza, and Kurby MaCally was there because he had set up the meeting. Sam was looking for a picture to make and I had this screenplay that was called "The Shotgunners," which I had for a long time and went back something like five years. It was one of these feverous things that I'd written in about a week. I really like it but there was not interest in it. Sam read it, liked it a lot and suggested some things for the script that were really interesting. I thought that I could go back and do a second draft. Unfortunately, Sam died about three months later and I never worked on the script. Later on I had this other idea and I started to see a way that a number of different things could be put together. That's sometimes what I think writing a novel is all about. It's this synthesis of these ideas where you see how everything links together and you say to yourself, "Yeah, I can do that."

Joseph B. Mauceri: That's interesting, because as you read THE REGULATORS and DESPERATION you get an understanding of that process. Given the time frame between both novels, it brought to mind a discussion I had in a literature class. We were talking about Mark Twain and how as a young man he had wrote a passage in his diary about his father which illustrated a change in his mind when he again wrote about his father several years later. In THE REGULATORS and DESPERATION you combine numerous elements which are similar, yet narrate two distinct stories. I feel that in this instance, more so then when you went back and did some reediting of The Stand, there is a chance to examine your evolution as a writer and changes in your mind set.

Stephen King: (Laughing) I use to have these activity books that I played with on rainy days when I was a kid. They had this trick where you could get an interesting look at your face, a different look of your face, by placing a mirror perpendicular to half of your face. It makes a reflection that is a whole face. In away that is what THE REGULATORS and DESPERATION are. Obviously, I'm Richard Bachman, and when I write as Richard Bachman it opens this part of my mind. It's like this hypnotic suggestion where I become my idea of who Richard Bachman is. It frees me to be somebody who is a little bit different. In away THE REGULATORS and DESPERATION are really different books, however what makes them interesting isn't the differences but the similarities.

Joseph B. Mauceri: It seems to me that there is this subtle change in the tone of your novels. In your earlier works your "heroes" go through these struggles where by this "goodness" within them is able to overcome and defeat evil. In THE REGULATORS Seth finds within himself the power to overcome Tak, regardless of the sacrifice he must make. In DESPERATION, and also something we see in The Green Mile series, there is the presence of good, namely God, interacting with David and John to bring about the fall of evil. I am curious to know why you've placed the existence of God into the foreground of your recent work?

Stephen King: I think he's always been there. Of course there's God in THE REGULATORS too, it's just television. God is different in different books because it depends on the people you're writing about. I don't see myself as God's stenographer. As someone who believes in God, believes that God is a logical out growth of the fact that life fits together as well as it does, but that doesn't mean that we know God's mind. That's not to say that the idea of religion is a good thing, because we can see that it's a bad thing. The idea of using God as a character in DESPERATION was sought of what made the book go. I was thinking to myself that I had read so many books that are about EVIL! For example, one of the characters will say, "There is something `EVIL' in this town!" They root out the vampires and they use the garlic and the crosses, which I've done myself. I'm not trying to set myself up as someone who's better. I think it's all like kryptonite, all the trappings of religion are like kryptonite. I thought to myself, "What if you treat God and the accouterments of God with as much belief, awe and detail as novelists do the "EVIL" part of it. I set out to do that and the reaction has been interesting from the community. There's been a lot of criticism of the book where they say the God stuff really turns them off. I'm thinking to myself that these guys have no problems with vampires, demons, golems, werewolves and you name it. If you try to bring in a God who can take sardines and crackers and turn it into loaves and fishes, then these people have a problem. I say to myself, if you have a real problem then I'm doing what a novel of suspense and horror is supposed to do, which is to just scratch below the surface and sought of rub your nerves the wrong way.

Joseph B. Mauceri: I agree, and I feel one of the things horror writers don't do, which you did with God in DESPERATION, is to show him as the vengeful God, as in the Old Testament. It's that deal God makes where if you want me to do something for you, then you're gonna have to do something for me, like sacrifice your first born son.

Stephen King: Traditionally that's the deal with God, and the Devil as well. When you make a deal with the Devil you give him your soul. So it's not like I'm doing something for you out of the goodness of my heart.

Joseph B. Mauceri: I read a review of THE REGULATORS in a horror magazine where the reviewer began by saying, "This is the best book you've written, and the worst you've written." I can understand when a literary publication is critical of anyone's work. However, I get this impression that the speciality publications seem to be intimidated by your success and often hold back when reviewing your work. That may even extend itself into other publications where the reviewers are fans. Do you perceive that to be the case with your current works?

Stephen King: I really don't know. I think on the whole I've been treated fairly. You do get a certain amount of dismissiveness, particularly more and more from what I think of as the straight press. You get people who don't understand the genre you're coming out of. They wilfully won't understand what you're up to, and will not give you points. You can do everything right, and still end up getting your contracts reviewed, instead of the work. There really seems to be a prejudice against storytelling, as opposed to literary grandstanding. I hate that.

Joseph B. Mauceri: There's been some distressing news coming out of the publishing industry. Many houses are dropping their mid-list horror lines. If the trend continues, we'll be left with Peter Straub, Clive Barker, F Paul Wilson, Dean Koontz and yourself. As both a writer and fan of the genre how do you feel about what's happening, and is there a cure?

Stephen King: A lot of the stuff that got published from the mid-eighties to the nineties was real shit. It deserves to be closed out. This is not the fault of the writers, it's always the fault of the publishers who extend contracts, especially when they're fairly lucrative ones, for bad writing that should fly as paperback originals, and most of it not even as that. Bad drives out good, and eventually the publishers look around and say, "This stuff isn't selling." You and I both know that what isn't selling is crap.It's what never sold. Sooner or later some time will go by and a "Green Mile" will come along or a DESPERATION, or The Exorcist, or a Rosemary's Baby and then all these "know-nothings" will turn around and go, "Oh, horror is hot!" Then they'll start buying the bad novels again.

Joseph B. Mauceri: As the boom is now going on in the young adult horror fiction market, which was created in the wake of R.L. Stein's "Goosebumps" series success.

Stephen King: Exactly!

Joseph B. Mauceri: Let's talk about your television project, THE SHINING. There had been talk, and you know how "they" can talk, that Kubrick didn't want to relinquish the rights to the novel. So how did this mini-series come about?

Stephen King: It came about really easily. I'd been involved with ABC television on a hands on basis with "The Stand." That happened because they had a bunch of other mini-series, which I had not been involved with, that had been successful. "The Stand" was successful, enough so that they asked me what I wanted to do next. I thought to myself that these guys were giving me a blank check, the key to the doorway and there's billions of viewers out there. I told them that I'd like to remake "The Shining" into a mini-series, in a six hour format. They thought it was interesting and wanted to see what we could do. There's a guy at Creative Artists by the name of Bill Haber, who's since retired, and he was their chief TV honcho. He went to Warner Brothers and talked to them, and Warner Brothers went to Kubrick and eventually things started to fall together. I wrote the script and ABC never asked for a single change. We went right from first draft script to production. I think that's amazing.

Joseph B. Mauceri: Television is a different beast then films. It requires a different pacing, allowances for commercial breaks and there are certain things you can't do because of "Standards & Practices." What were you looking to do in translating it to the medium of television, and what did you find particularly challenging about the format?

Stephen King: Obviously, I wanted to push the envelope. It's difficult for movies to adapt books because a book can occupy a space in a readers mind, which could be a week to a month long. I think you know what I'm saying. You pick up a book and put it down, you pick it up and put it down, etc. Television can replicate that experience over a number of nights. Having done "The Stand" and being in a position where ABC wanted to do something scary, I wanted to push the envelope. I'd worked enough with them that I felt confident enough that they would let me do just that. What I tried to do was stay in the bounds of what would be a gray area. I think the ABC censors understood that we were in an area just in between where they could say, "This is okay" or "Absolutely, not!" The only place I ran into problems, where they said absolutely not, was a point where Jack Torrance says to his wive, " Wendy, I'm sorry that I did that but I have to do my job" and she walks over to him and says, "Take your job and stick it up your ass!" I fought to keep that line in there. The word ass is not an unknown word now on network television. However, there was something about the contemplated action, the visualisation of taking a job and sticking it up one's ass that really bothered them and I couldn't get around it. She ended up saying, "Take this job and stick it!" We also had a number of problems with them in terms of the violence between a man and his wife. The last hour of the show is very harrowing. He's chasing her, she's trying to protect the kid and he's got a mallet which he's hitting her with it, and hitting her and hitting her. In the movie he was hit once but she wasn't. One of the things you kind of ignored, because it was such a big thing and always present, is the issue of children in jeopardy. Supposedly, there is this thing on all networks where you can't put a child in jeopardy. I think that after their experience with THE SHINING, where Danny Torrance is in jeopardy from the first minute of the show, that their attitude is now you can't put a child in jeopardy before nine o'clock.

Joseph B. Mauceri: I talked with Mick Garris. He mentioned that from his experiences of working on mini-series and film, that film is the medium for the short story or novella and television is the medium for the novel.

Stephen King: That's really interesting and astute that Mick would say that. He's a really smart guy and I've never heard express it that way before. There are so many people at the top level in television that are not very bright. I'm working with some people at ABC that are bright, and even they don't seem to understand the potential of TV to create. I want to do one more of these things. I might do a six to eight hour mini-series for ABC called "Storm of the Century," but I haven't begun to write the script yet. It's an original idea, and I see it as much as an original novel as say "The Green Mile," but it's just a different venue for it. I see that as the logical culmination of all this business. I don't want to go on forever and become ABC's version of Danielle Steel. However, I would like to do one more and have it be an original. All they can see are adaptations of finished novels, preferably historicals, romances or horror stories, or they see this thin that is open ended so you can do a series. This way you can continue to milk the money machine. I talked with ABC at one point about doing a one season series, that would be on one hour a week, the way "Rich Man, Poor Man" was done. It would start at the beginning and at the end of the season it would finish, it would be over and that would be the end. They just kind of looked at me and nobody said, to their credit, "Well, we're stuck with it if the thing is a flop!" What they did say was, "What if it's successful?" It was like they couldn't bare to let this child out of the child labor camp if he could still turn out a few more things for them. I told them that if it is successful then you do the same thing again next season with a different story, the same way any novelist does it. They just don't get it.

Joseph B. Mauceri: And that's the shame of it. They take a popular series and milk it until the public becomes tired of it and then they discard it.

Stephen King: I can't ever see myself trying to adapt another novel of mine for theatrical. It's just too hard, and too easy to muck up.

Joseph B. Mauceri: You've had this wonderful, long term working relationship with Richard Rubinstein, Mitchell Galin, and director Mick Garris. When I was talking with Mick he mentioned that you guys might do a feature film of DESPERATION, if goes on to make a non-King feature first.

Stephen King: I think Mick needs to go out and do the auteur thing. He's got one script called "Jimmy Miracle" that would make a really great movie, although I don't know how commercial it would be. It's about a faith healer and I think that's what he should do. He's also got a number of other projects he's working on. The trouble is, Mick is persuadable sometimes, when he shouldn't be persuaded, by people who aren't looking out for his best interests. At this point, the worst thing he could do is another Stephen King project first. He should not be the guy who interprets what I do, he should be the guy who interprets what he does. The money is obviously better then working in a mill, but Mick is one the most underpaid resources in Hollywood right now. He deserves a better shot at the "A" list.

Joseph B. Mauceri: There are several other projects rolling. Mark Pavia, a very talented young director, is at the helm of "Night Flier," which is being produced by Richard and Mitch. Have you seen anything on that film yet?

Stephen King: I've seen a rough cut. They keep promising me they're going to show me a second cut, but they haven't yet. I think it's wonderful, in a way that the movies have integrally missed with my work. This is like "Dawn of the Dead." It really goes beyond the limits and renders discussions of "good taste" meaningless. I don't feel that right now it's a ratable picture, other than "NC-17" and I'd love to see it stay that way. Miguel Ferrer is very good. The thing about the film is that it starts off as something you recognize as relatively normal, that's to fans of the horror genre. There is situation comedy, which is two ladies and a "blow -dried" guy in an apartment, in some unnamed city. Then there is situation horror, which is where people are being killed and someone goes out to investigate. We're familiar with the situation, and little by little it starts to twist out of shape. We end up with is this forty minute climax which is hellish! It's hard to look at, but at the same time it's hard to look away. That's the way "Dawn of the Dead" was for me. I think it's a really interesting picture. It's rough, and there are certain places you come across n the script where you say to yourself, "Gosh, they've left no cliche unturned!" Visually it's fierce, original and I think Mark is a really talent guy.

Joseph B. Mauceri: And he's very enthusiastic about the genre, which is refreshing!

Stephen King: It really is. He's unashamed about it and there's none of this kvetching about, "Oh, this really isn't a horror picture!" As far as Mark is concerned, this is a horror picture. That's a relief.

Joseph B. Mauceri: I guess the last projects I should ask you about are Frank Darabont and "The Mist," and the next installment of the Roland the gunslinger series "The Dark Tower IV."

Stephen King: Frank's next project is "The Green Mile." As far as "The Mist," it's very much alive. Frank and I have talked a lot about it. Right now I think, and he thinks, that there has to be an ending that works in terms of the story, but that will also please people in Hollywood, who are really uncomfortable with the way the story ends. It just sought of trails off into the mist. No one is necessarily looking for a sugary ending, but what I think they're looking for is some real closure, which the story doesn't provide. That's where we are on that. As far as "The Green Mile" goes, I told Frank about the idea for the story before the first part was published and while I was still working on it. He was really excited by it and I told him I'd send him the parts. I told him that if he like it could he do it. He was very cautious and said, "Well, let me read it." Well he loves it and wants to do it. He jokes and says that he's now carving out the world's smallest film niche, which is a maker of Stephen King prison stories set in the 50's. There isn't a script yet and the negotiations are ongoing. As far as I'm concerned, it's Frank's for the doing and nobody else's. "Wizard and Glass" is finally done. It's a long book, and the manuscript I turned in was 1500 pages long. I think it's good and I know it's over due. I've been getting more and more mail from pissed off fans saying, "You know, these people have been on this frigg'en train for about five years now. You ever going to finish this story?" The worst one was from this lady who said she really loved the stories, a grandmother of seventy-three with Parkinson's disease, and she had this fear that she was going to die before I finished the story. She was hoping I'd write one more before I she got to feeble to read them.

Joseph B. Mauceri: Shirley mentioned you were off working on another novel. When will we see that?

Stephen King: I don't know (sigh). Right now I'm just taking it day by day. I agreed to do a story for Robert Silverberg who is doing this collection called "Legends; The Book of Fantasy." He got a whole bunch people who write fantasy type material to do original stories for it. He's really buzzed because he got Robert Jordan, who never does short stories, to do one based on those "Wheel of Time" novels he does. I believe he got Anne Rice to do one. In a moment of weakness I agreed to do a Gunslinger novella for the book. I've been thinking about it, and that's really the next thing I have to deal with.

Quelle: The World of Fandom.

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