IT

Stephen King is a master craftsman. Every time I pick up one of his books I’m sucked into the story, turning page after page with ravenous curiosity, I must know what happens next.

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“IT” is no exception. It took me a little longer to actually fall into the story on this one, but around 150 pages or so, I completely forgot I was reading. I became part of the story.

This book takes focus on a group of friends in Derry, Maine, and the experiences they have together. During the book, there has been a recent bout of child murders, and while all the parents are being cautious, all the kids just want to have fun.

I just finished the series “Stranger Things,” and though not written by Stephen King, to the best of my knowledge, the whole time I was watching the Netflix show I just couldn’t help but think “this is right out of a Stephen King book.” When asked how to describe Stranger Things to people, I first ask them if they have read IT, and if they have, I tell them it’s just like IT, but without clowns, and no grown up side to the story.

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The story takes place on two timelines, one when the group are still children, and then another when they all return to the place they all tried to forget. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for all things sci-fi, and without giving anything away, this book took a turn I did not expect. I was not in the least bit disappointed.

Side note – A much younger coworker was talking to me about Stranger Things over the weekend, King’s IT came to mind, and that’s where I first realized how similar the stories were. Case in point, if you fell in love with Stranger Things, and haven’t read IT, chances are you’re highly capable of falling for IT.

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Finding My Way

I fell in love with everything science fiction and horror at an early age. My first memory encountering these genre’s occurred during a family trip (my mom, my sister, and I) to visit my grandmom in Atlanta. It was a six hour trip from our house to hers, and on this particular trip my mom decided to introduce us to Ray Bradbury‘s “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed.” I don’t know if my mom was trying to change my life, or if she was just sick of me and my sister arguing, but that tape brought quiet to the car either way. I felt like I was actually on Mars watching the story unfold. I don’t remember much else from that trip besides being in awe for a few hours, not thinking for a second about the passing miles under our feet. Before I knew it we were in Atlanta, and all I did know was that I wanted more of this peculiar feeling that this sci-fi recording had given me.

As for the horror, we got a taste for that on the return trip in the form of a 1946 radio show called “Suspense.” My mom owned the whole set of old tapes, and I couldn’t be more thankful. On this week’s episode of Suspense was a story called “The House In Cypress Canyon,” a story written by Robert L. Richards about a couple moving into a new house on the edge of a canyon. There are many things off about this house, and during the story the couple gets quite acquainted with these oddities. At two or three particular parts during the tape, I remember actually screaming because of the intense volume change where the suspense is broken. My heart was racing, and again I felt as if I were actually in this house and the story itself was happening to me, I was terrified, and loving it.

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My ideal dinner dates

It wasn’t long after this trip to Atlanta and back that I picked up my first “scary” book, whatever you call horror for kids. Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine, stole the show. I wasn’t one of the kids who could just read for thirty minutes and put a book down, I would sit for hours, and start to finish a book, given the series was easy to read, and rather short. After flying through the Goosebumps books, I don’t think I read for a while. I believe I was going into middle school at this point, and sports, friends, and girls were taking over most of my daylight hours. At night I had to do homework, and was forced to read things I absolutely hated. I think school negatively affected my reading for a good while after elementary school.

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What i felt like being forced to read

Required readings would be the death of me. I can’t explain how much I hated doing things I didn’t want to as a child. Every summer I had a list of books I was to read, they might as well have been different types of torture I had to endure. Sure, I read the books, but I didn’t retain anything, my senses weren’t alive while reading. I was a zombie whose eyes were just reading back and forth and up and down across pages. I don’t think I started really reading again until maybe eighth or ninth grade when two of our required readings were Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and 1984, by George Orwell. I fell in love with reading all over again. While reading Of Mice and Men, I found myself in tears, an event I didn’t think was possible whilst reading, and 1984 just completely blew my mind. I was old enough at this point to realize that these were just stories people dreamed up, and I was actually thankful that they were required readings, otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve gotten to them on my own. Reading was once again something I could see myself doing in my free time.

I started reading the Resident Evil books, by S.D. Perry. I loved the way Perry described the world, the monsters, and the way the suspense drove you onward as a reader. However, this stretch of reading didn’t last too long. Skateboarding and girls had taken over my life. Required readings were once again the bane of my existence.

It wouldn’t be until I was in my mid-twenties that I would start, and continue to read in my free time. I have my mom to thank for this new uptick in reading. She recommended I read some Greg Iles books. I hadn’t read a book from cover to cover since dropping out of college (for the second time at this point), and figured I’d give it another go. I started reading The Devil’s Punch Bowl, the first crime thriller I ever read, and I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t get enough Penn Cage, the main character in a good few of Iles’s books. Iles quickly became my favorite author, and Penn Cage my favorite character.

My second favorite author, the author of my favorite book, This Book is Full of Spiders, is David Wong. This book, along with John Die’s at the End, made me laugh out loud multiple times while keeping me mesmerized by his storytelling. If you haven’t read either one, I highly recommend them, John Die’s at the End is the first in the supposed trilogy (the third hasn’t come out yet), and Spiders the second.

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The first in the trilogy

Stephen King is unquestionably my third favorite author, and I believe my writing style is most influenced by him. I would read myself off a cliff if he so wrote me there.

I’m currently reading End of Watch, by King, the third in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.

I’m patiently waiting for the third book in the Natchez Burning trilogy “Mississippi Blood,” to come out. And, am also patiently awaiting for David Wong to come out with the final book in the John Die’s at the End trilogy. I can’t wait any longer!

If you’re interested in any of the readings mentioned you can find more information on them  below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Dark They Were and Golden Eyed

The House in Cypress Canyon

Goosebumps

Resident Evil

Of Mice and Men

1984

Natchez Burning trilogy

John Die’s at the End

Mr. Mercedes trilogy

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The King and I

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The Master Himself

Stephen King has written over fifty best-sellers in his time as an author, and while he’s renowned for his fiction, one of my favorite books he has written is the non-fiction book titled On Writing. The first part of the book is about how he came to be a writer, while the second half goes on to talk about the actual craft of writing.

The first half of the book provides stories of his childhood, stories of his mishaps in high school, stories of his entrance into the writing world, emotional stories of success, and most importantly, stories of the things he learned the most from; failures.

When King turned in his first newspaper article to John Gould, the editor of the paper in Lisbon, upon editing Stephens draft, John says to Stephen:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,” he said. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

I thought that was a beautiful way to look at writing fiction; as two people doing one job. It makes the process seem like teamwork, when all you’re doing is writing things the voice in your head is saying, but when said the way Gould puts it, makes it seem like something greater. King speaks more on Gould here, where he also brings up the “Village vomit,” a newspaper he wrote himself that would wind up getting himself into trouble in school. I found this early failure quite entertaining.

This book doesn’t spend long on grammar, surprising for a book on writing right? King breaks down writing with a metaphorical toolbox that all writers should have. In this toolbox, every writer should have at least three shelves, and only the first consist of grammar and vocabulary. I like this because I have been out of school for over five years, and I haven’t taken an English class in about ten. So, while I can write a sentence that can be easily understood, I can no longer break apart and define each part of this sentence as I once could’ve. In short, quick and painless was the section of grammar.

King goes on to describe his schedule, something I desperately need to boost my writing consistency. He says that when he is writing, he is writing every day, and sets a goal of at least 2,000 words, and the door he shuts when entering his writing room doesn’t reopen until those words have hit the page in their entirety.

“If I don’t write everyday, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.”

I’ve started multiple stories that I haven’t finished, and I believe this quote explains why. My characters have staled, they have become stories, and I am unable to tell myself the story because the story is no longer real to me. Consistency has always been a problem for me mostly because my schedule changes by the week: Some weeks I’ll work all mornings, and some weeks I won’t get off work until midnight or later. So finding a concrete time to write, as Stephen recommends, presents a problem.

The piece of advise I find most helpful is about writing what you know. It’s something I’ve always done because it flows the easiest, things don’t seem forced, and I can sit back and tell myself the story.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is actively pursuing a career in writing. It breaks down a schedule for you to follow, gives you vital information on writing and getting into the world of selling, and is an amazing insight into the early life of Stephen King.

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