Web extra: Stephen King on storytelling

The horror writer and executive producer of "Under the Dome" takes Anthony Mason on a tour of the set, and talks about his love of movies.

(CBS News) Under his own name or pseudonyms, Stephen King has authored dozens of books since the early 1970s, mostly tales of horror, fantasy and the macabre, or of characters oddly out-of-place with their environments.

In this web-exclusive, extended interview with correspondent Anthony Mason, King talks about his writing process; the existence of evil; revisiting the characters of his classic, "The Shining," in a forthcoming sequel; and the aftermath of the 1999 accident in which King was seriously injured, struck on a North Lovell, Me., street by a minivan whose driver has become distracted by his dog. [King underwent five operations; the driver pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor driving-to-endanger charge and received a six-month suspended jail sentence. King subsequently bought the minivan with the intention of taking a sledgehammer to it.]

Stephen King and his compulsion to write


MASON: "How is your health? You look great. I mean, are there any residual effects from [the accident]?"

KING: "Well, thank you. I'm glad that I look great. Yeah. I mean, I limp on that side. There's a lot of metal and screws and things in there. And I have the ordinary aches and pains that anybody has when they're in their mid-60s. But on the whole, grace of God, I've been pretty darn lucky. So I feel good most of the time."

MASON: "Yeah. So that's the one sort of lingering effect, the limp."

KING: "Uh-huh. And there's pain. But it's manageable, and it's not a horrible thing to live with. I'm used to it. So it's just there."

MASON: "So you don't really think about it much anymore."

KING: "No. "

MASON: "Well, that's good. I love what John Leonard, who used to work for our show, said about you once: He called you 'Walt Disney's evil twin.' Do you feel like that?"

KING: "Yes, I do feel a little bit like Walt Disney's evil twin!"

MASON: "You do?"

KING: "After all, I'm the guy who invented the clown that eats children instead of, you know, making them laugh. In fact, I have an amusement park book called 'Joy Land' that's going to come out in June, and it's got a haunted house, if you will, the fun house. So I'd have to say I've created some dark rides, so, sure. And don't forget, Disney had his Stephen King side -- he was the guy who gave us the forest fire that scared all those children when they went to see 'Bambi.' And there's the Evil Queen in 'Snow White.' And Walt Disney also killed off Old Yeller! (laughs) So, yeah, I would say that there's a certain similarity there."

MASON: "Do you believe in evil?"

KING: "Yeah. I do. I think the real question is where it comes from, whether there's an outside evil. If you take a movie like 'The Exorcist,' there's something comforting about the idea that that little girl pushed the movie director out of the window and killed him because she was inhabited by the demon, Pazuzu.

"It's a little less comforting to look at the guys who hijacked those airliners and drove them into the World Trade Center when you say, 'Well, there weren't demons involved with that, but there was this crazy idea of religion.' So I've always wrestled with the idea of inside evil vs. outside evil.

"And a good example of that is Adolf Hitler -- where did he come from, and how much of what he had just sort of infected the German people for a period of time. How do you deal with evil like that, on a scale like that? So it's a valid question. But I do believe in evil."

The cover of Stephen King's horror novel, "The Shining," first published in 1977.
Signet
MASON: "We talked about 'The Shining' before. You've been working on a sequel?"

KING: "I have. It's called 'Doctor Sleep,' and it'll be out in the fall. Danny Torrance, the little boy from 'The Shining,' and his mother survive in the [original] novel. And I always wondered what happened to that kid, because he came from the original dysfunctional family, you know?

"His father's an alcoholic and an abuser. And a lot of times kids like that grow up to have a very difficult life. And then you throw in the idea of this talent, the shining, the ability to read thoughts and find lost things, and I thought, I'd like to kind of follow this kid and see what happened to him. I got asked a lot, when I went to autographings, like, 'What ever happened to Danny Torrance from "The Shining"?' So people were curious about that, and I thought, Let's go back and investigate him and see what he's doing in his mid-30s.

" I'd be driving in my car and I'd think, Well, now Danny Torrance is 23. And then a few years later I think, He's 27, or he's 28. So question was, what exactly is he doing?

"That's the sort of thing where it's, like, half an idea - okay, he's dysfunctional, he's alcoholic, the way that his father was an alcoholic. But it's only half an idea.

"And then I saw this thing -- it might have been on CBS, but probably it was on NBC because they're the ones who feature the stories about the cute animals and that sort of thing on their news -- about a cat in a hospice, and this cat knew when patients were going to die. And the cat would go into their room and jump up on their bed. And that's how the personnel in the hospice knew that that patient was going to be the next one to step out."


[EDITOR'S NOTE: Hey, CBS features cute animal stories, too, such as Richard Schlesinger's 2007 "CBS Evening News" story about Oscar the cat, whose sixth sense for predicting patient deaths at a Providence, R.I., nursing home was described in the New England Journal of Medicine.]


KING: "And what really interested me about the story wasn't the cat, per se, but the fact that the patients seemed to welcome his visit. And I thought, Well, he's like an angel of death or an emissary of death, and maybe death isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's only sleep. And I put those two things together and for me it clicked. So I wrote the book."

MASON: "Uh-huh. And so you were just waiting for something to click on it?"

KING: "It has to click. There has to be, like, two or three moving parts to make it go. It can't just be one. So sometimes they all come together, and sometimes you'll get one piece and you have to wait a little while to get the rest. "

MASON: "Do you wait, or do you try to work it?"

KING: "Never try to work it, just wait."

MASON: "Why? 'Cause that forces it?"

KING: "Yeah. It's like if you have a piece of furniture that you want to get into your house. And if it's too big to fit the door straight on, you have your choice: either you can wait until you get somebody to help you and tilt that piece of furniture so that it goes through, or you can just ram it and scrape the sides up. So you don't try to force it. It's a little bit like a batter at the plate; if you try to force base hits, you're going to strike out a lot. So I have a tendency to wait until I get the pieces together."

MASON: "Have you ever abandoned a book?"

KING: "Oh, yeah. I work in a very ineffective way. A corporation would fire me! Because if I get an idea, I will sit down. As soon as the pieces seem to be in place, I'll start to write it. And a lot of times it just won't come up.

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