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Happy birthday, Stephen King: Little-known facts about the author

books Updated: Sep 23, 2016 14:17 IST
Sneha Bengani
Sneha Bengani
Hindustan Times
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One of the most prolific writers of the modern times, Stephen King was born on September 21, 1947. (Facebook/Stephen King)

How well do you know Stephen King? Did you know that The Shawshank Redemption, one of the most loved movies of all time, is based on his 1982 novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption?

As he — the man who has made truth more palatable through his fiction — turns 69, it’s just the time to get to know him a little better.

Not just an author

Stephen King with actor Drew Barrymore. (Facebook/Stephen King)

Though mostly known for writing horror, supernatural and science fiction, King has done cameos in several film adaptations of his works. He has also directed and written the screenplay for the film, Maximum Overdrive, an adaptation of his short story, Trucks.

Early struggle

King participating in a protest rally in 1970, when he was a student at the University of Maine. Can you spot him? (Facebook/Stephen King)

King did not get a job immediately after graduating. Post college, he worked as a labourer at an industrial laundry, would sell his short stories to men’s magazines and depended on the student loan and savings of Tabitha Spruce, who he later married.

Getting published

The Glass Floor was the first short story that King was able to sell, in 1967.

Carrie, his first novel, was accepted by Doubleday & Co. for publication early in 1973, giving him the luxury to write full-time. Since then, in the last 43 years, he has authored more than 50 books.

Seasonal beard keeper

King in 1980. (Facebook/Stephen King)

The author is known to change his looks seasonally. According to his official website, “He sometimes wears his beard between the end of the World Series and the opening of baseball spring training in Florida.” He prefers to wear a moustache in other seasons.

The bespectacled man

He has been wearing glasses ever since he was a child. He suffers from a genetic disease, macular degeneration — an eye condition that progressively destroys the central portion of the retina as a person ages, impairing their central vision.

His pen name, Richard Bachman

Born Stephen Edwin King, he was the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. (Facebook/Stephen King)

King has written seven novels under his pen name Richard Bachman. He had a book by novelist Richard Stark on his table and was listening to Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive when he was asked by his publisher for a pen name over a phone call, which he coined instantly.

“I did that (write as Richard Bachman) because back in the early days of my career there was a feeling in the publishing business that one book a year was all the public would accept. It (having a pen name) made it possible for me to do two books in one year,” King says on his official website.

Not an atheist

Stephen King with his wife Tabitha King. (Facebook/Stephen King)

Unlike some other popular thinkers and authors, King is not an atheist. He was raised a Methodist. Though he does not attend church as he used to when he was young, he does believe in God and is known to read the Bible.

The dates at the end of his books

The dates that usually appear at the end of his books mark the dates when King finished writing them. In case there are two dates, they refer to when he began writing a book and when he finished it.

‘What if’

His last book, End of Watch, was published in June 2016. (Facebook/Stephen King)

Though King gets the ideas of his stories from almost anywhere, his plots mostly boil down to two things coming together in an interesting way. The one question — his favourite — that he explores in all his stories is: ‘What if?’

The author tweets at @sneha_bengani