KING OF HOR­ROR

Best-sell­ing au­thor sits down with his son Owen to chat about their new book, bed­time sto­ries and dough­nuts

24 Hours Vancouver - - FRONT PAGE - MARK DANIELL

At 70, Stephen King has his cre­ative foot firmly on the gas.

Af­ter wrap­ping his Bill Hodges Tril­ogy with last year’s End of Watch, the best­selling au­thor has had a pro­lific 2017 re­leas­ing Gwendy’s But­ton Box with Richard Chiz­mar and Sleep­ing Beau­ties, which he co-wrote with his son Owen.

Add to that, adap­ta­tions of It, The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, Mr. Mercedes and 1922 on the big and small screen, and you have a ma­jor resur­gence of the hor­ror-meis­ter, whose first book Car­rie re­cently turned 43.

In Toronto for the sec­ond­last night of an au­thor tour with Owen, King — sport­ing a T-shirt that read, “If you go home with some­body, and they don’t have books, don’t f--- ‘em!” (thanks John Wa­ters) — of­fered a snapshot into the process of col­lab­o­rat­ing on Sleep­ing Beau­ties, cur­rently top­ping best­seller lists na­tion­wide.

Backed by a sprawl­ing cast, the novel is a spine-tin­gling fan­tasy that con­jures a world­wide virus that finds women cov­ered in co­coon-like ten­drils af­ter they fall asleep. If the co­coon is re­moved, the women turn deadly vi­o­lent.

It’s an idea that first came to Owen, who also wrote Dou­ble Fea­ture and We’re All in This To­gether, when he be­came a fa­ther for the first time. “What if all the women in the world went to sleep and didn’t wake up? The re­sults would be hor­ri­ble. And my only ex­pla­na­tion is: I was sleep de­prived,” he quipped to a sold-out crowd at Toronto’s Ko­erner Hall.

Owen pitched dad, but ad­mit­ted he had to tread lightly.

“Peo­ple are al­ways telling him they have an idea,” he

laughed. “They’ll si­dle up to him in the bath­room and say, ‘Hey, I have an idea for your next book.’ ”

Thank­fully, dad liked Owen’s pitch, and they be­gan the process of writ­ing to­gether. But un­like King ’s pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tions with Peter Straub or Chiz­mar, the fa­ther-son pair ap­proached Sleep­ing Beau­ties like a ten­nis match, pass­ing the story back and forth af­ter they nailed down the ba­sic plot and their main char­ac­ters.

The end re­sult reads like a third per­son wrote it, Owen said.

Fa­ther and son took turns reading pas­sages from Sleep­ing Beau­ties, be­fore vol­ley­ing ques­tions back and forth be­tween them­selves and the crowd. Here’s some of what we learned:

THE BEST AD­VICE STEPHEN KING EVER GOT CAME FROM A ROADIE: When King was on the road to pro­mote 1994’s In­som­nia, he toured the coun­try on a mo­tor­cy­cle and hired a roadie. The roadie told him two things, which King still re­mem­bers to this day: Al­ways wash your hands and al­ways know where your wal­let is.

SUR­PRISE, DAD DIDN’T READ THE KIDS SCARY BOOKS BE­FORE BED: “You and Joe (Owen’s brother) al­ways made me read you those Richard Scarry books,” King told the au­di­ence. “F--- off and go to bed, that’s what I wanted to say!”

AS A MAT­TER OF FACT, THEY DO HAVE A FAVOURITE KIND OF DOUGH­NUT: Owen likes co­conut, while dad is par­tial to the clas­sic glazed ones. “The kind that get on your fin­gers,” King said.

DAD RE­CALLS FIRESTARTER PRETTY WELL: Through­out the tour, Owen has been quizzing his fa­ther on some of his pre­vi­ous books. In Toronto, he chose 1980’s Firestarter. King scored three out of four. The ques­tion he got wrong? Who was head of the gov­ern­ment agency, The Shop. “F---ed if I know,” King quipped.

BLOW­ING UP PEO­PLE IS A GOOD WAY TO KEEP THE PLOT MOV­ING: King re­counted writ­ing his epic fan­tasy The Stand telling the au­di­ence, “I was on fire, but half­way through I slowed down.” King ’s plot had be­come bogged down with scenes dom­i­nated by meet­ings and com­mit­tees. So what did he do? “I blew a bunch of them up. Af­ter that it was easy.”

TALK ABOUT A LEGACY: King was asked what it was like to have crafted such a rich lit­er­ary his­tory. But the au­thor wasn’t sure what his long-last­ing im­pact will be. “I don’t think any­one knows some­thing is go­ing to en­dure un­til 50 years af­ter they’re gone. To me, I’ll be gone and if there’s noth­ing I won’t know... there’s no way of telling.”

GETTY IM­AGES

SCOTT EISEN/ GETTY IM­AGES

Hor­ror-meis­ter Stephen King and his younger son, Owen King (in­set), cowrote their first novel, Sleep­ing Beau­ties.

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