Stephen King on Doctor Sleep's Origins, a Possible Movie Prequel to The Shining, His Legacy, and More
A few weeks ago EW released some teasers from its in-depth interview with Stephen King for Doctor Sleep (coming in September), and now they've published the whole thing. We have several highlights here.
Be sure to read to the end for word on an Easter egg in Doctor Sleep, and then hit the link at the bottom for the full article. There's a lot of good stuff there for King fans!
Doctor Sleep finds Dan Torrance as kind of a loner, working with terminally ill patients. His shining comes in very handy there, but what sparked you to the idea he would end up in a place like that?
Probably five years ago, I saw this piece on one of those morning news shows about a pet cat at a hospice, and according to this story the cat knew before anybody else when somebody was going to die. The cat would go into the room, curl up on the bed, and the people never seemed to mind. Then those people died. I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a story about that.’ And then I made the connection with Danny Torrance as an adult, working in a hospice. I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m gonna write this book.’
How will you judge whether you’ve succeeded?
Basically, the idea of the story was to try and scare the s–t out of people. [Laughs.] I said to myself, ‘Let me see if I can go and do that again.’ There’ve been a couple of books that haven’t really been that way. 11/22/63 was a lot of fun to write and a lot of people read it and seemed to like it, but it’s not what you’d call a balls to the wall scary story. The same was true of Under the Dome. I wanted to go back to that real creepy scary stuff. We’ll see if it works. I like the book, or I wouldn’t have ever wanted to publish it.
Doctor Sleep reveals that Danny became kind of a drifter as a younger man. Who is in his life now — besides the cat?
I wanted to bring a kid into the story to be his surrogate child. I don’t want to go any further with that [in the interview] because I don’t want to give anything away. She’s a little girl and her name is Abra. She’s named after the main female character in the John Steinbeck book East of Eden. I always sort of liked that name. I was able to create a kid character I thought was kind of a throwback to some of the kids that are in Pet Sematary, Salem’s Lot and It — stuff like that. It’s been a long time since I used kids as big characters in a book, so this was a chance to do that.
Having a child in Doctor Sleep seems like an important test for Danny. Having someone to protect — or not — would finally reveal whether he really is different from the dad he fears.
I knew if I did this sequel I’d have to try to put together some of the same elements, but at the same time I didn’t want to make it too similar. I didn’t want to make Danny a grown up with kids of his own, and try to replicate that whole losing-your-temper-because-you’re-drunk thing. But I did think to myself: ‘Not only alcoholism can be a family disease, but rage can be a family disease.’ You find that the guys who abuse their children were abused themselves as kids. That certainly fit Danny as I knew him.
Without getting into spoilers, the book has Danny and the girl being pursued by The True Knot, a kind of nomadic group of people who masquerade as Winnebago-riding old timers but feed off people who have psychic energy.
Driving back and forth from Maine to Florida, which I do twice a year, I’m always seeing all these recreational vehicles — the bounders in the Winnebagos. I always think to myself, ‘Who is in those things?’ You pass them a thousand times at rest stops. They’re always the ones wearing the shirts that say ‘God Does Not Deduct From a Lifespan Time Spent Fishing.’ They’re always lined up at the McDonald’s, slowing the whole line down. And I always thought to myself, ‘There’s something really sinister about those people because they’re so unobtrusive, yet so pervasive.’ I just wanted to use that. It would be the perfect way to travel around America and be unobtrusive if you were really some sort of awful creature.
There has recently been talk of a movie prequel to The Shining. It’s based on material cut from your novel, about the early history of the Overlook. Warner Bros, which made Kubrick’s film, has been exploring whether there’s another movie in it. How do you feel about that?
There’s a real question about whether or not they have the rights to ‘Before the Play,’ which was the prologue cut from the book — because the epilogue to the book was called ‘After the Play.’ So they were bookends, and there was really scary stuff in that prologue that wouldn’t make a bad movie. Am I eager to see that happen? No I am not. And there’s some real question about what rights Warner Bros. does still have. The Shining is such an old book now that the copyright comes back to me. Arguably, the film rights lapse — so we’ll see. We’re looking into that. I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’ I have a tendency to let people develop things. I’m always curious to see what will happen. But you know what? I would be just as happy if it didn’t happen.
Some follow-up novels are written by others after the original author has died... Do you ever feel: When I’m gone, that ain’t happening to me, pal? [What do you hope for] your legacy?
My kids will exert my wishes, and there won’t be anybody to come in and pick things up the way some people have picked up the James Bond books or the Bourne Identity books. I don’t want to see that happen to any of my books. Eventually, the copyrights will run out, and I’ll be in the public domain, but I’ll be long dead by then. People probably won’t even remember. [Laughs.]
Black House, the book you co-authored with Peter Straub, was a sequel to The Talisman. And you’ve written a couple short stories that follow previous books, so this isn’t totally alien territory for you. Most of your books are interconnected. Familiar characters and places tend to pop up. And The Dark Tower series wove everything together.
My son calls those things Easter eggs. There’s a little Salem’s Lot Easter egg in Doctor Sleep. I don’t know if anyone will spot it or not, but it’s there. All of the books kind of relate to other ones. The only exception is The Stand, where the whole world gets destroyed. I guess it’s sort of like Stephen King World, the malevolent version of Disney World, where everything fits together.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
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