Exclusive: Editor Charles Ardai Discusses Joyland, Working with Stephen King, and Producing the TV Show Haven
Stephen King's new novel, Joyland (review here), is set to release on June 4th, and we had a chance to chat with the book's editor, Charles Ardai.
Ardai, who is also a producer on the TV show "Haven," spoke about the upcoming release and what fans can expect, working with Stephen King, and lots more.
AMANDA DYAR: First off, can you tell us how you got involved with Joyland and why fans should pick it up?
CHARLES ARDAI: In 2005, Hard Case Crime was fortunate enough to get to publish a new book by Stephen King called THE COLORADO KID. We stayed in touch on and off over the next 8 years, and at one point Steve sent me email saying he’d just finished writing another book he thought might be right for us, and would I like to take a look. Would I? I’d have walked over broken glass to take a look.
And why should fans want to take a look? Because it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
AMANDA: What made Joyland the perfect addition to the Hard Case Crime family?
CHARLES: The carny setting is a great pulp staple – we’d wanted to do a carny novel in Hard Case Crime for years and just hadn’t found the right one. NIGHTMARE ALLEY is wonderful but too well known, Fredric Brown’s MADBALL is great until the ending but then disappoints. So I was hunting for a great carny novel, and I guess Stephen King’s psychic powers were operating on full tilt since he sat down and wrote us one. Apart from that, the book is a terrific whodunit and as noir as they come. It’ll break your heart. It made me cry twice, and I’m not someone who cries easily.
AMANDA: You also have worked on the TV series "Haven," which was inspired by Stephen King's The Colorado Kid. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how writing for television is different than writing for books?
CHARLES: Working on "Haven" has been an amazing experience, and it has given me enormous respect for just how hard it is to make an hour of television every week. There are dozens of people involved, from writers and producers to hair and makeup and costume designers and lighting and, of course, the actors who bring your words to life. When you write a book, it’s just you in the room and all the characters do what you tell them to. Both have pluses and minuses. Working in television is like working in a great team – it’s like you’re one member of the Justice League and you do your share of the heavy lifting but you also know that in a crunch, Batman’s there too and he has your back. When you’re writing a book, it’s all on you, and if things go wrong, it’s all your fault and there’s no one to bail you out. On the other hand, you don’t have to please anyone but yourself – you aren’t getting notes from ten people saying, “Hey, could you make the little sister a brother, and instead of a pet dog could you give them a kangaroo?” I feel very lucky to get to do both. I love watching an episode I’ve written and knowing that more than a million people are watching it with me. And of course I love having a book I’ve written on my bookshelf.
AMANDA: How was working with Stephen King? Do you have any interesting stories of your time together?
CHARLES: I wish I could reel off a yarn about the two of us out fishing or carousing in a red-light district somewhere, but the truth is we did almost all our work together by email, and it went smooth as silk. He’s just a joy to work with. We went back and forth on a few points of editing, worked together to weed out some of the anachronisms that inevitably creep in when you write a book set 40 years ago. But there weren’t any fistfights, or the electronic equivalent thereof. Of course, it’ll surprise no one to hear that the book didn’t need much editing. Stephen King is one of the finest writers alive and has tremendous command of his art. As a writer, I couldn’t help feeling that getting to work with him was like taking a private master class. So I tried to keep my eyes and ears open and learn as much as I could.
AMANDA: What do you think makes Stephen King such a great writer and storyteller?
CHARLES: He has the remarkable ability to draw you into a story and make you care about the characters literally within five lines of a book. He’s got the same words at his disposal the rest of us do, the same punctuation marks, and yet somehow his characters spring to life and most writers’ don’t. I honestly don’t know how he does it. (Or how his son, Joe Hill, does – he’s got that same gift.) And that sort of deep emotional engagement continues through the whole book. We care about his characters, we care about the intense situations he puts them in, and we want to know what happens to them. We’re like children sitting at our father’s knee, hoping the story never stops.
AMANDA: The cover for Joyland was painted by the legendary Robert McGinnis (known for his work on posters for Barbarella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and earlier James Bonds films) and Glen Orbik, who has completed over a dozen covers for Hard Case Crime, including the cover for The Colorado Kid. Why do you think these artists are the perfect individuals for the books your company publishes and what does their unique work bring to Joyland?
CHARLES: Glen Orbik painted the cover for the paperback edition that will be in every bookstore in the country; Robert McGinnis painted the cover for the special hardcover limited editions we’re putting out for collectors. Both men have a style that instantly conveys the ethos of the pulp era. They could have painted for the original pulp magazines in the 1920s and 30s without changing their style a bit – and of course Robert McGinnis, who is close to 90 years old, did paint paperback covers in the 1950s and 60s, which were the successors to the pulps. McGinnis is in fact one of the legends of American illustration, which is why he was inducted, alongside Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Orbik is a younger guy, but he paints like he could’ve been doing it for 75 years. He’s really a genius with a brush. We’re fortunate to have both of them to draw on. For a book like JOYLAND, which is set in the past and in some ways is about memory and nostalgia and a whole world that is gone, their old-fashioned art was the perfect fit.
AMANDA: You have stated that the ending of Joyland made you cry. Can you gives us any hints of what is to come and what horror elements this new book will contain?
CHARLES: There’s no surer way to drain all the terror out of something than to prepare someone for it. So you won’t get any spoilers from me, beyond saying that the climax of this novel really pulls out all the stops. It’s so easy to see how this book will become a movie – as you’re reading, you can practically see the scene unfolding cinematically before you. And Steve has already said publicly that the book is in part a ghost story. That said, this book really isn’t about “Booga-booga!” types of scares. The horror is a deeper sort of horror, the sort you really feel deep in your bones. The sort that doesn’t make you titter nervously with delight but rather makes you grasp desperately for the joys in life because you know that everything else in store for you is dark as night. This is noir, after all.
AMANDA: What other projects are you currently working on and what is in the works for Hard Case Crime?
CHARLES: Oh, there’s so much coming! The fourth season of "Haven," for one thing – that’s really going to knock people for a loop. And we’ve got a lost novel coming next year from the great film director Samuel Fuller. And a novel by Lawrence Block that no one has seen for more than 50 years – it’s set on the Tex/Mex border and reads like a Tarantino fever dream. Brutal, bloody, graphic stuff. And more. More more more. But what did I say? You’re not getting any spoilers from me…
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, JOYLAND tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. JOYLAND is a brand-new book and has never previously been published.
JOYLAND will feature new painted cover art by the legendary Robert McGinnis, the artist behind the posters for the original Sean Connery James Bond movies and "Breakfast At Tiffany’s," and by Glen Orbik, the painter of more than a dozen of Hard Case Crime’s most popular covers, including the cover for The Colorado Kid.
"I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." – Stephen King
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