Different Seasons is a collection that contains only four tales and, with the exception of “The Breathing Method,” there is nothing remotely supernatural in them. None of the stories had been previously published. That may not seem unusual now, but at the time it was something of a departure for King.
The publishing landscape was different in 1982. In his lengthy afterword to Different Seasons, King bemoans the sad state of the novella, that peculiar form of fiction that falls between longer short stories and shorter novels, tales in the 25-30,000 word range. This is a territory King called “an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic.” Nowadays, there are more opportunities to publish novellas, especially in the small press. Even “The Mist,” a later novella, was published as a standalone book from one of the big houses as a movie tie-in.
He calls the stories in this collection his bedtime stories. The ideas came to him while he writing other novels. He couldn’t stop those books to tackle these ideas, so he got into the habit of telling the stories to himself while he was going to sleep at night instead of counting sheep. He says that he often has six or seven of these ideas going on at the same time and many of them never pan out. Either that or he ended up telling the entire story to himself, so there was no point in writing it down. In a later interview, King says he originally submitted only three novellas to his then-editor John Williams but, since he called them “seasons,” Williams felt there should be a fourth, so he wrote “The Breathing Method.” » Read more
When he was a student working in the University of Maine library, Stephen King inherited a ream (500 sheets) of oddly sized bright green paper, almost as thick as cardboard. (His future wife, Tabitha Spruce got one, too, except hers was robin’s egg blue.) This eccentric material seemed to invite him to write something special.
Two years earlier, in a sophomore course on the romantic poets, he’d studied the Robert Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” He wanted to write something long that embodied the feel of that poem, if not its exact sense. Seeing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (while flying high on mescaline, he told an audience at Yale in April 2003) made him wonder if he could blend two different genres. He wanted to capture Tolkien’s sense of quest and magical fantasy set against Sergio Leone’s “almost absurdly majestic Western backdrop.”
He started the book during his final year at university. In March 1970, he wrote the iconic first line and the rest of the sections ”The Gunslinger” and “The Way Station” while living alone in a cabin on the banks of the Stillwater River (his three roommates had flunked out one by one, a progression reminiscent of the novella “Hearts in Atlantis”). In that cabin, he experienced ghostly, unbroken silence that undoubtedly affected the mood of what he was writing—unbroken, that is, except for the music of Johnny Winter. He believed at the time he was embarking on the longest popular novel in history, something he estimated would approach 3000 pages. » Read more
‘Salem’s Lot isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel—that’s The Stand—but it may be the one that’s influenced me the most. It never made me cry the way some other King novels have, but it got under my skin more, cut me more deeply, frightened me more than any of the others. I suspect I could spend entire chapters delving into my psyche and finding all of the scars that ‘Salem’s Lot left behind, but I prefer to think of the imaginative fires it ignited in me.
I know I should remember my first Stephen King novel. It’s possible that in other places I’ve lied about this, but the truth is that I don’t truly recall which of his books I encountered first. I suspect it was The Stand, which I bought in an airport bookstore as a kid, on my way to Florida with my family. It might have been Carrie, which I bought used at a little shop in my hometown of Framingham, Massachusetts. It wasn’t The Dead Zone, which I first spotted in the hands of a bouncer at Liam’s Irish Tavern—he was reading on the job. And it wasn’t Firestarter, which the nuns at St. Bridget’s heartily disapproved of my reading in the sixth grade.
It definitely wasn’t ‘Salem’s Lot.
No matter, though. Whatever else I read before it, I know I loved every word, but it was ‘Salem’s Lot that really woke me up. I’d spent a lot of time in southern Maine in the summers, so I fancied that I knew a little bit about Maine…and it didn’t feel too different from Massachusetts to me. There was an old house a mile or so from mine that we kids all called “the Lavolee Mansion.” I’m sure I’ve spelled that wrong, but you get the gist. The house had been beautiful once, with faux Doric columns in front, though in those days it was a fading, peeling, crumbling mess of a place with broken windows and overgrown grass. In the lore of the neighborhood kids, the house was—of course—haunted, and when we walked or rode our bikes past the old pile, we always picked up the pace. » Read more
THAT WAS THEN…
‘SALEM’S LOT was the first Stephen King novel I ever read.
I carried the paperback (with the bright red drop of blood dripping from the embossed black fang) everywhere I went. I’d picked it up used at — where else? — Carol’s Used Bookstore in good old downtown Edgewood, and by the time I was finished reading it, the cover was torn off and missing and most of the pages were dog-earred. I still have that copy today.
I was fifteen years old when I discovered ‘SALEM’S LOT. It was shortly after I’d read “The Monkey,” along with the rest of my tenth grade English class, and I was itching to try a full-length Stephen King book. I remember starting the novel on a school day. In the middle of class. My History teacher was not amused. Neither were my parents, a few days later, when I tried to sneak in a couple chapters during Sunday church service. » Read more
After Doubleday accepted Carrie for publication, Stephen King’s editor, Bill Thompson, asked what they should consider for his follow-up. King had two books in mind, Roadwork ¹ and ‘Salem’s Lot (originally titled Second Coming ²). Thompson warned King that if they went with the vampire novel, King ran the risk of being branded a horror writer. King said that as long as the checks didn’t bounce, he didn’t care what people called him.
He’d started ‘Salem’s Lot in 1972, when life was still difficult for the family. He was writing in the furnace room of their trailer with a fourth-grade desk propped on his knees to support his wife’s Olivetti typewriter, while Tabitha tried to figure out which bills had to be paid now and which could be put off. Fighting vampires was a form of escape for King. They seemed more benign than the creditors harassing them. » Read more
Since a lot of readers have asked, here is Richard’s upcoming reading schedule:
He will be reading Carrie and posting his thoughts next week. If you’d like to read along, you could order an eBook and start right away, it won’t take long! Here are some store links:
Barnes & Noble
He’ll then be reading ‘Salem’s Lot and posting his thoughts by Thanksgiving here in the US. Here are the eBook store links if you want to snag a copy now to read along:
Barnes & Noble
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