Stephen King: Biography, Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Bryanna Licciardi

Bryanna has received both her BA in English and MFA in Creative Writing. She has been a writing tutor for over six years.

One of the most critically acclaimed American novelists, Stephen King has made a name for himself in the horror business. This lesson will go through what led to his success, as well as discuss many of his books and short stories.

Life of King

Stephen King
Stephen King photograph

Also known as the King of Horror, Stephen King was born September 21, 1947, in Portland, Maine, second to his adopted older brother David. The father ran out on the family when King was very young and their mother thereafter raised the brothers. Until 1958, they moved around to several states before settling back in Maine.

When King was 12, he and his brother decided to start their own newspaper called David's Rag, priced at 5 cents an issue, to help out with their household finances. David bought the micro machine and King helped provide the stories. King's first actual publication was while he was still in high school. His short story 'I was a Teenage Grave Robber' was published in Comics Review in 1965.

King attended the University of Maine and, during his first year, completed his first novel The Long Walk. Unfortunately it was rejected by publishers (though it would eventually be published), and this destroyed King's confidence. While in college, King wrote for school paper, published his first adult short story in Startling Mystery Stories (1967), and met the love of his life Tabitha working at the library. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and his teaching certificate. After a short bout as a laundry worker, he eventually landed a job as a high school English teacher.

He continued to sell his short stories to men's magazines until his big break, the novel Carrie, came to fruition. It almost didn't happen either. King was so frustrated while writing the novel that he threw away the manuscript incomplete. His wife Tabitha fished it out of the trash and begged him to keep going with it. It sold to the publisher for $400,000. After that check was written, King gave up his teaching job and started writing full time.

King and his wife together had three children (two of which have become writers themselves) and years of success, although not all years were good. In 1999, King underwent a severe physical trauma. After being hit by a speeding car, he suffered five major surgeries in less than two weeks. With a broken hip and plenty of therapy, King continued to write, although he had to take his time. While he lay healing, he worked on his nonfiction piece On Writing, in which he pulls from his own experiences to try to share with his fans how to write, or at least, how to love writing. Also in 1999, King released to the public that he suffered from Macular Degeneration, a disease that will decrease his vision as he ages.

Despite a few setbacks, King manages to remain one of the top-selling authors. He and his wife own three houses, one of which has become famous for its 'horrifying' iron gate.

The King house in Bangor, Maine
Stephen King House

King's Work

King has published 50 fiction books, 5 nonfiction, and over 200 short stories. Some of his books have sold almost 400 million copies, winning him many awards, including the following: The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003, Bram Stoker Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. His short story 'The Man in the Black Suit' won the O. Henry Award in 1995. In 2003, he received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

So much of his work has been adapted into movies and television shows, in fact, that it puts him at the top of the list. Some of his most famous movie adaptations are The Shining, Pet Sematary, Carrie, and Children of the Korn. The most recent, and high-ranking scripted series, is the TV summer hit Under the Dome.

The Shining movie poster 1980
The Shining movie poster

List of Popular Novels

Carrie (1974), Salem's Lot (1975), The Shining (1976), The Stand (1978), The Dead Zone (1979), Fire Starter (1980), Danse Macabre (1981), Cujo (1981), The Dark Tower (1982), Christine (1983), Pet Sematary (1983), The Talisman (1984), It (1986), The Tommyknockers (1987), Needful Things (1991), Gerald's Game (1992), Insomnia (1994), Rose Madder (1995), Desperation (1996), The Green Mile (1996), The Regulators (1996), Bag of Bones (1998), On Writing (2000), Dreamcatcher (2001), Black House (2001), Cell (2006), Lisey's Story (2006), Blaze (2007), Duma Key (2008), Under the Dome (2009), 11/22/63 (2011), Doctor Sleep (2013), and Mr. Mercedes (2014).

List of Popular Short Story Collections

Nightshift (1978), Different Seasons (1982), Skeleton Crew (1985), Four Past Midnight (1990), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Six Stories (1997), Hearts in Atlantis (1999), Everything's Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and Full Dark, No Stars (2010).

Writing Style

King says that he owes much of his literary identity to Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury, and you can see many influences in his works from H. P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker. Writing about the horrific and the grotesque, King pulls from his dreams and fears. Even as a child, he was haunted by phobias and paranoia. He claims that turning to writing is what helps to heal the fear.

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