Author Owen King tackles collaborative book with his famous father

Jan 3, 2019 by

Published January 3, 2019


NORTH READING — Owen King, the son of best-selling novelist Stephen King, recently made the three and a half hour journey from his home in upstate New York to North Reading at the request of Flint Memorial Library Director Sharon Kelleher. 

She had invited him specifically to discuss his novel “Sleeping Beauties,” which he co-wrote with his father and published in 2017.

King said that the idea came to him one morning. “What if one morning none of the women in the world woke up?” He said he thought that would be awful. His next thought was: “I got to call my dad, because my dad loves awful things!” 

In the first public mention of the project on a Canadian radio show Stephen King remarked, “Owen brought me this dynamite idea.” The elder King added, “I’ve collaborated a couple of times with Joe,” referring to Owen’s older brother, the novelist and screenwriter Joseph Hillstrom King, who writes under the pen name of Joe Hill. Now it was Owen’s time to do so.

In her introduction Kelleher made a point to mention that Owen King had made the long drive and was going to make his presentation and then drive the three and a half hours back. She subsequently informed the Transcript that he would not take a fee for his appearance.  She said she felt that he was pleased to be asked to talk on his own about the book.

When their book was first released he made many appearances with his father, which he referenced several times during the hour-long visit. King only spoke a little over 10 minutes, reading two passages from the book. He spent the bulk of his time taking questions from the crowd, which created a very intimate and comforting atmosphere.

King said it had been just over a year since he’d done an event for this book. Most of the previous book events had been done with his father. He remarked to one of the librarians: “It was like Sonny and Cher and (today) there’s just one of me, and I hope that I’m Cher!”

He began to read one of the passages but stopped abruptly to explain, “This is one of the parts that my dad used to do, and he has voices, but I’m not going to do that.”

King explained the process of how he and his father collaborated to write this book.

They put the book online and they would hand it back and forth. “When it was my turn to write 35 or 40 pages, or whatever, I would leave a space somewhere inside the chapter,” he said. He would then write back to his dad: “These two pages, this is what I think should happen; now you write it.”  The idea was that when somebody read the book, no matter what, there was something of both of us in all of it. Anybody going through trying to figure out who wrote what would be foiled.”

“The other thing we did was we always rewrote each other,” King said. Because he believes his father’s work is so good it made him want to keep up with him. “I worked really hard to come up with sort of a third voice. I really don’t think it reads like either one of us, for better or ill.”

When asked about his writing being compared to his father’s he replied this was the first book he had written that had any kind of fantasy element to it.

“Prior to this book I’d always tried to be really clear with people that what I was doing in my other books what comedic contemporary fiction,” King said. He acknowledged that the people who read his dad’s books were the same people who put him through school.

King was asked by an audience member about his writing style and routine and whether it differed from his father’s style and routine. He said he tries to write every day, when he can, like his father, as well as his mother, Tabitha. “One of the biggest things that I took from my parents as a kid was that they would go to work every day,” King said.

But when he was a kid King thought that made it the the worst job ever.  As a child he liked to write stories but his parents would go to their respective offices and “it seemed like being a writer just meant to go to your room and be by yourself six or eight hours a day, day after day.”

From young Owen’s perspective, this was especially true of his dad. “He types with one finger, really hard, and it just sounded like this machine gun fire through the door.”

Of the project overall King said, “It was a really easy collaboration. Really natural.”

Upcoming program

The friends of the Flint Memorial Library will host local true crime author Daniel Zimmerman on Tuesday January 15. This event is free and open to the public.

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