”People’s appetite for terror seems insatiable,” Stephen King once said. Lucky for him: King knows just how to serve up what he calls ”the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large order of fries from McDonald’s,” and his McHorrors have occupied the best-seller lists for more than a decade. Here are some of King’s vital stats:
He has written 30 chillers, and 80 million copies are in print. In 1989 The Dark Half had a record-breaking first printing of 1.5 million and was No. 1 when it first appeared on the New York Times best-seller list. This year King exercised his clout to demand restoration of 150,000 words cut from The Stand when it appeared in 1978. The born-again book, at 1,000-plus pages, also debuted as the No. 1 best-seller.
A two-year income of $22 million made him the only writer on Forbes‘ list of the highest-paid entertainers for 1990. Some analysts claim the Kingdom grosses more than $100 million each year. This is not bad for a self-described nerd who started out as the creator of a high-school paper called The Village Vomit.
His first short stories sold for $35 each; he continued to write and sell stories while working at a laundry for $60 a week. His first book advance, which arrived just after his phone had been disconnected for non-payment in 1973, was $2,500. Soon afterward he got word that the paperback rights to Carrie had sold for $400,000. To celebrate he bought his wife a hair dryer. Last year, Viking signed him to a four-book contract for $38 million.
Special editions of some King books command prices almost as large as his first advance: Firestarter, complete with asbestos cover, can bring $2,000. This year Doubleday printed 1,250 signed, gold-embossed, black-leather-bound editions of The Stand. Each had a price tag of $325, but anxious collectors called in offering $1,200 per copy.
Twenty-one King tales have been made into movies; each future film will bring the writer somewhere between $1 million and $2 million. He wrote screenplays for five of the films and played bit parts in three. Pet Sematary, the top- grossing King film, made $57.5 million, Stand By Me $51.9 million. ABC will air It as a four-hour miniseries this month. Misery will be out just after Thanksgiving.
There are a pair of Kings. When publishers balked at bringing out more than one of his novels a year, he began writing books under the name ”Richard Bachman.” When the ruse was discovered, King announced that Bachman had died from ”cancer of the pseudonym.”
Every day except his birthday, the Fourth of July, and Christmas, King writes 10 pages on his Wang computer. ”Mornings, always mornings,” he has said. ”You think I want to write this stuff at night?” While he writes, his favorite hard-rock music blasts from WZON, which he owns. He usually quits at ”beer o’clock,” about 5 p.m. His favorite form of punctuation is a string of three exclamation points!!!
He is 43 years old, six feet four inches tall, and weighs 205 pounds.
He has two houses: a summer home on a Maine lake and a 23-room, 129-year-old Victorian in Bangor surrounded by a black iron fence embellished with spiders and bats. He has two Mercedes, one red Cadillac convertible, one Chevy van, and one Harley-Davidson.
He claims to have had three original ideas in his life.