Everyone has a list of things they’d love to be able to say they did before they pass on from this world, a Bucket List, and being able to hear Stephen King speak
is was definitely on mine. Our Barnes & Noble here in Reno did the audience selection for his stop on June 18th, 2016 quite weird. They didn’t sell tickets but instead we had to send an e-mail at exactly 8:00am on a particular day in order to get a reservation spot, and seating was limited to 300. I sent my e-mail at 8:02am (my auto-send plugin failed me most spectacularly) but I was still hopeful, yet… I didn’t get a reservation. I was bummed but life goes on. And then I found out that for some reason Barnes was remaining open to the public so after a little bullying from a good friend, I convinced myself to put my shoes on and go practice my ninja skills and try to still get the experience of a lifetime. It was a massive success.
The crowd was insane but I snagged myself a prime spot on the second floor balcony. Everyone had wristbands and I thought for sure some bouncer was going to walk up to me and say, “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come with me. You’re not allowed up here.” But I was left alone! And some incredibly kind person actually scooted over me so I could be up against the balcony like I was. (You can see my forehead in the picture which someone from B&N took.)
King came out to deafening applause (as I fought back tears of extreme happiness) and proceeded to make us all laugh with a story about a fan. “I did a book fair in Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago and that was the first time a lady came up to me and said “You scared the shit out of me, can I have a hug?” *laughs* I just thought it was really fucking weird.” And those are the two things you really must know about Stephen King: he cusses… a lot and he’s fucking hilarious. I never would have guessed that the man who could write about rabid dogs and possessed cars, haunted hotels and murderers that drive ice cream trucks could be as effortlessly funny as he is. He was also genuinely appreciative of our attendance at his event and seemed genuinely humbled by the amount of people. “We’re all here, we’re in the fucking bookstore, man. We’re the blessed minority, as far as I’m concerned, we’re book people and I think that’s the most fabulous thing in the world.”
This was apparently the first time King had ever been to Reno but said he liked it and glad it wasn’t Vegas. In retrospect, maybe he was humbled by the amount of people in attendance because he thought Reno was smaller than it really is? 😂 He pronounced Nevada as Ne-vah-duh which generally causes my eye to twitch but most everyone who doesn’t live in Nevada pronounces it like that so I’ll let it go. He adapted what could have been his tried and true scripted speech (that still would have been completely fine) but changed it to suit us Nevadans. He discussed riding through the desert on Highway 50 and of the open pit mine called the Elijah mine near Ely, Nevada and how it became the inspiration for his novel Desperation. I also will no longer be able to mention Wendover without calling it Bendover whilst laughing like a loon. The fact is, that section of his speech was something fitting only for us. He couldn’t have talked about those things on any other tour stop and have it still be relevant to the audience and that made it special.
He discussed Christine and how it was originally intended to be humorous, about how Misery was just planned as a short story, and how The Stand is his favorite novel he’s ever written. Despite the fact that he was on tour for the final book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, he didn’t discuss it once. But then again, as he said, “If you need me to talk about the book I wrote, that book was shit.“ (It wasn’t though, I loved it.) We were also treated to a random yet hilarious story about the time somebody offered him $20 to change a flat tire. And he did it. And his wife asks him, “Are you really going to take that [money]?” And King says, “You’re fucking right. This is the first honest work I’ve done in 20 years.” King also talked about his wife always being his first reader and when she first read It she said, “I love it but you gotta change the title. […] Because if you call it It the critics will call it shit.” Obviously he stuck with the title and didn’t listen to the critics but as King said, “It never bothered me because when I started I was 24 and I knew they would all fucking die eventually.”
After over forty-five minutes of speaking, he announced that he was running on empty and that he’d take some questions from the audience. Honestly though, the audience questions were shite (like the lady that just wanted him to sign her hat — he told her no) and if I wasn’t so tongue tied I wish I would’ve grown a pair and asked a question of my own. One of the questions was actually good where he was asked about his deftly placed “Easter Eggs”, how connected all his works/characters are and whether it came naturally or if he made a conscious effort to do that. He talks about how he feels they all relate back to The Dark Tower series which is simply fascinating. Personally, I would have taken that question a step further and asked about the fact that Joe Hill’s characters are also connected to Kings characters and how the decision was made to do that. I can envision some sort of family meeting to discuss this and damn, seriously, but those two really ought to write some books together.
Bottom line, this was an awesome event and I’m so very fortunate that I was able to attend. I’m not sure it was possible but I think I love him even more than I did yesterday.