I’m working on my big American Icons cover story on Stephen King today, and it could almost fill up two full issues. King gave me so much good stuff: He’s a truly fascinating guy, and he had so many great stories and takes on things. When I flew up to Maine to talk to him in December, we got into a discussion of popular authors vs. the academic elite, a subject he has strong opinions about, and I asked him if his mainstream success over the past 35 years paved the way for the massive careers of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling and Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Click read more for King’s feelings about those two as well as some other best-selling authors. And remember to check out my cover story on King in the March 6-8 issue of USA WEEKEND.
Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster
King, whose Stephen King Goes to the Movies collection came out last week, doesn’t know how much of an influence he had on Meyer, but he does know that Rowling read his stuff when she was younger. "I think that has some kind of formative influence the same way reading Richard Matheson had an influence on me," King explains. "People always say to me, ‘Well, what about H.P. Lovecraft?’ And the thing was, you read Lovecraft when you were a kid but I never felt that he was speaking my language. It was chillier than my heart was, and when Matheson started to write about ordinary people and stuff, that was something that I wanted to do. I said, ‘This is the way to do it. He’s showing the way.’ I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that’s a good thing. Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."
But then King recalls that when his mom was alive, she read all the Erle Stanley Gardner books, the Perry Mason mysteries, obsessively when he was growing up. "He was a terrible writer, too, but he was very successful," King says. "Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful
is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who
can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet."