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Stephen King gets rock-star reception at Talking Volumes

November 19, 2009

Stephen King and Audrey Niffenegger backstage at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul before their joint appearance Wednesday night on Talking Volumes. /  Photo by Claude Peck

Novelist Stephen King, who likes hard-rock music from Metallica to Black Sabbath, got a rock star’s reception at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, where he and novelist Audrey Niffenegger appeared Wednesday night as part of the 10th season of the Talking Volumes series. Hoots and whistles greeted the writers as they took the stage after a set of music of Adam Levy and ensemble.


In an hour-long interview with Kerri Miller of MPR, King described writing as “a sort of telepathy” in which an author may communicate directly -- and without complex technology -- with readers. “Dickens,” he said, “ still is sending from his mind to our minds.”


Asked to name his all-time favorite book, King didn’t hesitate: “Tolkien, ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”


Niffenegger, who lives in Chicago, said she spent a lot of time in London researching her second book, “Her Fearful Symmetry.” To get the diction of the British characters in the modern-day ghost story, “I hung around and eavesdropped,” she said, “making notes like Harriet the Spy.”


With her bestselling first novel, “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Niffenegger said she wrote the end first, and then worked toward that.


King, wearing jeans, sneakers and a red T-shirt, talked about his long career. His new book, the 1,000-page “Under the Dome,” is his 51st novel.


His first novel was “Carrie,” which his wife fished out of the trash, and which the publisher Doubleday bought for $2,500 when King was 26. The paperback of that book sold for $400,000.


Of the many movie and TV adaptations of his books, King said his favorite was “The Shawshank Redemption.” He also liked the movie of "Cujo." Many in the audience seemed surprised when he said he preferred a later, TV miniseries adaptation of his "The Shining" to the 1980 feature film of that book, which starred Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance.

"When I wrote 'The Shining" I felt like I had the controls to the world's largest bulldozer," King said. That exhiliration was tempered by that fact that "I was a total raging alcoholic, and much like Jack Torrance in some ways, though I never picked up a crocquet mallet." King said he has pondered a sequel to "The Shining," title "Dr. Sleep," but doubts he'll ever write it.

Among his own characters, King said, the one that scared him the most was the clown in "It," a novel published in 1986. "I always thought that was sort of a final exam on all of the horror I'd written," King said.

Leave your comment below on your favorite King book. And what about the best movie adaptation of his work? Also, what do you think of the movie version of Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife"?

Wednesday's talk will be rebroadcast at 10 a.m. Monday on Minnesota Public Radio.

Go here for an interactive website about "Under the Dome." And here to read Star Tribune writer James Lilek's interview with King. The Star Tribune's review of "Under the Dome" is here. And Cherie Parker interviews Niffenegger here.