Stephen King Talks About Switching Genres

If one were to ask you what genre Stephen King writes in, what would be your answer? Odds are, your answer would be “horror,” and, to a large extent, you would be right on the money.

Stephen King, however, might disagree.

In an interview released today with the Los Angeles Review of Books, King spoke about – among other things – genre classifications, and how he doesn’t like to be pigeonholed into a certain genre.

“As far as I’m concerned, genre was created by bookstores so that people who were casual readers could say, ‘Well, I want to read romances.’ ‘Well, right over there, that’s where romances are.'”

Stephen went on to talk about the hesitancy he felt before riding his recent mystery novel, Mr. Mercedes. The idea for the story – about a serial killer that used a stolen Mercedes to mow down dozens of people and the retired detective that tries to track him down – came to Stephen King in a motel room. He was watching a news report about a woman who was upset that her husband was getting a job at McDonald’s and as a result, tried to run him over with her car. In the process, she killed several innocent bystanders in the same method.

National Arts Award
[Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images]
When the idea occurred to him, Stephen King thought it was a great idea for a book, but he wasn’t sure that he should be one to write it.

“And then I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t what you do. This is a detective novel, this is not what you do.’ And then I thought, ‘Really? Are you going to, after all these years and all the work you’ve done, not write something you want to write because it’s a different genre?’

The truth is, Stephen King has spent a lifetime working in and out of genres. In fact, his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series, is more fantasy than horror, with a healthy dose of western thrown in for fun. The Eyes of the Dragon was a pure fantasy book, and almost a children’s one at that. The Colorado Kid, the book he wrote for Hard Case Crime, was a straight forward mystery with a dash of possible supernatural on the side. 11/22/63, which will soon be made into a nine part mini-series starring James Franco, was part science fiction and part historical novel.

Whatever the genre, however, Stephen King will always be known as “the horror guy,” and for now, he’s okay with that.

“I’ve never objected to people who wanted to call me a horror writer, or a fantasist, or a science fiction writer. Whenever I read it in print, I kind of go ‘raaawr.’ It’s a fight you can’t win.”

The extremely prolific King also says in the interview that he is “slowing down” as he gets older. Stephen says that, when he was younger, he would work on multiple projects at once – often working on new material in the morning and then on revisions and edits of completed projects at night – but that is no longer the case.

National Arts Medal
[Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images]
As the 68-year-old author of more than 54 published novels and over 200 short stories, Stephen King may have earned the right to slow down a bit. Last month, Stephen King received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.

In the interview, Stephen King is asked about his politics, and about if they are revealed in his books. King answers that they probably are, in a way. He talks about getting letters from disgruntled right wingers who thought that King had “dissed” the conservatives in such and such a story, and Stephen agrees that they’re probably right. He goes on to say that Vietnam “radicalized” him. King said that growing up in Maine, he was surrounded by Republicans, but the Vietnam war pushed him firmly left of center.

You can read the entire Stephen King interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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