Stephen King Visits New Orleans to Promote Newly Published Novel 11/22/63


“A question that I always get is ‘Do you wear boxers or briefs?’ My answer is always ‘At my age, Depends.” ~ Stephen King

One of the things on my bucket list is to see Stephen King in the flesh. Last night, on November 12, 2011, thanks to Octavia Books, I was able to cross that off. Stephen King made his very first trip to New Orleans to promote his new book, 11/22/63, about an English teacher named Jake Epping who goes back in time to try to stop the Kennedy assassination. Only 250 signed copies of the book were available, and in a sea about 2,000 fans, I was lucky enough to score one!

Casually dressed in blue jeans and a black jacket, King opened with the quote “At some point tonight, you’ll be alone, you’ll be in the dark, and then you’ll be mine.” He entranced fans for about an hour, giving hilarious anecdotes about being recognized in public, reading an excerpt from his new book, and answering fan’s questions. On his first visit to the Big Easy, he ate beignets and poboys and teased about how if he stayed in the city, he would end up as big as John Candy. He included anecdotes about being berated by old ladies for “those terrifying horror stories” and about being mistaken for celebrities like Frances Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

My favorite anecdote was about a time when he was on a morning show and had stomach problems. He went to the bathroom, which had an attendant that, according to King, was about 100 years old, as that is a requirement for bathroom attendants. The stalls unfortunately had no doors, but King said that he wasn’t worried about doors at this point. He sat down on the toilet, and the attendant approached him and asked if he was Stephen King. He said yes, and then the attendant asked for his autograph while he was sitting on the toilet! “Being an accommodating person, I gave it to him,” said King to a roomful of laughter.

In discussing his newly published novel, 11/22/63, he talked about the amount of research it took him and about the fact that he began writing the book in the 1970’s but put it aside because he didn’t feel it was the right time. He feels that now is the right time because of the similarities between Kennedy’s presidency and Obama’s, and he said that both presidents’ decisions could have taken the country in either a good or bad direction. The inspiration for the novel came when he was 25 years old and sitting in a teacher’s lounge discussing the Kennedy assassination with colleagues. The question of what would things be like if Kennedy had escaped assassination came up, and the idea for this novel was born. 40 years later, it’s finally hitting the shelves to the delight of King fans everywhere. He read an excerpt from the novel and posited that, based on his extensive research, Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin.

King also discussed previously published books and said that The Shining scared him so much while writing it that he frequently had to hide the manuscript at night. He has already written sequels to The Shining and a new Dark Tower book, but he gave no indication as to when we might see them hit the shelves. He also said that he thought Pet Sematary was a piece of horrible writing, which meant that he should have known it would reach #1. He noted that he was extremely pleased with the casting for The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, but he was not pleased with the casting for Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining, indicating that he understood why Jack Nicholson was going after Shelley Duvall with an axe. He also mentioned that the kids from It make an appearance in 11/22/63.

On the personal side, King said that he is scared of speaking in front of large crowds, spiders, snakes, the movie Fatal Attraction, and the book The Lord of the Flies. He also said that he’s a New Orleans Saints fan, but his first loyalty is to the New England Patriots.

King was extremely genuine, witty, and charismatic, proving why he is a master storyteller and one of the most prolific writers of our time. I am excited to cross meeting Stephen King off of my bucket list, and I wasn’t disappointed!

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