Thursday night, in front of 1,100 excited and devoted fans gathered in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Stephen King and his son Owen King read from their new collaboration, Sleeping Beauties.
Published by Simon & Schuster Canada, the novel, about a sleeping epidemic that affects women around the world, is the first time the two have worked together, thought they did do a book tour back in 2013, when Stephen was promoting Doctor Sleep and Owen his first novel, Double Feature. I was in the middle of a battle with pneumonia that had actually sent me to the hospital, but that didn’t hold me back from making the event when it hit Toronto. That night, I had the chance to talk to the elder King, probably my greatest inspiration as a writer. He signed my Marvel Comics Dark Tower Omnibus, and I showed him the outline of the Michael Whelan-inspired art that would soon become my second tattoo.
This night at Koerner Hall had no autograph session, but it was still exciting to be in the room with both Kings. Owen was noticeably more comfortable in front of a crowd than he was back in 2013. He started the evening reading from Sleeping Beauties, a book that’s humour becomes surprisingly evident when voiced by its authors. As expected, while Owen received a great ovation, the audience was clearly there for his legendary father, who was clad in a shirt that he gleefully informed us carried a caption that read “If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”
The two then preceded to discus the genesis of Sleeping Beauties, with Owen explaining how he initially presented the idea to his father and the mutual decision to collaborate together. Equating the process to a game of tennis, the Kings explained how each writer, when completing a section of the novel, would leave a “doughnut” open for the other writer to fill in. The ability to be able to rework each other’s parts was also brought up, making it clear that Sleeping Beauties is a true collaboration between father and son.
The rapport between Stephen and Owen was quite clear during their lively discussion, as life growing up in the King household was discussed, including the revelation that Owen earned his allowance by reading various books on tape for his father, a loving duty that culminated in a three year project that found Owen gifting his dad with an unabridged reading of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Seeing as I’m currently in the midst of working on a book celebrating Stephen King’s seminal apocalyptic masterpiece, The Stand, for Richard Chizmar’s Cemetery Dance Publications, I was pleased to hear him pass on a few tidbits about creating that particular book, including the fact that when he started to get bored writing about the meetings and discussions in the Boulder Free Zone, he recalled a quote from Raymond Chandler – “When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” That inspired King to kill off various Free Zone committee members, so you can blame Chandler for the death of Nick Andros.
The King’s wrap up their Sleeping Beauties book tour this week, a working vacation that was clearly as much fun for the duo as it was for the raucous audience who gathered to see father and son together.