You know Stephen King as the master of horror, a writer whose work is synonymous with fear, and the brain behind chilling books like It, The Shining, and Pet Sematary - but what drives King to create such terrifying tales? Any Stephen King trivia buff will tell you the key to his craft can be found by looking to his childhood. King grew up with his mother and brother - his father split shortly after his birth - and his life didn’t get more peachy as he matured.
Aside from the normal hardships many single-parent families endure, King’s young life was full of horrific events that informed many of his stories. He witnessed the passing of one of his friends and lived through several other harrowing events. King has said he doesn’t believe the grim facts about his upbringing have anything to with his stories, but it’s arguable his childhood formed the basis for much of his work.
One Of King's Earliest Memories Is Pain
In King's memoir On Writing he says one of his first memories is of being stung by a wasp while playing outside at the age of two; his next memory is even more painful.
The author recalls he was playing outside one day - pretending to be a circus strongman - when he decided to lift a cinderblock. He continues:
Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the lower half of the cinderblock. One of them, perhaps pissed at being relocated, flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain was brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only head the top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on one bare foot, mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the wasp.
King's Love Of Horror Blossomed When He Found A Box Of His Father's Stuff In The AtticPhoto: JohannesW / pixabay
Even though King's father ran out when the author was only two, the patriarch's belongings continued to move with the family for years. Nearly a decade after his father disappeared, King traveled into his aunt and uncle's attic to look through his absent dad's things.
King found a bunch of books his father had left behind, and it turns out the two of them have similar taste. He said:
The box I found that day was a treasure trove of old Avon paperbacks. Avon, in those days, was the one paperback publisher committed to fantasy and weird fiction. The pick of the litter was an H.P. Lovecraft collection from 1947 called The Lurking Fear and Other Stories. I took the books out of the attic with me. That day and the next, I visited the for the first time, visited the towns of Dunwich and Arkham, Massachusetts, and was, most of all, transported by the bleak and creeping terror of 'The Color Out of Space.'
King Moved Back To Maine When He Was 11
After spending nearly a decade moving back and forth between Wisconsin and Connecticut, the King family finally moved back to Maine around 1958 when the young writer was 11-years-old. While the family still had problems with money, King says, "Thanks to my mother, the one thing that was never in short supply, corny as it may sound to say, was love."
King Attended A One-Room School
When King was about 12-years-old he started attending a one-room school in Maine that only had four other students enrolled. He says the kids ended up being the basis for "The Body," his short story that serves as the source material for Stand By Me.
King said, "There’s a lot of stuff in ‘The Body’ that’s just simply history that’s been tarted up a little bit." He also discussed the school in an interview with The Paris Review, saying:
I was going to this little one-room schoolhouse just up the street from my house. All the grades were in one room, and there was a sh*thouse out back, which stank. There was no library in town, but every week the state sent a big green van called the bookmobile. You could get three books from the bookmobile and they didn’t care which ones... The first books I picked out were these Ed McBain 87th Precinct novels.