Blogger meets George Orwell

 I opened blogger today to discover several emails from a very hyper oversight team at blogger, who insisted the posts at talk stephen king violate their community standards.  Of course, these are really old posts, that mostly link to other sites.  And none of it violates any community standard.  which explains why after that set of crazy emails, I got another set of emails saying to never mind, they had reevaluated their censorship of my site.

What had the post done that so deeply violated ther "community" standards?  They wouldn't tell me.  Just a link to a giant list of things that could get you banned.  None of which were present in the content they were upset about.

Oh, and they are upset about my daughter holding a up a Stephen King book in the bookstore.  Really, which community guideline does that violate?  Really?

So I'll take the blog down. And probably a lot of other people will takes theirs down too.  Because I suspect America isn't spending a lot of time reading blogs.

Dr Phil Stalking the Shining

Many of us remember the rather disturbing interview Dr. Phil ran in 2016 of Shelly Duvall.  Turns out, the story wasn’t over. I found this article interesting account of Duvall’s ongoing frustrations with Dr. Phil.

The article notes that the 2016 appearance was “slammed by critics for being exploitative of her mental health struggles.”  Duvall noted that she later regretted having done the segment for Phil.

 One of those who expressed disappointment in the interview was none other than Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Vivian.  She tweeted, "You are putting Shelly Duvall ‘on show’ while she is suffering from a pitiable state of ill health.  Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment – it’s appallingly cruel."

However, that’s not all.  Duvall claims that even after the show, “Phil McGraw tried repeatedly tried to get in touch with her mother even after the show.”  It quotes her, “He started calling my mother.  She told him, ‘Don’t call my daughter anymore.’ But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again."

The Stand: You Should Like This


Episode 9, The Circle Closes

I’m going to have to watch this episode again, because I’m not sure what I just saw.  I think I was supposed to like it.  I mean. . . the preacher in me is supposed to like the Christian symbolism, the clear battle between good and evil, the demand to resist temptation.  And I do.  Still, something feels, wrong about this episode.

The long journey home was cut out altogether.  I’m glad for that because I was afraid it would be reduced to a series of flashbacks; This episode gave us none of those hard painful slaps to the face.  Instead, this final episode gave us a journey.  But here’s the deal. . . it’s a journey that we the viewers had no vested interest in making with the characters.  Yep, sure enough, life goes on.  They drive, an the stop places, and they drive some more.  But nothing has been done to sell the viewer on why we should care about this new destination. 

The more spiritual elements were refreshing.  But they did not really move or inspire me spiritually.  Fran has this great epiphany that there is an entire other dimension all around her; both of great good and a deep well of dark evil.  Really?  She had to come this far through the world of The Stand to realize there’s a dimension of evil.  And it required a special vision for her to figure it out?  A little obtuse, don’t you think?

I’ve always liked the circle closing.  In Revelation the Beast rises again and again, and each generation, each culture, must take their “stand” against evil.  The vision promising Fran a line of children was interesting, and perhaps supposed to give us hope.  I just didn’t care.  Humans go on.  I think I’m so numb to this series I just couldn’t enjoy the final fireworks. 

Not sure what to make of miracle child either.

Know how I feel about this episode?  Glad it’s over.  Glad this miniseries is over.  Ready to give it some time and space and maybe someday I can come back with lowered expectations and find the diamond I missed on the first run through.

Was it a fun journey?  Nope.

Would I do it again?  I’m a sucker for punishment.

The Stand: Cancelling God

The Stand is a novel with deep roots in the Bible.  Specifically, Christianity.  You don’t have to be a scholar to spot the Biblical themes; though today it is harder as the culture itself is less versed in Scripture itself.    

It’s not that a few Bible Thumpers went and claimed The Stand as their own, choosing to read it as a novel of faith.  That happens quite often (try all those books telling us Star Wars is about Christianity.)  In his 1989 introduction to the uncut version of The Stand, Stephen King made it clear the references are to. . . Christianity.  “Finally, I write for only two reasons: to please myself and to please others. In returning to this long tale of dark Christianity, I hope I have done both.” In other words, if you’re reading this and keep thinking you spot themes of faith and Biblical symbolism – you aren’t wrong.

The phrase, “I will fear no evil” is used at least eleven times in the novel.  This was picked up on in the CBS miniseries, but was rendered powerless.  

The battle in the miniseries isn’t between any real good and evil personified; it’s a battle of viewpoints.  Flagg is a monster, but he’s not really the embodiment of the wicked.  The people from the Free Zone aren’t people of fait taking their stand for righteousness; they are people scared their way of life is in danger.  (How American.)  In other words, they aren’t there to stand against evil, they are their to try and protect the Free Zone.

I was swept away when I first read the novel because it was so gutsy.  The Almighty himself reaches down and does business on planet earth.  When the spies take their stand, it is like Samson pressing against the Philistines and power reaches down from on high to do what no human could do. This was exciting because it was so unexpected (at least for me when I read this as a teenager.)  I remember the Stand at camp in the middle of the night and actually sitting up and going, “No way!” It was amazing to young me that an author would be so bold.  

Of course, it was question from the moment the spies set out from the Free Zone – how will the very powerful Flagg be taken down?  Would the Free Zone build an army?  Would Stephen King, the master of horror, allow Flagg to destroy the Free Zone and rule the world?  I mean, it was Stephen King (and it was the first Stephen King novel I read) so the suspense was real.  When the hand of God reached down, it didn’t just surprise me, it seemed right.  Not righteous (it was that) but right for the novel itself.  As if it had all been building that direction, but I hadn’t seen it until the moment it happened.  Then the entire novel (or at least the last third) came together.  

Of course, I had questions.  Why did they have to take their “Stand” if they were just going to die in a nuke blast?  (Think Samson again.)

The hand of God doesn’t just suddenly appear at the end of the book, but plays a major theme throughout.  The ending was hinted at when Mother Abagail knelt down to pray (Chapter 52), Bible pressed for forehead and began to meditate on the conversion of Saul.  “Acts was the last book in the Bible where doctrine was backed up by miracles, and what were miracles but the divine hand of God at work upon the earth?”  A question is being put forth in this scene; does God still do miracles in our world?  Does God’s hand still reach down and do business, or does he just leave it to us to sort things out?  Does God deal with evil, or does he expect us to build bigger nukes to counter enemy nukes?  Is God indebted to the arms race to keep peace on earth?  I think not.  

But, of course, in a cancel culture, what CBS cancelled in this retelling was. . . God.  Mother Abagail is a nice lady with her own moral compass; but there’s no real sense she’s actually being led by God.  She’s not a prophet, she’s a grandma.  You respect your grandma’s religion, but don’t necessarily have to think it’s true outside of her.  

It’s not only important to the novel that God’s hand destroyed the wicked in the novel, but that the Free Zone KNOW it was God’s hand.  Consider this vision Tom has of Nick: “You have to get back to Boulder and tell them that you saw the hand of God in the desert. If it’s God’s will, Stu will go with you … in time.”  It’s not enough for team Flagg to be taken down by the hand of God; the Free-zone needs to KNOW that the Almighty has acted in their world.  Mother had wondered earlier if God still does miracles; now her people need to know that God not only does miracles in their world, but it was his hand who delivered them.  At the core of The Stand the story of a dark miracle.  It doesn’t serve just to cap off the novel; the book runs another 100 plus pages in order for the survivors (Tom and Stu) to tell of what they have seen.  Again, this is a theme from the Bible.  Exodus doesn’t end at the Red Sea, even though the parting of the sea is the major miracle of the book.  Big miracles have after-shocks that have to be told.  (In Exodus, they not only celebrate, but move on to Mount Sinai where the Almighty descends in fire.)  

Without going into the nuance of themes from The Stand, the big picture was a retelling of the book of Revelation.  A Beast (Flagg in this case) comes rises up on the earth to bring destruction.  Now it’s important in Revelation that the Beast rises again and again, forcing the people of God to take their Stand, until the end of time.  Remember at the end of the novel (the uncut version) King added a scene in which evil rises yet again.  

The Revelation of John is the struggle of two cities: Jerusalem v. Babylon.  Jerusalem and her people are pictured as a “Bride” while Babylon and her people are depicted as a whore drunk on the blood of the saints.  (Free Zone v. New Las Vegas.)   

In John’s vision, the armies of the earth (the wicked) surround the Holy City.  The righteous are hopelessly out numbered.  They’ve taken their stand against evil, but at the climax of the Apocalypse it looks like good will be destroyed after all. In Revelation 20, the nations (the “earth dwellers”) come from every corner of the earth to fight against the city of God.  So the picture painted looks gloomy;  With insurmountable odds against the righteous, the scene is painted as a hopeless situation.  But then. . . “fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:9)

What rescued them?  Fire from heaven.  Why does that matter in a Stephen King story?  Because he was using the same plotline!  Only, instead of Flagg and his forces coming to Boulder, the Free Zone comes to him to take their stand.  What caused them to do this?  A vision from Mother.  That is, a force outside themselves was directing the entire story.  That’s important to The Stand.  It’s important not that the characters have personal faith; but that their faith is in something that is real and able to act in our universe.  You don’t have to believe that; I’m just saying that’s the engine that runs this novel. 

How does Flagg die in our new version of The Stand?  Well, God either has really bad aim, or he’s just killed by a random electrical storm.  Yep, that’s it.  Lots of lightning.  Seriously, Emperor Palpatine could have made this more interesting.  There’s no sense in this that this is the climax of a battle between Good and Evil; it’s just. . . more CBS mush.

This is a lot of whining about one scen; but it’s like complaining that someone took the engine out of your car. . . kinda a big deal.  But hey, it’s shiny and has nice special effects; never mind that somehow the transmission is shot and this thing ain’t going anywhere.

The Stand: Hate Mail To A Stephen King Fan

Episode 7: The Walk

There’s a lot of complaining here.  I wouldn’t read it if I were you.  But I feel better.

Know what CBS’ The Stand is like?  It’s like getting hate mail for being a Stephen King fan.  How dare any of us like the novel and think things should slightly resemble the book.  Every aspect must be changed, every character, every scene.  It's like being told, "Hey, you can't like that.  We'll fix it for you, make it politically correct, and then you can like our new retelling." 

At the beginning of the uncut version of The Stand, King gave the example of Hansel and Gretel, suggesting it could be retold but too many cuts hurts the story.  That's what CBS has done; made not just cuts, but so many deep changes and bad decisions that at some point they stopped telling the story of The Stand and started on a brand-new clunky soap opera.

What’s with calling Mother Abigail “Mother A” ?  Rally, it’s illogical for the role she plays.  Mother Abigail is supposed to be a revered spiritual leader.  You call your buddy “Mother A.”  You call your spiritual leader by a respectable title… Such as “Mother.”  But shortening her name to “A” is disrespectful for the prophetess role she holds in the community.  

Trashcan Man.  I like this rendition a lot because he does seem crazy.  But our new Trashcan Man is so insane (a muttering fool) that it’s hard to believe he could know how to get access to a nuke, pull it from the silo and transport it.  This is a guy who seems like he would have trouble getting a bus ticket.  So in his great wisdom, this is the guy Flagg chose to get him a nuke? !!! 

Speaking of Flagg being a poor leader; what’s up with Las Vegas?  It’s just one endless orgy.  The Flagg that Stephen King gave us ran a tight ship.  We all know the bad guys basically implode, but wow this retelling gives him a big head start in that direction.

This is probably a good place to ask: What’s up with Lloyd?  He’s supposed to be a tough hardened criminal capable of running the underworld.  This Lloyd is just Trashcan Man’s little brother.  He’s like a junior high kid who just doesn’t have it together yet. In fact, all of New Vegas is kind of like junior high.

Turns out: Flagg is not scary enough to be the dark man; he’s not smart enough to choose someone with half a brain to get him a nuke (he’s not even bright enough to find himself a righthand man who’s not pathetic) and Flagg’s not inspirational enough to actually draw anyone to him.  Who would follow this Flagg?  Maybe Trashcan Man and Lloyd, but that’s it.  That Las Vegas is full of Flagg followers is thanks to the script writers putting them there; because there’s nothing the Flagg character that would make us think anyone would be drawn that direction.

Whoopie Goldberg as Mother Abigail doesn’t work.  Her acting is bad; it’s just Whoopie reciting lines.  Her wig is terrible.  Her makeup is. . . did they put makeup on her?  She doesn’t look over 60.  It’s like they weren’t even trying.  Someone threw a wig on Whoopie, she jumped in the bed and read her lines off a teleprompter and kindly collected her billion-dollar paycheck.  She doesn’t seem old, weak or authentic. 

Whoopie Goldberg is deserving of the title “Mother A”… because this is not Mother Abigail.  I know they want to reinvent everything, but they should try to do better, not dumb it down.  That’s what we’re getting with the Stand, a dumbed down version.  Not a dumbed down version of the novel, a dumbed down version of the original miniseries.  Ruby Dee nailed the role in 1994.  Whoopie Goldberg had big shoes to fill, and she didn’t even try.

It is nice to finally be free from Herold.  The role was well played, but the show was becoming the Herold Show.  They were so busy developing this character that it took 5 episodes for Larry to get enough screen time to become likeable.

I really like Larry’s attempt to give Herold some dignity in death.  Track with me… I’ve been teaching through the life of King David.  When Saul and Jonathan died, even though Saul had made himself David’s chief enemy, David went and rescued his dead body so that he would be buried with dignity. (2 Samuel 21)  I’m sure the writers didn’t have king David in mind when they did this, but it’s very much reminiscent of that Biblical scene.

All in all, this is series is reduced to a letter from CBS and the Stephen King inner circle, “Dear fans, we hate you.” 

King has said a show and movie can’t ruin a book.  He’s correct, the book is right there, ready to be read it again.  But for now, the story is marred for me.  I started rereading Swan Song last week and fell in love again.  So, thanks for the hate mail, CBS, but don’t get too full of yourselves; there are better looking girls out there.

The Stand Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

We all know stories get better when the villains get a turn to play in the sandbox.  Sure, they don’t play nice, and that’s what makes it so much fun.  I don’t know if that’s universally true, but it’s sure true for The Stand

It feels like the introductions are finally over, and now the story itself is finally moving forward.  Herold gets his best scenes, and Dana... wow!  It was nice to finally settle in on a somewhat new character.  What am I talking about, it was just nice to have the story told from beginning to end.

There were enough changes to give the story real tension.  I won’t spoil it yet.

The Dark Man is scary partly because we don’t overdose on him ahead of time.  Up until this episode, he’s only appeared briefly in a few scenes.  Keeping him in the shadows was nice.

Often, the middle of a story is the best because that’s where the bad guys get to reek havoc and raise the temperature.  Just think, why is Empire Strikes Back the greatest Star Wars move ever?  (And it is.)  Because it’s dark, full of tension and there’s something big enough to actually fear.  This episode of The Stand gives us a dose of the Empire Strikes Back.  No, it’s not that good – but it’s the best offering we’ve had so far.

The Stand, Episode 4: CBS Hates Stephen King

Great, more scenes all chopped up.  It’s like someone ran the script through a blender.  

We start at a community meeting in the Free Zone.  

. . . But then bounce backward (we assume backward) to a committee meeting,  Don't get confused by community and committee, they are two different scenes. 

. . . only to be yo-yo’d back to the community meeting.  For me, this is the first scene where Larry is really likeable; even inspiring.  

. . . Wait, don’t get excited, because about the time this meeting gets interesting, we are sent back to the committee meeting.

. . . and you guessed it: We are back at the community meeting.  Wait, which is the flashback and which is reality?  It’s like a chicken egg question.  Which scene came first?

And all that the INTRO !

The skipping and dipping doesn’t stop there.  The entire show is a time-warp.  Back to the Future had less time travel.  

There is no “now” in the Stand.  What that means is that there’s no real story progression.  Here’s an example: There is a very good scene where Fran and Herold are attacked.  It wasn’t in the book, so it pulls everyone forward in their seat a little – what’s happening?  This is new.  Only, even as they put in what should look like an impossible situation, there’s no tension because we’ve already established it’s a flashback and our two main characters in the scene make it out just fine. How do we know?  Because some idiot told us the end of the story before telling us the story!

There are other strange things here.  One reason for doing the Stand on cable was to actually – do The Stand.  That is, TV couldn’t handle some of the Stephen King content.  However, twice now CBS has flinched.  First by not giving us the Lincoln Tunnel done “right.”  Actually, Mick Garris did great with that scene.  But I still would have liked to see it without television standard imposed.  But the oddities continue.  We all remember exactly what Nadine told Herold he could do to her; only, CBS is afraid to air that, so we just get strange hints.  

The need to change every single character is frustrating as well.  Sweet Tom is reduced to a joke; a bumbling idiot instead of the kindhearted good intentioned character he is in the novel.  The Judge can’t possibly be an old man; so for no reason at all, he becomes and old woman.  Why?  Just because CBS can.  Glenn is supposed to the old man of the story, but instead he’s just another middle aged white guy.  There’s no story reason for any of these changes.  At some point, it’s no longer Stephen King’s story that’s being told; it’s different people all together living in the universe of The Stand.  You almost expect this Tom to run into the Tom from the King novel, because they are two wholly different people.  So same plot, but with new characters.

It’s like that Star Trek (old series) where each person on the enterprise has a duplicate in another universe that’s like them, but just a little different.  With each character you go, “Yeah, that’s them... but something’s wrong.  Something’s off.”  It’s like drinking Coke without the right syrup mix.

If CBS wanted to give viewers a gift, they’d send the Stand back in for another edit.  A redo.  Because actually, I like the scenes a lot.  The characters are insanely good. At almost every turn, they made decisions with the cast that were brilliant.  But it’s all lost in the edit blender.

What someone should do is build a visual timeline we can track all this on, because at some point I'm just going to give up.  CBS teased, and then they kicked fans in the face with garbage.  

CBS The Stand: We're On The Titanic

How many times have we heard this year, "We're all in this together" ?  Well, I'm afraid when it comes to the Stand, we are all having the same frustrating experience.  At some point (think around episode 2) this big beautiful boat hit an iceberg and we're now all on a sinking ship. 

CBS has put a lot of time and effort into offering Stephen King fans a plate of trash.  I was so excited with the first episode, endured the second, and am ready to cancel CBS after the third.  After watching the latest gob of mush, I finally decided to open my eyes and see what others were saying.  Am I the only one who hates this?  What I found was -- I'm not alone.

In fact, after reading article after article expressing similar frustrations, I started looking for someone who enjoyed this.  Some reviews found some entertaining moments, but no one seems blown away.  Even Lilja at struggled to find positive notes in his spoiler free review. (  Surprised, I turned to the ever-fan at  Stuff I hate, Bryant and usually find hope in.  But when it comes to this version of the Stand, we all seem to be on the same sinking ship. "Thus far, The Stand has failed utterly to establish that it is the "present" which is the real story."  He notes the timeline is "sloppily connected." (Well said.)

Stephen King has rightly pointed out that no movie can really "ruin" his book, since the book is right there for you to read any time you want.  Which might be what I end up doing.  That, and canceling CBS. 

hollywoodreporter: CBS All Access' new adaptation of The Stand is a car on cinderblocks. It looks great. If you glance under the hood, you can see all of the work that's been done on the engine. But no matter how ready it seems to peel out onto the road, it isn't going anywhere. Very rarely is the Benjamin Cavell-steered adaptation, with Josh Boone directing the pilot, actively bad, but it's very frustrating.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics Consensus: Despite an A-list ensemble and a smattering of poignant moments, The Stand's extended runtime doesn't make for better storytelling, leaving its expansive cast stranded in a cluttered apocalypse. Most damningly, there’s no sense of the world’s descent into madness, no seeping dread, no unbearable builds of tension; “The Stand” hits you with the glowing eyes of evil and the mystical wisdom of the “magical old black lady” (the show’s description, not mine) early and often, leaving subtlety in the dust.

www.vulture.comWhile there are some genuinely effective attempts to generate suspense, those sequences stand beside some of the wildest and most off-the-mark sections of the series, in an article titled, "‘The Stand’ Review: Stephen King’s CBS All Access Adaptation Is a Plague Unto Itself": Even more debilitating is the realization these flashbacks are going to keep happening every time we meet a new character. “The Stand” is famous for having a massive cast, and while jumping ahead in time so we can get past the pandemic is a sound instinct — the show’s viral outbreak is close enough to reality to remind viewers what’s going on outside, but far too extreme to provide meaningful parallels — repeatedly going back in time kills forward momentum. And it doesn’t help that all these flashbacks fail to set up any intriguing “how did they get from here to there” teases.

and: It is also miscast, in nearly every role. “The Stand” isn’t bolstered by a fleet of skilled actors so much as it’s hindered by watching those proven talents struggle to find a credible tone within the series’ cleaned-up TV sheen and dirty allegory for good vs. evil.

CNN notes, 'The Stand' turns Stephen King's epic book into what feels like a very long sit." And Collider headlines their article, "'The Stand' Review: A Sprawling Apocalypse Epic That Trips on Its Own Ambition."

USA Today said, "CBS All Access makes a -- mess out of Stephen King's epic." I think this form the USA Today article nails everyone's frustration: :The most troublesome problem with "Stand" is the decision to jump around in the timeline, starting not at the pandemic that destroys humanity but in the middle of a new society that sprang up after it. Working backward (and then forward, and then backward again), the episodes struggle to clearly explain what happened with "Captain Tripps," a lethal super flu accidentally released from a military facility. Most plot developments and characterizations are implied rather than filmed, making this "Stand" more confusing than anything else."

The Stand: From Interesting to Disjointed

 It didn’t take long for CBS’ The Stand to stumble hard.  While episode 1 was a great retelling of a familiar story, episode 2 continued the very same format to its own detriment.  Not to mention, familiar scenes we all love were recrafted.

Here’s the heart of it: Episode 1 creatively started in the middle, in the Free Zone, and then told the back stories.  That was fun once.  But hey, if it worked once, why not do another episode exactly the same?  Well here’s why: Because it’s not fun anymore.  By showing people arriving, their backstory isn’t that interesting because (drum roll. . . .) we already know they made it.

This is a format similar to the one employed so successfully in IT; but it's become tiresome already with The Stand.  What's lost is a sense of progression.  The story is jumbled.  Along with progression, all tension is gone.  It's like listening to an old man ramble about stories from the past.  Whatever the story, you know already how it came out.

And hey, why would we want to see Larry climb through the Lincoln tunnel over dead bodies, when he could go through the New York sewer system?  A scene that was a terrifying read was dumbed down to something ridiculous.  He climbs out of the sewer only to discover Rita right there.  Seriously, she’s there in the very spot he comes out.  Of course, it never dawns on him (or the writers) that this means the entire sewer journey was pointless.  They could have walked!

Upcoming Episodes of The Stand

Episode 2, “Pocket Savior”: Thursday, December 24

Episode 3, “Blank Pages”: Thursday, December 31

Episode 4, “The House of the Dead”: Thursday, January 7

Episode 5, “Suspicious Minds”: Thursday, January 14

Episode 6, “The Vigil”: Thursday, January 21

Episode 7, “The Walk”: Thursday, January 28

Episode 8, “The Stand”: Thursday, February 4

Episode 9, “Coda: Frannie in the Well”: Thursday, February 11

CBS The Stand Masters Story Telling

Stephen King's novel, "The Stand" ranks at the top of any Stephen King fans favorite novels.  However, moving The Stand from the written page to the screen has proven difficult.  The 1994 version was directed by Mick Garris.  I thought it was great, virtually the novel in television form.  It told the story; but failed to scare.

Josh Boon’s new version of The Stand is simply amazing.  It easily surpasses the original miniseries for two reasons.  First, not being on live television, the new series can dive deeper into the gore.  Frankly, it can tell a Stephen King story that’s a little more gritty.

A second reason I like this version has to do with the story telling itself.  King wrote the original script, so it moves just like the book; scene for scene, building for beginning to end.  Josh Boone’s version starts about a third through the book, then uses flash backs to quickly tell the story of earths end.  (I thought starting with an episode titled The End was brilliant.)

My wife aske which version I like better.  Of course, I've only see one episode of the 2020 version, but the truth is, I think I'll like both (unless they go off the rails on this one.  I mean, it is 2020 after all.)  I told my wife, it's like I've been reading Matthew all the time, and now switched to John; same story, new perspective.

With a new retelling, there are naturally scenes I look forward to

  • .Larry going through the Lincoln Tunnel.
  • The finger of God striking the nuke.
  • M-O-O-N
  • Meeting the Dark Man himself.

LIsa and Louise


The Shining is one of the most terrifying films ever made. It wouldn't be the classic scary movie that it was without the scene where young Danny runs into the Grady twins. The iconic roles were played by the talented duo Lisa and Louise Burns.


Interview with Julia Marchese Director of I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED

Talk Stephen King: First of all, I was really excited to learn you took a trip to actually visit the towns we all visit in the works of Stephen King.  Tell me about that trip.

Julia Marchese: Last November I took a Stephen King pilgrimage to see the towns I read so much about all of these years - the names had taken on a kind of magical quality to them - Pownal, Portland, Bangor, Ludlow - such a beautiful state, with gorgeous scenery and lovely people. I took an amazing Stephen King tour of Bangor and was in absolute heaven walking around "Derry" and seeing the canals, the storm pipe, the bird baths, Paul Bunyan, Pennywise's drain, and even Stephen King's house itself. It was like walking through one of his novels. Pure bliss. I can't wait to show the beauty of this incredible state. 

Talk Stephen King: I’m so exited to hear about your Dollar Baby, “I Know What You Need .” 

Julia Marchese: Thank you! I'm excited too! "I Know What You Need" is my favorite Stephen King short story! It was first published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1976, then added to the short story collection Night Shift in 1978. The story centers on Elizabeth, a popular college junior who is approached one night by Edward, an unkempt outcast whose first words to her are "I Know What You Need" - and she is shocked to discover that he does. It's a love story! But a Stephen King love story, so you know things aren't always what they seem. 

I am keeping the film set when the story was first published, in 1976, and I'm also so incredibly thrilled that the The University of Maine - where Stephen King attended and where the story is set - will be allowing us to shoot this short film on their beautiful campus!

 So that means this movie will be shot in the exact same locations that Stephen King wrote about in the story!

Talk Stephen King: Tell us a little about yourself.

Julia Marchese: I am a filmmaker, actor, film programmer, podcaster, cinephile and Constant Reader. I have been an actor since I was a kid. I programmed film and coordinated guests for the New Beverly Cinema for 8 years My first film, 2016's Out of Print, is a documentary about the importance of revival cinema and 35mm exhibition and preservation to culture. It features interviews with filmmakers such as Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, Kevin Smith, Joe Dante, Mark Romanek, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Joe Carnahan, Tom Holland and many more. 

Out of Print was shot half on film and half on digital, and I was so thrilled to have a 35mm print of the film made. The film won the Programmers Award at the Sidewalk Film Festival and has played at art house cinemas, universities and film archives all over the world. The film is available on DVD, Amazon Prime and streaming & the 35mm print is still touring the world, having just played the Film Archive in Austria earlier this year. The film print lives now at The Academy Film Archive in Hollywood between screenings.

I also co-host a horror podcast called Horror Movie Survival Guide, which focuses on how to survive horror films and become the Final Girls. We have over 170 episodes and A LOT of Stephen King episodes! Pet Sematary was actually the first horror film I ever loved! 

Talk Stephen King: Where will fans of Stephen King be able to see your film once it’s completed?

Julia Marchese: Because of strict Dollar Baby guidelines, the film is only allowed to be shown in festivals and in private screenings. That means the only way you are guaranteed to see the film is to back the project and be sent a link to private live stream link when the film is finished. 

Talk Stephen King:  Are you doing this as a part of an assignment, a class or just because you love King?

Julia Marchese: Just because I love King!! 

The most exciting aspect of the contract is that Stephen King asks that all finished Dollar Baby films be sent to him to view - so dig this - he sells the rights to the stories for $1, basically because he's curious to see how other people view and interpret his work - how cool is that?

Talk Stephen King: That is pretty cool!

Julia Marchese: Knowing that Stephen King himself will watch a film that you can be a part of is a pretty awesome and unique opportunity!

The fascinating thing about Stephen King adaptations is how differently people can interpret the exact same story. Although we are all reading the same version of "I Know What You Need", it will be *my* version of the story up on screen, which I am sure is very different than how a lot of other people see this story. 

Naturally, as a woman, my vision for the story is probably very different from Stephen King's, but that's why I am so interested to see it come to life - the writer of the story is male, but the protagonist is female - and now will be adapted & directed by a female filmmaker. That being said, I feel very strongly as a Constant Reader that the dialogue and feel of any film based on King's work should stay as close to the original story as possible, and I've definitely kept that in mind when adapting the screenplay. Most of the dialogue is taken word for word from the story. 

Talk Stephen King: How hard was it to get the rights to the story for a dollar? 

Julia Marchese: Stephen King actually makes it pretty easy for fans! Just go on his website, check out the stories that are available to adapt and send in an application! He has a good amount of stories to choose from. 

Talk Stephen King: What kinds of conditions come with a Dollar Baby?

Julia Marchese: The conditions are that the film has to be 45 minutes or under, non-profit and non-broadcast. That means it can't be sold, or shown on TV or online, but it can be shown in film festivals and in private screenings. That means you have to make the film for the love of it - not because it can later be sold and shown. 

But as a Constant Reader, the making of it is enough! To show *my* version of the story is a dream come true!  And honestly, all I did was ask. So you have nothing to lose, if you're a King fan - you get in life what you have the courage to ask for! 

Talk Stephen King: How can King fans participate in this project?

Julia Marchese: Go to my Indiegogo campaign, running through October 24th. Donate if you can, but if you can't please SHARE! That is the most important part of any crowdfunding campaign, spreading the word - especially with other King fans! 

Twitter: @juliacmarchese, @IKWYNfilm

Instagram: @juliacmarchese, @iknowwhatyouneedfilm 

I Know What You Need - A Stephen King Adaptation


Talk Stephen King: Your obviously a big Stephen King fan. What first attracted you to king?  Do you have a favorite novel by King? 

Julia Marchese: I read IT in junior high and I was hooked from there, reading more and more throughout my life. 

I realized two and half years ago that I had never tackled his master work, The Dark Tower series. This needed to be remedied immediately. So I devoured the books, loving each one more and more and starting to panic as I neared the end of the series. I didn't want the story to end!! I got to the 11th stanza in book 7 - The Song of Susannah (Constant Readers will know where I mean) where the reveal was going to be so good and I was so excited, that I needed to prolong that feeling as long as possible. 

So I decided to pause my reading there and read every Stephen King novel and short story related to the The Dark Tower (there are A LOT, over 40 short stories and novels combined!) before re-reading the Tower series (and then continue on to the Marvel comic series omnibuses and The Dark Tower companions after that). It's taken me two and a half years so far and I am still working on it. It's the most incredibly brilliant literary multiverse puzzle that I have ever undertaken, and I am enjoying putting the pieces into place more than I can say.

I can't give you one favorite so I will give you top 5: IT, The Long Walk, Firestarter, The Stand and The Dark Tower Series!

Talk Stephen King: Have you had the opportunity to see other Dollar Babies?  Do you have a favorite?

Julia Marchese: I have seen a few other Dollar Babies, yes! I contacted a bunch of the other Dollar Baby filmmakers while arranging this film, and they were all super helpful and kind. I can't say I have a favorite, but I can say how cool it is to see other people's perspective on the same story and they are all made with such passion!

I know there is another Dollar Baby version of "I Know What You Need" out there, but I am going to wait to watch it until after I finish my version. That's probably silly, but I don't want to be influenced by another version, even though I am certain it will be very different! 

Talk Stephen King: Do you have a favorite Stephen King medium?  (reading, audio, movies, comics...) What's your favorite way to let Si King scare you?

Julia Marchese: I will always choose his books as number one. That's what got me started and that's really the essence of who he is. He has a way of writing that makes the reader feel that he is almost talking directly to them, a relationship of sorts between Stephen King and the Constant Reader that I absolutely love. There are some excellent film versions of course, but I like it best when it's just me and King and no one else. :)

Talk Stephen King: When will you begin filming?  Have you already cast the film?  How did you go about that?

Julia Marchese: If the crowdfunding campaign succeeds, the film will be shot in the summer of 2021, in Maine. I haven't started casting yet - I have to make sure we have the funds to shoot the film first! Auditions will of course be virtual, and will focus mainly on actors on the East Coast. 

Dare I Say. . . The Institute Is Like . . .

I'll make you mad if you love Stephen King and can't see past your love to look at the work itself.  I don't care. 

The latest King novel, The Institute, does not live up to its rave reviews thus far for me.  Granted, I'm not through it, but I'm well in.  And thus far, it feels like little more than (dare I say) a Simpson's Episode. 

Like many other  novels, we are given extraordinary kids with great power.  Think Carrie.  But, on the other hand, don't think Carrie.  Because what made the engine in Carrie work was that she was an extraordinary kid in a circumstance any kid could find themselves in.  The institute gives us neither a believable setting nor believable characters; rendering it little more than cartoonish.   We could handle one or the other, and still feel a connection.  Add to this awkward super-kid plus and unreal situation -- bad guys who are nothing more than cardboard characters with "BAD GUY" written on their head, and the Simpsons would be a welcome relief.

Look, we all get what King is doing.  He can't hint around anymore.  He's blasted it all over social media -- this is about kids detained at the border.  And that might be a great situation for a King novel.  But this isn't it.  This is just page after page of super-kids verses "BAD GUY."  Will superkids win?  I have no doubt.

The Institute doesn't really mirror Carrie at all.  It is a painful reminder of Firestarter.  Which I liked, by the way --  a lot.  But this isn't it.  I'm game for government bad guys and superkids.  But guess what, we already have that novel.  King is just remaking his own stories while Hollywood remakes their movies every fifteen years.

Dee Wallace Describes CUJO Trauma

Check out the Fox interview with Dee Wallace. (HERE)  She has quite a bit to say about her work on Cujo.

Fox News: It’s been said “Cujo” was the most difficult film for you to make, but one that you’re the proudest of. How so?
Wallace: My God, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally, physically, emotionally. You have to understand you’re working with a dog – an incredibly trained dog – actually there were 13 dogs that played Cujo. Then there was a young kid of 6 and me. So I had to absolutely be on the whole time. What an emotional ride. And every time you see a scene, we probably shot it 15 times from different angles. That’s a huge amount of emotional output. And what most people don’t understand is that your body does not differentiate between a perceived threat and an actual threat. So I blew all my adrenals out because for eight weeks, literally, I was in fight or flight.

They treated me for exhaustion for about three weeks afterward. I still take raw adrenal supplements because I just blew them out from all the emotional work. And physically. Physically alone was incredibly demanding. But I look at the film and think that I went as far as I could go, as truthful as I could go. If I can do that in every performance, I will die a happy actress.

Fox News: What did Stephen King think of the film?
Wallace: He was down there for the first couple days of shooting... He often touts "Cujo" as the best film rendition of any of his writing and that I should have received an award nomination. He’s really generous with his praise. My job is to really honor in the most authentic way what the writer and the director want to bring to life. I feel a real duty to my fans to do that in the most truthful way I can.

Pennywise bobbleheads

Look what I found at a comic book store in Redlands, California titled, "The Quest Store."  An entire shelf dedicated to IT.

The Dark Half Complaints

I finished reading the Dark Half the other night.  What started out for me as a full speed Stephen King horror thrill ride turned into tiresome suspended reality.  Frankly, I didn't like the second half; at all. 

I think the Dark Half would serve better as a novella.  The idea was not only fleshed out, it was obese.  Soon, as one idea built on another, characters began to behave in a way far removed from reality.  That's because the plot itself left any grounding in the real world to chase an idea. 

At the core, I have to simply ask: Did the ending work?  And my answer is a strong: No.  It was neither natural to the movement of the story, logical or even innovative.  The truth is, when the end finally came, I was just glad to leave these characters.  The unanswered questions pile up when you start to fact check the central themes of the Dark Half. 

In trying to tie it all together, by giving us plot line after plot line, King actually undid his own premise.  The book becomes overthought.  It's not a fun adventure at the end, because there is no doubt at all who is going to win.  But may I suggest, if King would have let the bad guy win in this one, it would have been a delight! 

The idea that a twin, killed in the womb, is actually a ghost with a voice of his own in his twin brothers head is great.  But there's no way, no plot line, that could actually allow him to steal the show and win.  So the story is empty of tension.  The reader never once actually thinks George Stark is going to beat the odds; he doesn't have a chance. Not in Stephen King's Castle Rock, anyway.

May I suggest that if King's story were actually followed through, though; Stark has a great chance of beating both Alan Pangborn and Thad Baumont.  (Baumont has to be a nod to writer Charles Beaumont who wrote some of the most memorable Twilight Zone scripts.)  But simply put, King cannot allow Stark to win.  That's because the story is so far from any reality, to not put it down would throw a lot of King's other work into suspended reality.  The story is set in Ludlow and Castle Rock.  What happens if George Stark beauts the writer and the sheriff and runs loose through the town?  Well, honestly, it seems the odds are in his favor.  Stark seems to come from no where, and is headed into no where as he decays quickly.  King isn't exactly clear how Stark became flesh and blood; but whatever that flesh is -- it ain't here to stay.  Stark needs Beaumont, and in the end, kocking him out isn't much harder for Thad than Superman giving Lex a gentle kick to the face. 

The killer, that started out with seemingly unlimited strength and no conscience, ends up just crumbling and being carried away by birds.  Why?  Because he can't be allowed to exist.  The "what if" is too big.  What if we allow someone as powerful as George Stark first appears to remain on the scene?  (What if we let the Death Star terrorize galaxy?)  After creating a wonderful, terrible, mean monster in George Stark, King quickly begins to downgrade him.  By the end of the book, he's practically on hospice.  His flesh is falling on and he's not anything of the force he was at the beginning of the novel.

The Dark Half doesn't pay off because George Stark himself doesn't pay off as a villain.  There are a few chapters King even dedicates to Stark's point of view; maybe hoping to give the reader perspective.  But again, these scenes only serve to weaken Stark. 

Interview With Chad Clark Author of Tracing The Trails

Chad A. Clark

I really liked Chad A. Clark's book, Tracing The Trails, A Constant Readers Reflections on the Work of Stephen King. 

Your book moves us quickly through the Stephen King universe.  What could have been thousands of pages, is actually a tight, easy to read work.  Was it difficult to keep the word count down?

Chad A. Clark:
It helped a lot to have this start out as a blog project because, if for no other reason it forced a certain amount of brevity on my part. Being an unknown author I knew that there would be a limit to the amount of words from me that people would put up with. It seemed like 1000 to 1500 words ended up being a pretty solid sweet spot for the reviews to fall in to. IT was the only case where I had to employ multiple posts. I wanted the reviews to be enjoyed by dedicated constant readers but also accessible to the more casual fans. I also didn’t want to telegraph too dramatically the books I enjoyed less by having some reviews be thousands of words long while others only a few hundred. The length I settled on seemed to give enough room to stretch my legs but not so long that it scared away those who might be less dedicated. 

How different is the book from the blog posts?

Chad A. Clark: 

The reviews themselves aren’t dramatically different. The only one that I really went back in and rewrote was Pet Sematary, because of the experience of re-reading the book after having kids myself. I did go through all the reviews and give them several additional editorial passes. I also enlisted the assistance of Duncan Ralston from Shadow Work Publishing as the editor for the project.

The book is structured differently from the blog. When the reviews posted originally, I simply took each title in order of publication. For the book, however, I grouped the books into sections of novels, short story collections, novella collections and Richard Bachman titles. I also included a section of bonus material. The content in this section was never on the blog and included guest reviews as well as various King related essays.

And finally, I should acknowledge the beautiful introductory essay provided to me for use from Richard Chizmar, a friend of King and who has co-written a book with him as well. I was incredibly touched that Richard was willing to be a part of this project.

I was surprsed Gwendy’s Button Box got reviewed with the novels.  What determined for you a Novella (Blockade Billy) verses a novel?

Chad A. Clark: 
Yes you’re correct that Gwendy’s Button Box would be more correctly categorized as a novella. Elevation is also a novella and there are a lot of stories within his short story collections that are novellas, such as “The Mist”, “The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet” and “Dolan’s Cadillac.”

I resolved the issue by categorizing the stories based on how they were released. The three stories I just listed were released as one of many in a collection of short stories so that was how I categorized them. King has also published several collections of specifically novella length stories. While Skeleton Crew and Night Shift have stories of all size and length, books like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight all follow a format of containing four novella-length stories.  So those titles were grouped into their own category.

Books like Gwendy and Elevation, while they were not novels, were released on their own as individual titles. For that reason I grouped them alongside the other novels. A lot of this is just kind of up to judgment and perspective. I also decided to place Hearts In Atlantis with the novels, even though that’s more of a short story collection. That was just how I saw the book.

I agreed wholeheartedly with your less than enthusiastic responses to both Firestarter and Cujo.  I’ve been a concerned that his upcoming book, The Institute, has echoes of Firestarter.  Think that’s possible?

Chad A. Clark: 
It would certainly seem that The Institute could be a return to the Shop, the nefarious institution detailed in Firestarter. I would actually be interested in that aspect, although I suspect that in the post-X Files world we live in, the plot could come across largely as ground already explored. Whether or not Charlie McGee makes an appearance, who knows? I enjoyed his last two books quite a bit so I’m willing to be open to this one.

You gave two sections to Kings massive novel, IT.  You described the way Derry takes on characteristics of the monster.  I had not thought about that.  What you did not discuss, at least thus far, is the most controversial scene in the novel – the boys sleeping with Beverly one after another.  Did that scene give you any pause?  Did you know it was coming, or did it catch you by surprise?

Chad A. Clark:
Well originally on the blog I dealt with IT in three parts, with the third part dealing with this scene particularly. My thoughts on the subject are actually in the book but you haven’t gotten there yet, it’s in the supplemental material. Suffice to say, my take on that scene is that it serves as an important metaphor to show the emotional trauma of what the Loser’s Club experiences. That while they physically survived their ordeal, they still suffered the emotional death of their childhood and innocence. So the scene you’re referring to, while difficult to read, shows both their forced transition into adulthood as well as how their love for each other ultimately defeats the darkness.

Okay, I found it. . . nice article on the controversial IT scene.

Chad A. Clark: 
Like I said, I can totally sympathize with people hating that scene. I think I was just more able to separate myself and evaluate the significance of the scene in terms of what it represented about the lives of those kids. With all the horrible violence they had to endure, getting upset over a moment like this seems to be ducking under the actual horrors they had to endure.

Christine was a blast.  A total blood bath.  When I blogged my way through it, I kept a running death count.  I appreciated your explanation of why King did not rewrite the novel from just one perspective, choosing instead to stay close to his original vision of the book.  You noted that King is vague as to what exactly possess the car – the spirit of the original owner, or a demon.  Just for fun, pick a side.  Demon or ghost – is Christine Haunted or Possessed?

Chad A. Clark:
I’ve actually been thinking it might be time to do a re-read Of Christine. I’m with you, it’s a less appreciated title in his catalog but it’s one that I love. And the ambiguous origins of the car are a big part of what makes it more frightening for me. I suppose if I had to pick, my guess would be that the car is possessed by some kind of demonic presence. That seems to be more King’s bag than just a simple haunting. But here’s a possibility to bounce around your brain pan. Is it possible that the car could be both possessed and haunted? Considering the multi-perspective of the narrative, this would seem to be in line with the overall vibe of the book.

You seem to have a special love for the Talisman.  I’ve got to level here: I never made it through that book.  I lose interest each time.  And I’m not alone.  George Beahm in his original Stephen King companion confessed exactly the same thing.  So what’s the magic we’re missing?

Chad A. Clark:
I don’t know if there is a magic to Talisman that you’re missing. Or better put, I think I would echo what King has said in that books are a uniquely portable magic. The relevance for me here is that my magic could be completely different from your magic.

All that aside, I’ll try and explain why I love the book. It’s one of the more unique stories from this time period and I think it serves nicely as one that is somewhat adjacent to the Dark Tower saga. Not that you need one to enjoy the other but I think it definitely helps if your brain has been brined somewhat in Roland’s world and his quest. I love that the book has the majesty of an epic fantasy but also with some more gritty and realistic aspects. I don’t know where Stephen King ends and Peter Straub begins but this combination  worked pretty well for me. I can see how people could find it a bit of a slow starter but there’s some beautifully vivid and terrifying imagery in there, as well as some cool representations of the duality of our own natures. The book definitely isn’t for everyone but I’m a fan of it.

You expressed twice in the book your personal discomfort as both a writer and a reader about the use of real tragedies in fiction.  With King, this issue came up in your review of 11/22/63 and later with the short story, The Things They Left Behind.  First, I understand your discomfort.  I stopped writing a book because it moved to scenes that involved a real (famous) murder.  And I thought, “Wait, a lady died here.  I can’t trivialize this.”  How far do you press this view?  Because I got a sense, and here’s your chance to correct me, that even historical fiction makes you uncomfortable.  Are you okay with a book like the Grapes of Wrath, that is driven by the national tragedy of the Dust Bowl? 

 Chad A. Clark:
I wouldn’t say that I have a problem with historical fiction because in that case, you are dealing more with general issues and the experiences of people as opposed to a specific event. Usually when I see an actual event featured, that ends up becoming the center around which the entire book orbits. Writing a story set against the backdrop of the American Dustbowl is one thing. An example of what I’m talking about took place following the infamous disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014. Within a week or two I came across an ad for a book that had clearly been thrown together that week, in the interests of selling books off the notoriety of an actual tragedy. That’s the kind of thing that makes me feel wrong for having spent money on it.

You argue that King’s earlier, popular novels built a foundation of readers that would basically put up with some later, weaker, novels.  For instance, you suggest that if King had started with Dolores Cliaborne (one of my favorite novels) that King’s career would not have sky rocketed.  I would agree wholeheartedly.  His great success gave him the power to go back and revise the Stand, restoring the novel.  I’m curious if there are any other books you wish King would go back and. . . well, fix.  (I suggest that if King can give us the unedited version of The Stand, an edited tighter version of Tommyknockers would be welcome from many of us.)

Chad A. Clark: 
You and I are in agreement on this one in that the title I would like to see get a revision is Tommyknockers. I think the concept is good, it’s  just that the execution doesn’t really work for me. It goes off into so many different directions and the lack of a clear protagonist leaves the plot without anything to ground the book. King himself stated in an interview that he thinks there’s a good 350-page novel in there.

Along similar lines, I would like it if Cujo was much shorter. Again, there just seems to be too much narrative insulation, plot threads that don’t go anywhere. I would cut anything that isn’t in the car or from the dog’s perspective.

There were a handful of other titles which I was more disappointed with, such as the regulators, the Colorado Kid, Lisey’s Story and Sleeping Beauties. But Cujo and Tommyknockers are the two big examples where I feel like my lack of enjoyment was simply deriving from the excess narrative that could be easily trimmed away.

You mentioned more than once dissatisfaction with Kings later villains.  What are some of your favorites? (Of the later villains)

Chad A. Clark:

Well sure, a great villain is essential for a great story and King for the most part has really excelled at this aspect of writing. You need to have conflict in order for the book to be interesting so for me, the villain is almost more important than the protagonist. And as King has stated in his own work on the subject of writing, the key is to remember that the villains rarely think of themselves along those lines. To them They are the stars of their own personal stories.

Big Jim Rennie is probably my favorite from his batch of more recent villains.  I find him terrifying because he feels so normal, so at home in the small town setting. He doesn’t see himself as a monster. He sees himself as  being just as righteous as the protagonists.

You seem to think less King’s work from the 1990's and his current output.  Is that a fair assessment? 

Chad A. Clark:
I think it would be fair to say that if you looked at Stephen King’s books over a specific time period and calculated a percentage of which titles I loved, that number for the seventies and eighties would be much higher. Many of the books of his I have been most let down by have been post-1990 but there have been a ton of titles in the more modern years I have loved: 11/22/63, Under The Dome, Duma Key, The Outsider, The Green Mile, Wizard and Glass and Desperation, to name a few. I will always have a special place for the earlier books because that was the era I cut my teeth on. But I have appreciated all stages of Stephen King’s career.

I liked your explanation of what makes a sequel (the James Bond movies example was helpful.)  You just read a big heap of Stephen King; are there any novels you wish King would write a sequel to?  Any universes you’d like to see him return to?

Chad A. Clark:
I don’t know if there are really any universes or books specifically that I would like to see him return to. I guess there has been talks of a third Talisman book that has been in the works but held off due to Peter Straub’s poor health. I would like to see the conclusion to the Jack Sawyer tale. I’d also like to see a return to the Dark Tower universe, maybe in which he explores some of the history of Mid World. The battle of Jericho Hill, for example. I know the comics have taken a stab at these but I think I’d prefer a proper novel from the man, himself.

I appreciated your comment that Needful Things can be seen as a parable of modern forces driving us apart as a people and culture.  (My words, summarizing what I got from your review of Needful Things.)  Do you think King continues to clearly show that divide, or has he moved too far into the realm of politics to clearly accomplish that again?

Chad A. Clark: 
I know that a lot of people have been turned off by King’s politics and with his active Twitter platform. I’ve never really cared that much, one way or the other, and for me I’ve never been one for celebrity culture. I’m a fan of Stephen King’s writing, not Stephen King, specifically. I also think that celebrities have just as much right to expressing their personal opinions as the rest of us. I’ve always been put off by the attitude of, “Go sit in the corner and be quiet until I want you to do that thing I like.”

As for the rest of your question, King’s most recent book, Elevation, deals quite a bit with what you’re describing. Not necessarily in the sense of people being led away from their reason and morality but in the increasing divide between people over social issues.

I think Stephen King always has the ability to drop a great book on us. He’s demonstrated that consistently and frankly, I suspect he was just as politically motivated in the Reagan and Bush eras as he is now. It’s just that social media has amplified everything and opened our eyes to a side of him that has likely always been there. Read the epically long rant against nuclear power in Tommyknockers and you can get a sense of what I mean.

You obviously liked the end of the Dark Tower series.  I think it was courageous of you to take clear stands on things, even when controversial.  It made the book more interesting.  But let me ask a question off topic from the books – the movie.  I think King fans universally agree it was terrible.  A friend of mine offered the opinion that the movie only picks up where the books ended, on Roland’s second quest.  First, what did you think of the movie? Second, do you think King’s unusual ending of the series was the justification for the movie?

Chad A. Clark:
I don’t think I would agree that the movie was universally disliked.  It’s just that those that did dislike it were extremely vocal about it. And I get it. The studio didn’t do a great job publicizing the film and as a result many people were confused about what the movie was. I think most fans would rightfully expect multiple films in adapting the Dark Tower. Even trimming things back, you’d need at least four or five movies. I actually think the plan from ages ago would have worked great - three movies with a short television series between each. That, sadly, never came to be.

I think that what drove much of the decisions in terms of the kind of movie we got was simply practical economics. The Dark Tower series has been very popular and has a devout fan base but when you’re talking about a film you’re going after new fans as well. And I think most would agree that the Dark Tower can’t really be adapted into movies along the lines of Harry Potter or Twilight of the Hunger Games, which can be better marketed to a younger audience. I can sympathize with studio fears that might have existed that the Dark Tower would bring in more of a niche audience. We learned a lesson from the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that having a successful book doesn’t automatically mean big box office numbers. Hard-rated R franchises aren’t really a hot item for studio execs.

The internet went nuts when it found out that only one movie was being made. Lost in all the noise was the tidbit that there was a possibility of more films if the first was successful enough. It was all in our hands.

And we know how that worked out.

I’m not going to bemoan anyone for not liking the movie. I really do get it and I understand how invested people can feel. I started on this trail with Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy nearly thirty years ago. And if you go into this movie expecting the books you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I liked the film as I see it more like the new series, Castle Rock. It’s inspired by King’s work but it isn’t exactly a perfect carbon transfer. If you go into this film looking for an entertaining story, spun in the warm blanket of Stephen King’s universe I think you’re much more likely to enjoy it.

I appreciated your defense of the IT miniseries.  I thought so long as the camera stayed on the kids, the story was great; but as soon as we went to adults, everything fell apart.  What’s funny is, they marketed it with the adult stars; those kids should have gotten way more credit for that.  Do you think the miniseries still has a fan base, or are we the last hold outs on that?

Chad A. Clark:
It’s hard to market child actors to the general public because most people won’t know who they are or reflexively roll their eyes at the sight of kids in movies. Remember that we were decades away from the Stranger Things phenomenon. It’s a lot easier to push people’s interests with the likes of Tim Curry, John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Harry Anderson and Richard Thomas. And by the way, I do agree that the kids portion of the miniseries felt more fleshed out and was of a much greater quality. The adults portion just felt rushed and didn’t come out as well.  Why that ended up being the case? Who really knows.

I have a special place in my heart for the mini series, as I suspect I was at right about the perfect age and context to watch it when it first aired. Context is everything. It dictates so much of how we react to the movies we watch and the books we read. Your perspective and expectations and point of view as you’re sitting there in the theater or in your living room makes a massive difference in your ability to enjoy it.

I am willing to concede that there were faults to the movie and that it hasn’t necessarily aged well. I think that if you are of the right generation and you are coming back to the movie armed with your earlier memories of loving it, you’re a lot more likely to still be able to appreciate it. However, if you’re of a younger generation and you would be coming to this for the first time, I really wouldn’t recommend it.  So I suppose in a sense, we are sort of the last gasping guard of people who really appreciate the movie, and not just for Tim Curry‘s performance. But, to each their own. It’s difficult to make a movie that requires so much in terms of special effects and to make that movie have a timeless feel to it.

Is it fair to say you don’t like first person stories?  Or is it just that you don’t like it when it’s first person, but the person is talking to someone else, making the reader a third party.  (?)  I thinking that more than once you expressed frustration with scenes that are told as if they’ve already happened, and thus the reader doesn’t quite get to experience them.  Am I summing it up right? 

Chad A. Clark: 
Not exactly.  I’m not as much of a fan of first person but not really for the reasons you’re describing. The inherent disadvantage of stories told in the first person is that by design, you’re stuck inside the mind of the protagonist. So take a book like The Body and you find that if Gordie wasn’t there to witness something, it wasn’t in the book. It means that a lot of the great characters from the movie were reduced significantly because of the limited scope of the narrative voice. Stand By Me worked better as a movie because we got to see more.

What I think you’re talking about and what I have referenced at times is stories written heavily in exposition. What that means is that, instead of witnessing an event in the story as a reader, you have to simply read a description given to you by either the narrator or one of the characters. Dolores Claiborne is a great example. It’s told in the first person but it’s also heavily expository. We don’t get to witness any of the key events of Dolores’ life, we simply get her description of them. I found this a lot in King’s later short stories as well. I’d prefer to be there as events are happening, not just getting fed the recollections of a secondary character. You feel like the writer is keeping you at arms length and you feel detached from the story. As a result, major twists and turns often come off as a bit on the dry side. If you don’t feel like you’ve been immersed in the universe of the story, it’s hard to feel invested in it.

Let me put it this way. Would you rather read Pet Sematary or have me describe the story to you?

What are some books you’ve written?

Chad A. Clark: 
Here’s the rundown on me. In 2014 I published my first book, Borrowed Time : and other tales. It consisted of four short stories and two novellas. It was a good first, hard lesson on publishing and how difficult this industry can be. This was followed in 2015 by A Shade For Every Season, a collection of flash fiction. 2016 would be a busier year for me as it would see my first novel, an apocalyptic tale titled Behind Our Walls (audible). In September of that year I released a supernatural novella, Down The Beaten Path.

My most productive year by far came in 2017. After lackluster sales, I decided to take Borrowed Time off the market and sell the stories individually. I released the four shorts as kindle singles and one of the novellas would be released that year as a standalone titled, Yesterday, When We Died. I would also put out a second collection of flash fiction, Two Bells At Dawn and a sci-fi  /horror novella, The Child At The End Of Time. 

In 2018, Dark Minds Press out of the UK released my monster tale novella, Winter Holiday, which was followed shortly after by a gritty novella thriller from Shadow Work Publishing, titled Winward. That summer would see the follow up to my post-apocalyptic novel, titled From Across Their Walls (audible). And at the end of the year, I would officially enter into the non-fiction realm with my book, Tracing The Trails : A Constant Reader’s Reflections On The Work Of Stephen King. That book was the culmination of a blog project that had been a part of my life for several years.

That brings us pretty much up to date. Just last month I released the conclusion to my Behind Our Walls trilogy - For Walls Do Crumble and I have my final collection of flash fiction due out by the end of the year.

What’s the favorite book you’ve written? (I know, it’s like asking about your favorite child.)

Chad A. Clark:
Pick my favorite book of mine? Sure, no problem. How much time do we have?

In an attempt to bridge the gap between pride and humility, I will restrict my answer somewhat. First of all, I just published the third book of my post-apocalyptic trilogy. This consists of Behind Our Walls, From Across Their Walls and For Walls Do Crumble. What I like about the stories is how the camera of the narrative zooms in and makes the books about the human experience. These aren’t techno-thrillers designed to hyper-analyze the mechanics of an apocalypse. This was about the characters and their drive to survive. I felt like the angle and perspective of the stories were pretty special. And I was especially happy about how I was able to design the books in such a way that (I think) you can read them in pretty much any order and still follow along.

In addition to this, I’m also proud of my recent novella, Winward (audible). And this goes with the theme here because it’s my one book that was really heavily and directly influenced by Stephen King. For as much as I love his book, Desperation, I have also found myself wishing the story had stayed grounded in the terrifying character of the small town sheriff gone crazy. Winward is the story of a couple traveling to meet old friends. What they find ends up plunging them into a pretty fun and wild story. I was very proud on the day that the highly regarded Ginger Nuts of Horror website rated Winward as one of the best books of 2018.

TSK: If you were asking the questions, what would you ask you?

Chad A. Clark: Well, I’m not really sure. That question seems to lead me off in a number of different potential directions with all of them being at least a bit narcissistic. People love to talk up their achievements as well as how awesome they are. And it isn’t like I don’t have those thoughts. There’s plenty that I’m proud of. But I thought I’d go a different route and talk about what I have been the most disappointed with in my decision to be an author.

In my experience, very little opens your eyes to how insignificant you are than publishing a book. Imagine a vast field covered in six feet of newly fallen snow. Now imagine taking your one, special snowflake and placing it atop the rest. Are you expecting a parade? Accolades? Someone saying something nice about you?

Because that’s probably not going to happen.

It’s not like I expected to set the world on fire. I wasn’t expecting to be the next Stephen King or to suddenly find my name topping the New York Times best sellers list. I wasn’t expecting to be able to quit my job and support my family, just from being an author.

But as each day passes and more new books join the pile, it feels more and more like writing into the void. That all you’re doing is releasing artistic work that barely anyone cares about. It’s a torpedo to the broad side of your confidence and self-esteem to log into your Amazon account and see how few books you have sold. Or when you post about a new book in social media and get almost as much interest as you might for farting into the wind. It’s hard to ignore the flash-fires of heartbreak, frustration and jealousy.

It disappoints me that so little of what I try seems to work. That so few people out there seem to want to read my work. I’ve said at times that publishing makes me feel like tap water. Nobody hates tap water, necessarily. But people also aren’t exactly crawling over each other to get tap water, either.

I’ve tried to take inspiration from the image of Stephen King, precariously balancing a borrowed typewriter on his lap in a trailer, banging out what would become some of the most successful books of the twentieth century, one letter at a time. I have to think that even he was scared at times. Was sure that he wasn’t worth the ink his machine was filled with.

I can’t be driven by the phantom of the “best seller”. I can’t set destinations for myself to which no roads can ever lead. I love storytelling. And at the end of the day, that has to be my North Star. The possibility that out there in the unseen distance, someone is picking up one of my books and has wrapped themselves up in it, maybe taking some of what I have taken from the likes of King and Tolkien and so many others. I am so grateful when I read a positive review of my work, not just for the self-delusional feeling I get but from the basic notion that someone looked at my book and said, “I want to read that.” The fact that that is happening at all makes me feel that I’m coming ahead at least a little.

I often think about what I would say to aspiring writers looking to launch themselves into this journey, if they even wanted to hear it from me. I think it would be that nobody owes you success. You can’t wait for success like it’s some kind of external event. Success has to be defined from within. If you do this, it has to be about making your art, whatever that art might be. And don’t hesitate to call it art. Calling your writing “art” isn’t about doing so with the permission of others. If you are reaching into yourself to craft something that could only come into being through your soul and your sweat and labor, you’re an artist. And your career as an author has to be exclusively about your art. Not how many people have seen it.

Do I wish more people gave a shit about my writing? Of course I do. But I have to accept that that either will happen or it won’t. I can’t bring the sky down just by climbing up to the top of the highest building and screaming at it. I have to constantly remind myself what drew me into all of this.



I need to remember that, even when it seems like no one else is listening. I have to remember how cool it feels to be able to create those things that I loved so much as a kid. I have to remember the heat in my stomach from the thrill and excitement I felt along with the recitation of a few simple words.

It was a dark and stormy night.

(Chad A. Clark's author page HERE)