TENish Questions For Kevin Quigley

I really enjoy Kevin Quigley’s website, Charnel House. I also thought his chapter book on Stephen King comics, Drawn Into Darkness, was fantastic! Kevin has been a Stephen King fan – well, like forever.

One of the sections of his website is a set of insightful interviews, usually consisting of ten questions. (Ten questions for Michael Collings, Ten questions for Ed Gorman, Ten questions for Stephen Spignesi – and more.) I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Kevin and do a ten question interview with him. Only problem. . . it’s hard to keep the questions to ten! But fear not, I hammered it right on down to a faithful ten.
 

I think you're really going to enjoy Kevin's answers, and there's some bits of news along the way!  Let's just say, I can't wait for his next book to come out. 
 
 
1. Hi Kevin, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I really enjoy your website, charnelhouse. You’ve been posting articles, news and reviews there for a solid fifteen years. What made you decide to start a Stephen King website?

The year was 1996. The Internet was new and I was desperate to add something to it. After creating my first website (a bare-bones Jeremy Piven fan page; no, seriously), I set my sights on something more ambitious. I'd been a Stephen King reader since I was nine, and a hardcore fan since I was fourteen, so creating a site celebrating the man seemed obvious. There were some fits and starts; a lot of graphic hyperlinks, blinding backgrounds, Comic Sans fonts, and the early name of the site - The Stephen King House O'Love, wow - hindered it. I've stuck with it, though, and it's grown into something of which I'm quite proud.
2. One of the aspects of Charnel House I really like are your reviews. They are detailed, insightful and always pick up on things I totally missed. What process do you go through to review a Stephen King book?
Thanks! When I was first creating the site, I wanted to contribute something new. King sites in 1996 focused mainly on trivia and some news, but no one was featuring full-length book reviews. I fell in love with Michael Collings's book-by-book reviews in George Beahm's Stephen King Companion, and I wanted to do something like that online, but with my own spin. When writers can't find the thing they want to read, they just go ahead and write it themselves!
Unfortunately, most of my early reviews were simple plot synopses and a hyperbolic final sentence describing how much I liked the book. I've gone back recently and fleshed out the reviews, trying for a scholarly yet accessible approach. When I'm reviewing a King book, I try to determine how it fits in to a historical literary context - if it echoes other works like 'Salem's Lot does with Dracula, or Bag of Bones does with Rebecca. I like to think of King's canon as interconnected, not just literally by characters and locations like Castle Rock or Mid-World, but also in terms of themes, motivations, and imagery. King's career is fascinating, because when he grows obsessed with an idea or a theme, he attacks it from multiple angles in books and stories until he's satisfied and moves on. For example, in the mid-90s, King seemed particularly interested in writing about religion. The Green Mile, Desperation, and Storm of the Century - as well as "The Man in the Black Suit" - all approached the subject from different angles, coming up with different answers. Certain recurring images tie everything together, too: the recent "1922" in Full Dark, No Stars used pig's blood as a central image, creating a bridge between that novella and Carrie. 
Another thing I particularly enjoyed about Michael Collings's reviews is that he reviewed the books critically, but he did so with a "positive thrust." Sometimes books I didn't care for on the first read improved on the second (like Needful Things or Dreamcatcher), so having an open mind is key. I go into each King book or story expecting to like it, and I review each King book explaining why I did or didn't.   
3. What are some of the unique sections of Charnel House?
Right now, the most unique section is my "Chart of Darkness" page. I've been fascinated with bestseller lists for as long as I've been obsessed with King, and I've had great fun tracking King's progress on the charts. That page shows what position each King book charted on the New York Times Bestseller List in both hardcover and paperback, and highlights which ones hit #1. King remains the author with the most #1 books in history.   
There's also the Short Works section, which started off just listing the uncollected short stories and has now expanded to include all his short fiction - published, unpublished, collected, and uncollected. The page continues to expand; I've broken out King's poetry into its own section, and I'm currently working on a list of King's nonfiction - a very ambitious project!

I've also recently added the Writing on King section, which highlights the most prolific and important authors who have written about Stephen King. In addition to the short highlights, I've also included a sidebar that lists every book ever written on King.

Maybe the most unique section on my page is the King Audio section, a list of every King work on audio. I provide information on who read each work, whether the audiobook won awards, and whether the audio is commercially available.

There's also an Essays section (my essays on King over the years) and an Interviews section (which will be expanding soon). There's more coming, though: stay tuned!

How has the website changed over the years?
I think the site is easier to read and use, certainly. Gone is the black background and white type. It feels more attractively laid out, too, which is sort of a feat considering that writers aren't generally known for their graphic design acumen. Content-wise, the site is far more expansive. The reviews are fresh and in-depth, there's a new spotlight on some of the lesser-known aspects of King's career, and the news is updated more and more frequently. Over the last fifteen years, I've worked to make Charnel House less a "drooling fanboy" site and into a quality destination for learning and appreciation. 
4. You listed IT as your favorite King novel. I love that book, too! What about that novel makes it your favorite?
Where do I start? The characters, I think, are King's best - all with individual personalities and histories. I liked that the book functioned as a history of American towns at the same time it was telling its stories of children and monsters, and how both children and monsters evolve into new things as time passes. I read the book first when I was twelve, a year older than the kids in IT, and I've been re-reading it over the years, discovering new things about it as I grow closer to the age of the adult Losers Club. I loved the multiple timelines, and how they blended together, forging a singular narrative from a dual one. It's not only my favorite, but I think it's also one of his best-written novels; only The Dead Zone, The Shining, Bag of Bones, and maybe Duma Key rival the sheer appeal of the writing itself. Stephen Spignesi once commented that at times, the words seem to get in the way of reading because you're dragged along the current of the writing so swiftly. I couldn't have put it better myself.   
What did you think of the IT miniseries?
I liked it. In fact, seeing the miniseries and then the film Misery - both released in 1990 - solidified my love of King's work. Like most people, I found the first two hours of the miniseries far better than the latter two hours; there was nothing wrong with the adult actors, but they never seemed to develop the rapport that the child actors did. Plus, when you're working with the metaphysical concepts of the macroverse and King's Lovecraftian Spider, portraying it as a generic stop-motion monster undermines everything that had gone before. I would have preferred an entirely different ending from that of the book.
What was your reaction to the news that there might be a theatrical version of IT?
I've heard about this a lot, and my only thought is that it could be done very well or very poorly. I do think it's too big a story to be crammed into two hours - two feature films, like they did with the last Harry Potter films, would work well. I also think that the miniseries blundered big time by separating the children from the adults; merging the narratives worked so well in the books, and I think it would work even better on film.
One of the more interesting ideas was to have the film told from the point of view of Beverly Marsh, similarly to how Silver Bullet was seen from Jane Coslaw's point of view. That's a fresh take on the story, and one I'd be very interested in seeing.
5. You’ve written a couple/few books about Stephen King. Tell us about them.
A few! I've written several chapbooks - small, chapter-sized paperbacks - for the publisher Cemetery Dance. With them, I've expounded on my passion for the lesser-known worlds of Stephen King. Chart of Darkness narrates the whole history of King by way of the bestseller charts. Ink In the Veins 1 & 2 looks at the pioneering and current writers working in the Stephen King field, and includes interviews with nearly all of them. Wetware focuses on King and technology, from the first text-based video games to the latest eBooks, like "Mile 81." You're already familiar with Drawn Into Darkness, which uncovers King's history with comics. Blood in Your Ears, my upcoming title, delves into King on audio, discussing in depth the works King himself has narrated, with further focus on late audio superstar Frank Muller. Almost all the chapbooks (with the exception of Wetware) were limited editions and have gone out of print. Because King is so prolific, though, I've been constantly updating and expanding them. Soon, they will be available on eBook, all with new content.
 I'll also be releasing a new hardcover with Cemetery Dance in the new year. Titled A Good Story and Good Words: The Many Worlds of Stephen King, the book will include the full text of all the revised chapbooks, reviews of every King book released, lists of King short work (along with brand-new reviews of King's most recently-published tales), a section of King on film and a study of King's unproduced screenplays, and an examination of King's writing before Carrie was published. There are also several guest pieces exclusive to the book, including a piece on the Bachman book Blaze by Michael Collings, a piece on the baseball book Faithful by Tyson Blue, a lengthy examination of King's take on sexuality by Tony Magistrale, a look back at directing the "Dollar Baby" film The Last Rung on the Ladder by James Cole, and an illuminating Stephen Spignesi piece about King's short fiction. I also had the opportunity to interview Jay Holben, director of the Dollar Baby "Paranoid" - also exclusive to this book.   
In addition to A Good Story and Good Words, I also co-wrote a book with Brian Freeman and Hans-Ake Lilja called The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book. So much work went into the book and we're very proud of it, especially the illustrations by living legend Glenn Chadbourne. That book will also be out next year! 
I'm also working on a couple of top-secret projects for Cemetery Dance. You'll be hearing about them soon!
 6. I really enjoyed your book Drawn Into Darkness. This may sound a little nutty, but as I read the book, I found myself wondering how you knew all that! You were dealing with a subsection of King’s work, and I think you were pretty much blazing new trails. How did you research such a unique field of King’s work?
Research, research, so much research! Part of it is having grown up reading not only books by King, but also books about King. The deeper you go into King's canon, the more you learn about all these side-paths and nooks and crannies, so I've had a passing familiarity with a lot of these works for awhile. It also doesn't hurt that I was obsessed with horror comics as a teenager - Tales From the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Vault, Shock Suspen Stories, all the great EC stuff - and that I've grown re-obsessed with comics as an adult. King's connection with Marvel and their take on The Gunslinger and The Stand is wonderful; my hope is that when The Stand wraps up, Marvel will set their sites on It. We're all allowed dreams! It's a further boon that King himself has gotten back into comics after what seems a long hiatus; his work on American Vampire is stellar.

Do you own most of the comics discussed in Drawn Into Darkness?
Yes, although not all. Some are extremely hard to track down. I of course have the Secretary of Dreams collections from Cemetery Dance, most of the individual issues of the Dark Tower series, the entire run of The Stand, and weirdly enough, the piece on Archie. I have a strange love of Archie comics. I didn't realize I already had the Far Side collection until I went searching for it on ebay; I believe that, though it was unintended, that Far Side introduction is the first work of King I ever owned. 
 7. Every Stephen King collection is unique. What are some of your favorite pieces?
 My favorite high-end pieces are the Donald M. Grant limited edition of Christine and the Land of Enchantment hardcover edition of Cycle of the Werewolf. Stephen Gervais's illustrations in Christine and Berni Wrightson's work on Cycle are both amazing. I love my small collection of Castle Rock newsletters. But my favorite piece of all is a used paperback. During a time when I could only afford paperbacks, I was very into collecting all the different covers of King books. I bought the movie cover version of The Shining for three bucks, brought it home, and put it next to my other Shining paperbacks. Years later, I opened it up to look through it, and found that it had been signed by King, and inscribed to someone named Ned (maybe Dameron, illustrator of The Waste Lands?), asking whether he wanted to have dinner at Arthur Treacher's. It was a terrific find.                   
 8. As a Stephen King fan, what have been some defining moments?
 I first read King when I was nine, when a friend brought Cycle of the Werewolf and Creepshow to sleepover camp. A few years later, my grandparents, looking to unload my uncle's old stuff when he went off to college, sent a box of King paperbacks to my Dad's house. I liked the spooky covers so I put them on my bookshelf, maybe or maybe not intending to read them. Later, I picked up Night Shift and was entranced. I read Rage next, then decided to challenge myself with It. That was the first real spark. 
A year later, I went to go see Pet Sematary with my father and little brother. When he first saw Pascow all mutilated, my brother freaked out and hightailed it out of the theater; my Dad followed. I stayed behind. Later, when I raved about how much I loved the film, my Dad bought me the paperback - the first King book bought specifically for me. In 1990, King came out with the uncut version of The Stand and Four Past Midnight. My Mom got me those for Christmas, making them the first hardcovers by any author I ever owned. Two years later, I had a paper route and was thus rich. The first hardcover I ever bought for myself was Needful Things - not a bad way to start.
9. Most King fans also own a small library of books about Stephen King. Do you have some favorites?
I have a LOT of books on Stephen King, and most of them are excellent. Even though it's very out of date, Doug Winter's The Art of Darkness is a must-have for any King reader. Stephen Spignesi's transcendent The Shape Under the Sheet redefined what a book on King could be and I can't recommend it enough, but I do fear it's overshadowed his Lost Work on Stephen King, which is every bit as good and maybe more accessible. Michael R. Collings writes scholarly essays about King, but they are almost uniformly readable by folks without PHDs; I'd recommend any of his Borgo Press books, especially Stephen King As Richard Bachman (or the new Overlook Press update Stephen King Is Richard Bachman) and The Stephen King Phenomenon. Justin Brooks and Rocky Wood's Stephen King: The Nonfiction is one of the most important and necessary books on King's work, highlighting an unheralded side of his writing, and Bev Vincent's The Illustrated Stephen King Companion - with reproductions of letters and drafts of King's work - changes the concept of books on King.
But I think it's safe to say that I would not be the writer I am today without George Beahm's Stephen King Companion. Both editions represent the pinnacle of writing on King accessibly, concisely, and well. Bonus: the second edition includes reviews of all of King's books from Carrie through Insomnia, making a wonderful piece of work invaluable.
10. I love your energy/passion for Stephen King and his work. Do you find it difficult to connect with other writers the same way you do Stephen King?
To a degree, yes. For several years, I ONLY read King. It took awhile to break out of that, because there's so much other terrific writing out there. I'm far more well-read now, but I will say that writers that affect me as deeply as King are rare.
 What other writers do you enjoy? 
John Irving is one of my absolute favorites. The World According To Garp, Until I Find You, and A Prayer For Owen Meany were life-changers for me. I love Robert Parker's novels, especially the Spenser books and a relatively unknown novel called Wilderness. I'm a huge fan of Harlan Coben - I'm proud to say that I was reading his Myron Bolitar books before the bestseller lists ever heard of him - and Dennis Lehane. I especially love William Goldman, who is famous for the screenplay for Misery and the novels The Princess Bride and Marathon Man but who wrote a bunch of other great fiction titles besides. His The Color of Light is a defining novel for me, as is Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, John O'Brien's Leaving Las Vegas, and James Dickey's Deliverance. While I disagree with his politics and the way it's crept into his later work, I love Orson Scott Card's first four Ender novels, particularly Speaker for the Dead. John Steinbeck is brilliant; The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Travels With Charley are three of my favorite books (I love East of Eden so much I have the last work of the book tattooed to my body). I've long been a fan of Lewis Carrol's Alice books, and his epic poem The Hunting of the Snark makes me giddy. I've recently gotten into Kurt Vonnegut and I think his Bluebeard is unfairly overshadowed by more well-known (and, yes, brilliant) books like Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. 
I've also read the young adult novel Singularity by the late William Sleator thirty-four times.
10.1. What non-King writing have you done?

Foggy Night In The City
Buy it HERE
 Interestingly, I think of myself more as a novelist than a nonfiction writer. At current, I've written seventeen novels - sadly, all are yet unpublished. I don't generally write horror, either (I stick more to what's affectionately known as "dick lit," stories about guys and their weird lives and dating and work and sex and growing up), though I have three horror novels that I'm currently shopping around. The dick lit is difficult to market nowadays - straight dramatic stuff is hard to place. But I'm working on it! I'm midway through the second draft of my newest novel, American Storm, and there is nothing like creating whole worlds of your own.
 I also have a poetry collection called Foggy at Night In the City currently available on Amazon, and I'm working on a new collection of poems and verse called Surf's Up. I've also written a few dozen short stories, and I'm hoping to put those together into a collection soon.



Buy WETWARE here

1 comment:

  1. CharnelHouse was (and is) such an invaluable trail guide to the Kingverse!

    Great interview.

    George "Path of the" Beahm's SK Companion casts a long shadow, doesn't it? I got that for Christmas in 1987 or 1988 and must have read it a hundred times. I can trace my enduring King fandom definitely to that book, which I still take off the shelf probably more than most other books.

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