Interview with BEV VINCENT part 2
This is part 2 of my interview with Bev Vincent, author of The Road To The Dark Tower.
You can read part 1 of the interview at talkstephenking.blogspot.com.
Talk Stephen King: Twenty-First Century King is a collection of reviews about King’s work. Does 21st century mean that the reviews were written by you since the year 2000, or that the books reviewed were all written after 2000? Can you tell us more about this book?
Bev Vincent: The books reviewed were all published after 1999. Brian Freeman at Cemetery Dance asked if I would be interested in doing a chapbook that collects my reviews of King’s work. When I started to assemble the text, I tried to come up with a theme. Since 1999 was such an important year in King’s life, with the near-fatal accident, I decided to focus on things published after that, starting with “Riding the Bullet” and ending with The Wind Through the Keyhole. I ended up with 21 reviews, and the manuscript came in at 21,000 words, so it seemed like there was some sort of synchrony at work. The 50-page chapbook has a nice glossy cover and was beautifully designed by the folks at CD. It’s limited to 750 copies, and every one is signed by me.
Talk Stephen King: You discussed recently in a blog post what you called "Narrative lapses and shortcuts." When an author messes up their story with inconsistencies. Do you spot many of these when reading King?
Bev Vincent: The Dark Tower series is almost a study in narrative lapses! There are so many continuity errors in the early books (which were never copy edited prior to publication) that King decided to use some of them as an important component of the story. Others he simply ignored, such as character names that change from one page to the next or from one book to the next.
In that essay, I discussed characters who do things without sufficient motivation, or storytellers who drop important threads. I don’t observe things like that too often in King’s works, in part because he has fearsome editors who put his work under close scrutiny and catch any of these potential lapses or errors. People might complain about the odd typo or factual error that gets past everyone (the misspelling of Killeen throughout 11/22/63, for example, or gaffes involving the details of guns that King often makes), but in terms of dropping the ball narratively, I don’t see that in his work. He’s such a natural and intuitive storyteller that seems to know how to handle all the threads of the tale and when it’s time to come back to something.
My biggest complaint about something he does every now and then is that he has a narrator hide something from the reader. I remember this specifically in From a Buick 8 but it has happened elsewhere. A first person narrator details his movements step by step until he puts something in his pocket. The narrator doesn’t say what that is, because King wants it to be a surprise when it comes into play later, but in my opinion that’s cheating. Not playing fair.
Talk Stephen King: Are you a Dark Tower purist? Does it bother you when King revises the Dark Tower stories? Were changes made to the entire series, or only to the first novel?
Bev Vincent: I’m not a purist. I don’t mind when changes are made to books when they’re adapted to film, for example, though I know that it disturbs a lot of people, especially when the changes seem arbitrary. I don’t always agree with the changes King makes. I think it was a mistake to move The Stand forward a decade when he issued the restored edition in 1990. I know that he wanted to include echoes from the AIDS crisis, but he created so many anachronisms that it didn’t seem like a wise decision. A babysitter who was paid a dollar for an evening might have made sense in the 1970s, but it certainly didn’t fifteen years later.
To date, The Gunslinger is the only book in the series that he has revised. Every now and then he says he wants to go back over the whole thing and smooth it out, but I doubt he’ll do that. In fact, I asked him about that specifically during the interview for The Dark Tower Companion, but you’ll have to wait for the book to come out to hear what he said!
Talk Stephen King: We know that the Dark Tower reaches far beyond the pages of the eight books King has written that bear the title "A Dark Tower Novel." Does the Tower extend into the works of authors other than Stephen King? (For instance, Has Straub ever referenced it?)
Bev Vincent: Without King’s permission, other authors couldn’t do that. The characters are King’s intellectual property and he doesn’t often let other people play in his sandbox. It was Straub’s idea to incorporate Dark Tower elements into Black House, the sequel to The Talisman, which was written at a time when almost everything King worked on was steeped in Dark Tower mythos. So, in a way, Straub has “referenced” it. There is one element that goes in the other direction, though. Bango Skank, the never-seen graffiti artist from the Dark Tower series first appeared in a Straub story, “The Buffalo Hunter.” He and King talked about using the character in The Talisman, but they never did. With Straub’s permission, Bango Skank became a semi-regular apparition in the Dark Tower series.
Talk Stephen King: You interviewed Stephen King for The Dark Tower Companion. What was that like?
Bev Vincent: I’ve known King since about 1997, though the first time I met him was at a signing in Houston in 1988. We’ve corresponded off and on over the years, and I’ve met him on a number of occasions, most recently at the world premiere of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. We watch some of the same TV series (Sons of Anarchy and Dexter, for example) and read a number of the same authors, so we sometimes discuss these things. But I’ve never interviewed him before. I asked him the occasional question by e-mail while working on The Road to the Dark Tower, but never a formal live interview. It all went very well, though. I got some great quotes, and he knows how to manage the allotted time to best effect.
Talk Stephen King: Does the book come with his blessing, or is this "unauthorized"?
Bev Vincent: I would call all three books authorized in that I have always sought King’s “blessing” to do them and he has participated to some extent in all of them. For The Road to the Dark Tower, he provided the manuscripts of the final three books two years before they were published so my book could come out soon after The Dark Tower. Then he provided a generous quote for the cover. Then he allowed us to reproduce all that rare material for The Stephen King Illustrated Companion. For the new book, he provided an early manuscript of The Wind Through the Keyhole and again supplied a cover quote.
Talk Stephen King: The Dark Tower movie is on – then off – then on. (I honestly can’t remember at the moment where it is!) How well do you think The Dark Tower will translate to film?
Bev Vincent: It’s on hold, pending funding. Akiva Goldsman wrote a script that was with Universal for a long time. When they declined, he wrote a new version for Warner Bros. Ultimately they passed, too. The next day another company declared their interest in backing the project, but I’ve heard nothing concrete since then.
It’s a difficult project. For one thing, it isn’t ingrained in culture the way The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are. It’s difficult to summarize in a way that describes exactly what it’s all about. I spoke with Ron Howard about his ideas, and was fascinated by the concept they had come up with. It wasn’t one that was going to make everyone happy but, as I said before, I’m not a purist, so I was eager to see it. Then I talked with Akiva Goldsman at greater length for The Dark Tower Companion. He was the person who brought the series to Howard and convinced him it would make a fantastic series. I still hope they will get to do it. It’s an innovative approach in that it combines both the big scope of the cinema and the narrow, personal focus of television.
This final question and answer concerns the last Dark Tower novel and the conclusion to the series. If you haven't read it. . . you've been warned.
Talk Stephen King: I have a nerd question that I have to ask about the Dark Tower. You are welcome to banish me to the wastelands for asking. I know you are not the author, but maybe you can explain: Throughout the series we are given the impression that the universe is breaking down, and at a greater speed until Roland reaches the Dark Tower. There is a sense of impending doom unless he gets there quick enough. However, when he gets there. . . he just resets into the desert. Wouldn’t his failure to complete the mission cause something really bad to happen? Have I misunderstood something essential in the Dark Tower?
Bev Vincent: I talk about this at some length in The Dark Tower Companion in a chapter called “The End and What It Might Mean.” That title indicates that it’s definitely open to interpretation. Here are my thoughts in a nutshell: Roland does not have to reach the Dark Tower—he has to save it from destruction. He wants to reach the Dark Tower for personal reasons that are tainted by hubris. He wants to face whoever abides at the top of the Tower for a reckoning and, perhaps, so he can get this entity to take back all the bad things Roland had to do to get there. Roland’s ka-given task is essentially complete when he frees the Breakers from Algul Siento. The stress on the Beams is removed and they will begin to heal. Some of the broken ones may even regenerate.
The Crimson King is trapped outside the Tower, though, and he has proven his ability to wreak havoc even from that perch, so it is perfectly understandable that Roland feels the need to dispatch or banish him, too. So, maybe he does have to go to the Tower after all. Once he eliminates the Crimson King, though, my feeling is that he should say his prayers and utter the names of all those he sacrificed along the way, and the turn on his heel and go away. I think of him returning to Calla Bryn Sturgis to spend the rest of his natural days with Rosalita. Maybe he’d be the town sheriff or maybe he’d grow beans. His fatal flaw is that he always enters the Tower. He allows pride to rule him, and he is punished for this. Doomed to repeat and repeat and repeat until he “gets it right.”
For an alternate take on this element of King’s philosophy (something that shows up in other works, such as Kingdom Hospital), listen to his reading of the short story “Afterlife” from his December 2012 appearance at UMass Lowell.
THANK YOU BEV VINCENT!
Check out Bev Vincnt's website at www.bevvincent.com