American Icon: Stephen King

Stephen King on

Believe it or not, the best decision you can ever make is to do that which sets your soul on fire. Life can be quite tiresome and boring when you decide to invest your time and effort into something you don’t feel passionate about. We all know how short life is, and so while at it, we should all focus on putting energy into things that we find appealing to our souls. Stephen Edwin King is a clear indication of the possibility of pursuing the things you love and attaining success while at it.  

Stephen King is an American novelist of horror, fiction, science fiction, supernatural, fantasy and suspense stories. His successful writing career has seen him sell more than 350 million copies of his books, most of which have been adapted into television series, feature films, comic books and ministries. Over the course of his writing career, King has published 60 books. Six of his novels are nonfiction books while seven are written under his pen name Richard Bachman. He has also written close to 200 short stories, most of which are collected in book collections.


King was born in Portland Maine in September 21st 1947 to Donald King and Nellie Ruth. His father Donald King worked as a merchant seaman. At the age of two, King’s father abandoned them under the pretense of going to buy a pack of cigarettes. Nobody ever heard from him again and King’s mother was left to raise him and his older brother David.

Often, his mother had to endure a lot of financial difficulties to make ends meet. At the age of 11, King’s family was forced to move to Durham, Maine so that his mother could care for her ailing parents. As a child, King is alleged to have witnessed one of his friends being hit and killed by a train. King has no memory of the incident but his family told him that he had come back home speechless and in shock. Only later did they come to find out the cause for his great distress. Some commentators have related King’s darker works to this incident, something King refuses to acknowledge. 


In his 1981 nonfiction Danse Macabre, King revealed that his primary inspiration for writing horror fiction came as a result of his uncle successfully dowsing for water using the bough of an apple branch. The inspiration also came while browsing through an attic alongside his elder brother and discovering a paperback version of an H.P Lovecraft short story collection The Lurker in the Shadows. In a 2009 interview with Barnes and Noble Studios, King confesses ‘I knew that I’d found home when I read that book’.

While in High school, King displayed a strong interest in horror and was an avid reader of EC’s horror comics. He began writing for fun while at the same time contributing to his brother’s newspaper, Dave’s Rug which went for 5 cents each. King would later begin selling stories of the movies he had seen to his friends.

King graduated from college in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. That same year, his daughter was born and he wrote a column titled Steve King’s Garbage Truck for his student newspaper. He held several jobs to pay for his college studies including janitor, and gas pump attendant amongst other odd jobs.


Soon after leaving college, King earned a certificate to teach high school, but was unable to find a job immediately. He therefore resorted to selling short stories to men’s magazines. Many of his early short stories have been republished in the collection Night Shift.

King’s first professional short story was the Glass Floor. He managed to sell it to Startling Mystery Stories , a publishing company, in 1967. King was later hired as a teacher at Hampden Academy where he continued to work on ideas for novels. During this time, he developed a drinking problem that would plague him for close to a decade. 

King and his small family moved to southern Maine because of his mother’s failing health. There, he proceeded to write novels that would put his writing talent on the limelight. Some of the novels he wrote are; Salem’s Lot, Carrie, The Shinning and The Stand. His novels received wide acclamation from around the world, with the majority of them being turned into Big Screen films or TV movies and films


In 2008, King spoke against HB 1423, a bill that would ban or restrict the sale of violent video games to persons under the age of 18. He saw this bill as an attempt by politicians to scapegoat popular culture.

King’s novella Shawshank Redemption was the basis of the film The Shawshank Redemption which received a wide acclamation and was regarded one of the greatest films the world has ever seen.

Over his career span, King has collaborated with renowned writers such as Peter Staub, Barbara Kruger and Stewart O’ Nan in writing some of the greatest novels in history.

King took a brief hiatus from writing while dealing with near-death injuries obtained when he was stuck by a car in 1999. But, like any icon "you can't keep a good man down" and we continues to inspire creativity in readers and send shivers down the spines of his fans worldwide through his ever-prolific writings.

King knew what he wanted, went out and got it! He took his passion and turned it into a fulltime job, and for that American Sunglass would like to call him out as an Icon.