When I was young and people found out that I wanted to be a writer, their reaction was always the same: “Oh, you’re gonna be the next Stephen King, huh?”
Oh, did that make me bristle.
No, I informed these Philistines. I was going to be a Real Writer (whatever the fuck that meant). Stephen King could keep pumping out his trash; I was going to write Real Books.
At that point, as you may have already guessed, I had read exactly zero of King’s books. Now, after finally reading a couple—THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON and JOYLAND—I would have a different answer to that old question.
JOYLAND is just the kind of story I would love to write. By that, I don’t mean a coming-of-age story set in an amusement park with mystery elements and supernatural overtones. I mean the kind of story that seduces a reader. The kind of reading experience that feels like a crazy affair—on your mind all the time, even when you’re not together. Especially when you’re not together. When can I see you again?
How does King do it?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I wish someone could tell me, because I’d like to do it, too.
King certainly doesn’t need my stamp of approval, but what the hell, I’ll give it to him, anyway. Sorry for slagging on you when I was young and dumb, Stephen. Keep writing Real Books and I’ll keep reading them.