(USA TODAY) — Even Stephen King is allowed a crisis of confidence once in a while.
The iconic author is currently stuck on one aspect of a new novel he’s started — “If I could think of a title, I’d be really happy” — and years ago, when tackling the detective genre with 2014’s Mr. Mercedes, King worried about not being the “scary guy” people expect from his long literary career.
“I had this discussion with myself: ‘Wait a minute, you’re in your 60s now. You’re doing OK financially — it isn’t like you need to write a certain kind of story in order to feed your family. Are you going to do this, or punk out and be gutless?’ ” King recalls.
The best-selling Mercedes kicked off a modern-noir trilogy and now comes to TV with an AT&T Audience Network series (premiering Wednesday) starring Brendan Gleeson as retired cop Bill Hodges and Harry Treadaway as the serial killer he has to catch.
It’s one aspect of a busy time for King: The film adaptation of The Dark Tower is in theaters now, a new It movie debuts on the big screen Sept. 8, he starts a book tour next month with son Owen for Sleeping Beauties (out Sept. 26), and the elder King has another tome, The Outsider, coming soon.
“Don’t forget my record album!” the writer says, laughing. “Man, I’m kidding you.”
USA TODAY checks in with the master of horror about his work on page and screen:
What did you love about exploring the private-eye genre with Mr. Mercedes?
I’ve read detective novels my whole life and I say that without a shred of guilt, starting with Agatha Christie when I was 12 years old. The way I handled it was to go back to Hitchcock, where you really know everything and the characters don’t know anything. It’s not a whodunit, it’s this game of wits with life and death stakes we get to see from both sides.
You’ve been outspoken on Twitter about Trump and politics. Is that starting to creep into your work more?
The story should always carry some kind of personal, societal or political (subtext) but they shouldn’t be in the forefront. I don’t want to be Upton Sinclair or George Orwell and write novels that are basically thinly disguised polemics of political things.
Are you excited to see another version of It come to the screen?
Yeah. I’ve seen the movie, it’s terrific. I think people are going to enjoy it on a lot of different levels. And Netflix has done films of 1922 and Gerald’s Game, and they’re both really good, too!
Hulu’s doing a Castle Rock anthology series, connected to the infamous locale from your stories.
I don’t have any plans to write for it but I’m in contact with (executive producer) J.J. Abrams. We’ve talked about a couple of interesting ideas, and I know at least one of the stories that has a Castle Rock background will figure in the TV series. It’s a little like sending your kids off to college: Here’s what I’ve got for you, I’ve raised you right, hopefully you’ll go off and you won’t get into trouble. Sometimes they do anyway!
Speaking of kids, how fun was it to write Sleeping Beauties with Owen?
It was great. He came to me with this idea of all the women in the world going to sleep, and I seized on that immediately. It goes back to what we said before: All the political and social things, the upheaval that’s going on right now, the women with the pussy hats, none of that had happened. You can’t be more flattered than when one of your kids comes to you and says, “I want to work with you.”
Anything you want to spill about The Outsider?
Nope. Well, there’s a lot of things I want to say about that, but I can’t. It’s too cool to talk about right now. All I can say is it won’t be out in 2017 because I’ve got enough going on.