To say that the crowd for the October 1st Sleeping Beauties talk by Owen and Stephen King was big is kind of a ridiculous understatement. The first ticketholders got in line at the J. Scheidigger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood University at 11:00 AM. There were t-shirts and ballcaps with lines from King’s vast collection of work. The vibe from the crowd was jubilant—and that’s before they hit the stage.
One of the ladies sitting behind me, Melveta, flew from San Jose, California to be there. She’d had a friend, Cheryle, for over 25 years who found Stephen King’s work along with her. They’d read every book together, seen the movies, and collected first editions. After a 15-year battle with cancer, Cheryle passed away, leaving Mel her entire collection of first edition King books. They’re her most treasured possession. Seeing King speak (with the added bonus of his son) was #3 on Mel’s bucket list. Number two was seeing Mary J. Blige in concert (check), and the #1 item is going to Paris. She’ll be there in the spring, and will need to start a new list.
Mel came to St. Louis in spite of the NAACP warning for people of color to avoid the state. She came after her friend turned the trip down because of safety concerns. She came to see Stephen King, and she said, “It’s just people, and I’m just people. And I’m not letting people get in the way of me and my dream.”
She came to see him, because Stephen King knows and writes about people in a way that resonates with all of us. We’ve all been afraid, but it’s not the supernatural fear that always gets us. It’s the people who twist and shift. It’s the little happenstances—a dropped key, a pet burial, a hyper-religious mother—these things are relatable, and before they jump to the supernatural, we’re already terrified. He writes of the good in people, too, the love and devotion, loyalty and humor that is part of the human experience. The heroes in his stories are just people like us who rise to the occasion.
Stephen and his son, Owen, are both authors in a family of authors. The idea for Sleeping Beauties came from a game they play, where someone sends a story idea to the others and they kick it around to see what would happen. Owen wasn’t sleeping well because of his small children and wondered, “What if every woman in the world fell asleep? And couldn’t wake up?” This is the base for the novel, and if the excerpt they read last night is any indication, it’s going to keep me awake for nights. That’s what the Kings are good at—making our brains wonder and wander. | Melissa Cynova
Photos courtesy of Joe Johnson with Crossroad Images.