Thirty-six years after he wrote The Shining, Stephen King returned to the mountains of Colorado to launch his highly-anticipated sequel Dr. Sleep.
King reportedly chose to launch the sequel in Boulder because he'd moved to the college town from Maine back in 1977 when he first wrote about the Torrance family's terrifying stay in the supernatural Overlook Hotel. King's own stay in Estes Park's Stanley Hotel was the loose inspiration for what has become a literary classic.
As King tells it, the move to Boulder may not have happened if it hadn't been for his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
"My wife said people would get tired of reading books set in Maine, so 'we oughtta go somewhere else.' And I don't know whether she really thought that or she just wanted to go somewhere else," King told an auditorium of about 1,300 at the base of the Flatirons. "So she got a road map, opened it up and said, 'pick!' And my finger landed somewhere between Denver and Boulder, and there was no way I was going to live in Denver, so we came to Boulder."
King's family lived on South 42nd Street, just a hop and a dash away (where the local buses really are named the "Hop" and the "Dash") from where his fictional character Danny Torrance lived and had his first visions of "Redrum."
"We came very close to spending the rest of our lives in Boulder, and I think we would have except for three factors: it seemed like there were a lot of people from IBM and we didn’t fit with them, and a lot of people from CU and we didn’t fit with them because we’re old, and a lot of Republicans, and we didn’t fit with them because we’re goddam Democrats."
Boulder also served as a setting for The Stand, and inspired King to write It.
"The transmission died, I had to walk to a repair shop and the wife and kids took a cab home. I’m walking across a bridge over a dry creek and I hear my heels clocking over the board and I thought of this story that scared me when I was a kid," King said. "And I thought, what if it’s a troll? And I went, 'no I don’t want to write a story about a troll under the bridge, I want to write a story about a clown under the bridge.' And that turned out pretty well."
In Dr. Sleep though, Dan Torrance is all grown up and is a recovering alcoholic who is mentoring a 12-year-old girl who shines even brighter than he does (and so far, the reviews have been largely positive).
On Wednesday night at Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium, King explained to the audience why he decided to revisit The Shining and Colorado:
People kept asking me, 'whatever happened to Danny Torrance from The Shining?' And I actually wondered because that kid had a hard childhood. He was one of those, what they call codependent children. The definition of a codependent child is, if you're drowning, someone else's life flashes before your eyes. Here's this kid with an alcoholic abusive father, and there is a cycle that you see all too often where the kid says, ‘Well I grew up in this horrible family, dad was a drunk and I’m never going to do that when I become a father,’ and the next thing you know it’s the same thing happening all over again.
So I was curious about whatever happened to Danny and I decided finally that I would have to write a sequel to The Shining called Dr. Sleep. Because it had been so long, I knew I would eventually have to bring the book back to Colorado because I love Colorado. Other than Maine, it’s my second favorite place. But also because, one of the iron-clad rules of a sequel is that it must be just like the original, only later! No, just kidding, that’s Hollywood bullshit, but I started the book in New England and I knew that we would have to come out to Colorado eventually and we would have to come back to Boulder eventually.
And what I was interested in was the cyclic quality of dysfunction and how alcoholism pops up generation after generation. Even anger seems to be inherited. So I went and I wrote the book.
Now with 56 books under his name, King still clearly loves what he does. He's got a hit TV series titled "Under the Dome" and has begun a film project based on A Good Marriage from his collection of short stories Full Dark, No Stars.
"The thing about this job is people go to psychiatrists and pay them $60, $70 an hour to tell them all their screwed-up fantasies, and I write mine down and people pay me," King said. "That's just how I roll."