Although King has chatted about the project before, and even read a short excerpt of the book last year, this is the most he's opened up about the sequel, titled Doctor Sleep. The book takes us into the solitary world of a middle-aged "Dan Torrance." He uses his shining ability to comfort the dying in the hospice in which he is employed, but some of the demons from his past are still haunting him.
King expressed that he has often wondered what happened to Danny and even joked that he married Charlie McGee from Firestarter. In the interview, he talks about when and why he finally decided to write this sequel (due out Sept. 24) and some of his own fears. Most revealing is that he's trying to make his work quite scary, and is doing it with a kid character and it even sounds like we'll see Danny returning to the site of the Overlook.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Doctor Sleep finds Dan Torrance as kind of a loner, working with terminally ill patients. His shining comes in very handy there, but what sparked you to the idea he would end up in a place like that?
Probably five years ago, I saw this piece on one of those morning news shows about a pet cat at a hospice, and according to this story the cat knew before anybody else when somebody was going to die. The cat would go into the room, curl up on the bed, and the people never seemed to mind. Then those people died. I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a story about that.’ And then I made the connection with Danny Torrance as an adult, working in a hospice. I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m gonna write this book.’
How will you judge whether you’ve succeeded?
Basically, the idea of the story was to try and scare the s–t out of people. [Laughs.] I said to myself, ‘Let me see if I can go and do that again.’ There’ve been a couple of books that haven’t really been that way. 11/22/63 was a lot of fun to write and a lot of people read it and seemed to like it, but it’s not what you’d call a balls to the wall scary story. The same was true of Under the Dome. I wanted to go back to that real creepy scary stuff. We’ll see if it works. I like the book, or I wouldn’t have ever wanted to publish it.
I think what makes your stories genuinely frightening is the supernatural often stands for something real. Most dads aren’t possessed by haunted hotels, but a lot of people know — or can imagine — what it’s like to have an out-of-control parent.
For a lot of kids, Dad is the scary guy. It’s that whole thing where your mother says, ‘You just wait until your father comes home!” In The Shining, these people were snowbound in a hotel and Dad is always home! And Dad is fighting this thing with the bottle and he’s got a short temper anyway. I was kind of feeling my own way in that because I was a father of small children. And one of the things that shocked me about fatherhood was it was possible to get angry at your kids.
Doctor Sleep reveals that Danny became kind of a drifter as a younger man. Who is in his life now — besides the cat?
I wanted to bring a kid into the story to be his surrogate child. I don’t want to go any further with that [in the interview] because I don’t want to give anything away. She’s a little girl and her name is Abra. She’s named after the main female character in the John Steinbeck book East of Eden. I always sort of liked that name. I was able to create a kid character I thought was kind of a throwback to some of the kids that are in Pet Sematary, ‘Salem’s Lot and It — stuff like that. It’s been a long time since I used kids as big characters in a book, so this was a chance to do that.
Without getting into spoilers, the book has Danny and the girl being pursued by The True Knot, a kind of nomadic group of people who masquerade as Winnebago-riding old timers but feed off people who have psychic energy.
Driving back and forth from Maine to Florida, which I do twice a year, I’m always seeing all these recreational vehicles — the bounders in the Winnebagos. I always think to myself, ‘Who is in those things?’ You pass them a thousand times at rest stops. They’re always the ones wearing the shirts that say ‘God Does Not Deduct From a Lifespan Time Spent Fishing.’ They’re always lined up at the McDonald’s, slowing the whole line down. And I always thought to myself, ‘There’s something really sinister about those people because they’re so unobtrusive, yet so pervasive.’ I just wanted to use that. It would be the perfect way to travel around America and be unobtrusive if you were really some sort of awful creature.
Can you say anything about the settings of Doctor Sleep? Does it take place largely on the road?
I had a chance to return things to the New England setting that I know, but I did go back to Colorado and look around and said I’ve got to try to bring this back around to where the original book was. Everything should come home again. So there is actually a climax in – let’s put it this way – in an area people will remember. But one of the things – and I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for readers or not – is that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the novel. It’s not a sequel to the Kubrick film. At the end of the Kubrick film, the Overlook is still there. It just kind of freezes. But at the end of the book, it burns down.
Are you looking forward to checking out Doctor Sleep? Are you a bigger fan of King’s earlier work or his recent books? What are some of your favorite Stephen King novels or short stories?