Saturday, April 01, 2006

Stephen King's Little Pink Secret

The secret is out. Though he's denied it for almost three decades, horror author at last admitted that he began his writing career as a closet romance writer, writing under the pen name of Regina Stephens for the now-defunct Sweptwinds books, a former subsidiary of Reilly & Lee.

"I don't know why this should shock anyone," Mr. King said, in an interview given only to local reporters. "Lots of science fiction and horror writers supported themselves early on in their careers by writing porn stories for the men's magazines. I found that market was already too crowded, so I went for what you might call soft porn, women's porn, which is really what the romance line is all about, even the stuff with no on-stage sex in it."

When asked how he chose his pen name, Mr. King responded, "Come on... Stephen King... Regina Stephens... think about it. It was such an obvious choice."

Mr. King also commented on how a writer with a penchant for dark horror managed to write for a line of sweet romance books. "At the time it wasn't hard to get ideas," he said. "I'd just watch the soaps for a few days -- which was as much as I could take of them -- and then start putting ideas together. Romance readers are a lot more savvy these days, but back then, you could still get away with formulaic romance. Once you had the general formula down, it wasn't hard to churn out book after book. I'll admit it wasn't my best writing. It wasn't very inspiring. But it paid the light bill and kept food in the fridge until my horror writing took off."

Mr. King kept his secret well. Even his autobiographical book On Writing (Scribner, 2000) makes no mention of his romance writing, in spite of many other confessions about his personal life.

Romance writer Doris Richards, author of over 60 category romances for various companies, was the first to blow the lid off of Stephen King's "Little Pink Secret," as she calls it. Richards read Carrie when it was first published in 1974. "I wondered at the time," Richards said. "I was a high school senior then, and everyone told me I was crazy. Carrie? Carrie was a horror novel, not a romance. But I was also an avid romance reader, and I could see traces of the familiar pattern of a gothic romance. There was the dejected daughter, the stern mother, the handsome boy... true, the dejected daughter was an unintelligent lump, but give her beauty instead, and you'd have the perfect setting for a gothic or a teen romance. Minus the pig's blood, of course!" Richards added with a laugh.

"I am actually a little surprised that no one else spotted that," Mr. King responded, with a wry smile, when reporters showed him the Richards interview. "I thought it would be a bit too obvious."

So was Carrie really a romance novel in disguise? Mr. King laughed. "Almost. It did start out as a teen romance. Sweptwinds was suffering from competition from the big names like Harlequin that were taking over the racks at the drug stores. That was where most of Sweptwinds' sales came from. And Harlequin had the subscription program while Sweptwinds didn't, so that really did them in. To boost sales they were going to try this new teen romance line. They asked me to write one of the lead books, but they had some definite ideas about what the books should be like. Instead of just letting me go, they handed me this plot outline and wanted me to fill it in.

"That was the beginning of the end of my career with Sweptwinds. I couldn't finish the damned thing! I hated Carrie. Hated her with a passion. Well, she wasn't "Carrie" then, she was "Carina," but I still couldn't stand her. She was a little princess. Another writer took over the story, and I quit the romance business. I wrote Carrie because I really wanted to kill that wretched Carina off. Then I thought, hey, why just kill her off? Why not turn her into an evil character and have her take down half the town with her? So that's how Carrie started. Imagine my surprise when it took off like a rocket."

And we're imagining your surprise when you check the date and realize this entire article is pure tripe. April fools!


John said...

Arrrgh! You got me!

That is just, plain unsociable!

Anonymous said...

ahh!! i was researching this for awhile now because i thought it couldnt be true, my name is regina stephens and when i google myself, a pic of stephen king shows up!! lol!