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The King Talks about Bag of Bones

With his 50th birthday creeping up like a monster in one of his novels, Stephen King decided to make his new book, Bag of Bones, a stab from the past and a leap to the future. It's a good old scary story like the ones he used to write, but with an ambitious new twist: this time, the otherworldly terror is shot through with a mournful romantic mood right out of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.One of the book's major achievements is its vivid sense of place--it's set in Maine, King's home, and nobody has a better feel for its shadowed beauty. King is fascinated by the idea of a small town that keeps its secrets from outsiders, and here he shares the dark, intriguing secrets of human nature that lurk behind Bag of Bones.

You can find Bag of Bones at

and read a sample chapter of Bag of Bones at



            Secrets, Lies, and Bag of Bones
                     by Stephen King


Community interests us, I think, in fiction, in movies, and on the stage because it interests us in our lives. Community interests us because it's part of an organization that we belong to. That's true whether you live in a city or whether you're in the country. I don't mean to wax sociological about this, but if you live in an apartment building in New York City, that's a community. You may say, "I don't even know who my neighbors are," but you probably know who comes in drunk, who fights with their wife. You may know who enjoys their pets and who's shouting at the dog. You get a sense of what your neighbors are like.

You find out what your part in that community is sometimes without even knowing it. We form communities in a kind of natural way, the same way birds flock, because we understand that communities mimic us. That what a man is, or what a woman is, in terms of personality, a community is as a group. You form together and become a single entity, one with an outside and inside. I think that writers all the way back to Chaucer understand that. God, certainly Grace Metalious understood it when she wrote Peyton Place.

People come to Maine, people from away we call 'em, the flatlanders, you know. They have their summer cottages, they have their summer houses, and they see one side of Maine that they take back with them. Whether it's the old-timers sitting on the porch at the General Store, or whether it's the crafty guide that took them through the woods, or the nice young man who taught their children to swim, or the young woman who takes care of their children. Whoever. They see that outside and they take it back, and if they love Maine, and they love the climate, they might start to associate the beautiful weather with the people they see and to somehow assume that the weather and people are both beautiful, which is not true.

They're skating on the surface of things. Anybody who lives in a community may know, for instance, that the nice young man who taught the children to swim has been busted for pot. That the sweet old codger on the porch at the General Store maybe has too much of an interest in little girls.

Could be this, could be that. A little infidelity, a little cheating. And when we have secrets, when we have weaknesses, we hide them. We try as best we can to paper those places over and put on our best face to show to the world, and that's true of communities, too.

I think that the smaller the community, the more tight-knit the community. And the more the community is isolated from the wider world, the more the tendency is to say, "We take care of our own. We look after our own. When things go wrong, that's our business, that's not your business if you're from the outside."

When I started work on Bag of Bones, all these ideas coalesced in my mind. They appeal to me very strongly because I wanted to write a gothic novel, and for me that is a novel about secrets. About things that happened in the past that have been buried and stay quiet for a while and then, like a buried body, they start to smell bad. If you believe in ghosts, in spooks, in things that go bump in the night, they start to move around a little bit and maybe they start to disturb your sleep a little bit. Certainly, if a community has a bad conscience, there are ghosts at work. And that's what I love. I love the idea of secrets, and secrets always find their way out.

Bag of Bones
by Stephen King


 The Stephen King Bibliography