Author Stephen King Opens UMass Lowell Speaker Series

Boston Herald
11/24/2012
By Tenley Woodman

What frightens horror master Stephen King?

Public speaking.

“I do some colleges, but I don’t do a lot of stuff,” King told a handful of reporters last week. “Frankly, it’s kind of scary.”

King will make an exception Dec. 7 and discuss his work with a capacity crowd at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Tsongas Center. Author and UMass Lowell professor Andre Dubus III (“House of Sand and Fog”) will moderate the event, the first of the school’s Chancellor’s Speaker Series.

“I’m a writer. I’m not a performer. When I get out in front of a bunch of people I get a little bit nervous and self-conscious. It’s strange to me that people want to come out and see someone who is not Justin Bieber,” said King, a Maine native.

The best-selling author will also hold a master class with UMass Lowell creative writing students before his appearance. King is also donating his speaking fee to the school for a scholarship in his and wife Tabitha’s names.

“When someone says fee to me, I go pale,” he said. “I think to myself, ‘This isn’t what I do for a living.’ I’m not like Patton Oswalt who can tell jokes.”

But the prolific writer known for spine-tingling novels “Carrie,” “It” and “Misery” ventured into new territory earlier this year. The musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” on which King collaborated with Midwestern rocker John Mellencamp and producer T-Bone Burnett, premiered on stage in April.

“The only play I’d written before ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County’ was for my Boy Scout troupe when I was 12,” King said. “I like the idea of putting something on stage without doing all the movie magic. I was taken by the idea of doing something completely simple.”

The project was more than a decade in the making. The soundtrack, featuring music by Elvis Costello, Kris Kristofferson and Rosanne Cash among others, goes on sale March 19.

King continues to test new ground, with his online comic “The Little Green God of Agony” and pulp stories for Hard Case Crime. The literary icon told the Herald he believes his career would have the same trajectory if he started writing today.

“I think people have a hunger for things that are scary and the fantastic. That goes into everyday life,” said the 65-year-old. “There’s always a market for it. I think if I started now, it would probably be the same career arc ... I’m a believer that history repeats itself.”

General admission tickets are sold out, but sponsorship tickets, starting at $1,000 for two premium seats and a preshow reception with Stephen King, are available. Go to uml.edu/Chancellor/Speaker-Series/Sponsorship.aspx to learn more.