What started the idea to find and document the real places that inspired Stephen King?
I have been a ‘Constant Reader’ of King for more years than I care to count. I don’t even remember which story or book was my first, although it may have been ‘The Eyes of the Dragon’, although I confess the ‘Dark Tower’ series that morphed from that story is not one of my favorites.
The ones that really caught my attention were stories like ‘The Body’ which became the film ‘Stand By Me’, and the novel ‘IT’.
My hardcover copy of ‘IT‘ is the most worn of all my King novels, as it became a sort of ritual for me to read it every summer – the superstition somehow believed that if I didn’t, that the summer would be cold, fast and not a good one.
I started to understand why stories like ‘The Body‘ and ‘IT‘ appealed to me so much.
They were about kids. Kids growing up doing the kind of things I did when I was 11 or 12 – things like playing in the ‘Barrens’, throwing rocks, lighting firecrackers, exploring abandoned places, camping out in my back yard with my best friend, watching the stars and telling crazy stories. Kids with an innocence and keen observation about the world around them. Kids that saw things that adults did not. Kids also had an imagination about things that could breed excitement, fear and adventure. As adults, we have lost that.
I could relate to those kids, and it became obvious to me that Stephen couldn’t possibly have made this all up.
I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at a school mate’s cottage in Ontario one summer, and his Dad was an author – Charles Templeton. I dreamed of becoming a writer, and asked him for advice. I still remember what he told me.
“If you do nothing else” he said, “the best thing you can do is write about what you KNOW.”
That is what makes the stories resonate so well. The stories are not really made up at all. Yes, they are stretched and added to, but underneath, they are about real people that Stephen King knew. They are about real places and real things that happened.
Once I understood that, I had the urge to seek these places out. I had to see them, to feel them, and experience more than just the printed words on paper.
The stories I loved and that I related to were calling me to come and see for myself.
So I did just that. I traveled to Maine from my home in Ontario, Canada to spend two weeks finding and living in those places.
I was not disappointed.
As might be expected, a lot of time was spent in the Bangor area where Stephen King lives and where he based a lot of his stories – because it was what HE knew well.
Bangor surprised me. I was not expecting it to be the living breathing and interesting place that I found. On the surface, if you were passing through, you would not see the real Bangor. But stay a while, talk to the people, and let it become familiar, and it becomes something quite different.
I originally intended to take photos and create a photo essay or photo book, and also to document places for my HO scale model railway that I am basing on Stephen King’s Maine.
My daughter who came with me on the trip was in Film School, so she intended to shoot a documentary film.
We visited Maine in May 2015, and between then and now, real life (as it does), shoved our intentions aside, and nothing was done.
Fast forward to now – June 2016. A year later and I have photos, video, interviews and audio of what we discovered. I need to turn this into the project that I imagined.
I realize that a film will not be up to the standards I want, nor do we have the resources or time to do it well.
I think about putting together a photo book with the stories accompanying it, but some of the media we have is worth sharing, so I begin to think out of the box and hear Charles Templeton’s voice telling me to do “what I KNOW”.
What I know and enjoy is working online – with media. The idea starts to form that this information can be best shared in an interactive, multimedia format online.
I chuckle a little at the thought that Stephen would approve. (at least I hope he would!)
So here we are.
The site is up, although much more content will be added soon. The beauty of this project is that you can ‘read’ it in any order. You can look at what interests you the most, or just ‘travel’ around Maine virtually, exploring the places and finding out what inspired King.
For those of you that like a little challenge or fun, there will be some hidden things, kind of ‘Easter Eggs’ that are not obvious, but may be fun to look for.
Do you dare enter the dark, damp sewers of Derry, Maine to see what awaits you?
I hope you do.