"I'm your number one fan..."
I'm guessing Stephen King is sorry he wrote that line all those years ago in Misery. I genuinely can't begin to imagine just how many times the poor guy has had to look up from signing a book, and then smile thinly at the reader who thinks that it's the first time anyone has ever said it to him.
The problem is, ever since I read Misery back in the early nineties, I've always wanted to say it to him myself.
Up until Misery I always had a theory about writers who wrote books about writers and writing.
I figured they'd ran out of ideas.
I guessed they'd spent a long time staring at a blank sheet of paper. I' guessed they'd gotten bored and tried looking out the window for a while instead. I guessed that while they stared out the window the saw themselves staring back and thought:
"Maybe I should write about a writer who doesn't know what to write about?"
There's nothing wrong with that, but I'll tell you a secret you probably already knew... writing isn't really all that exciting. As a spectator sport I'd put it just below watching paint drying, and just above choosing what shade of paint to use in the paint drying contest.
When I write the most you tend to get out of me is the odd bit of mumbled dialogue, followed by the occasional bang of my head on the keyboard.
That's what makes Misery such a great book, what makes King so brave; because even though he was faced with all that dullness, he doesn't even try to go "big" with it.
That would have been too easy.
Instead he sets pretty much the entire book in a modest sized bedroom, with about fifty percent of the action taking place with one of the main characters, Paul the writer, lying in the actual bed. If that wasn't hard enough, he even goes a step further and has the villain, number one fan Annie, barely on the page for huge swathes of the book. And yet, even though she isn't there, she is so well written that we still feel her presence.
Annie stalks between the lines, in the gaps at the end of paragraphs, and just over the next page. She's always on our mind, just about to jump out and do things to us that will make our skin crawl, and make us want to put down the book, even though we know we won't.
Misery is as good as it gets for me, and I'm always happy to chat about it at writer events. Just do me one favour though, if we ever meet, please don't tell me you're my number one fan, I'll not sleep if you do.