Saturday, 22 October 2016

Me and Stephen King

Well, no. Not really me and the maestro of horror. In fact, not even remotely me and the King. But there’s a bit of a connection. I’m not a horror fan, nor a ghost story fan, though as a reader and writer of romantic suspense I do enjoy a tightening of the strings, an increase in the heartbeat as the inevitable events draw to a climax. And actually, me and Stephen…Stephen and me… well it appears that we do like an historic hotel.

On holiday in the States recently, I fetched up in one of America’s finest old hotels, the Stanley in Estes Park. It’s historic, no question (over 100 years old). And there’s definitely something paranormal about it. The first clue was in the packed lobby, full of people waiting to take a ghost tour. Then there was the sign for Madame Vera, the hotel’s resident psychic.

Resident psychic? I’ve heard of a writer in residence, but…

So, I decided to pass on Madame Vera’s services. Dodging round the ghost tour parked outside my room (“…and on this very spot a strange and unexpected explosion took place…”) I tried to settle down. But frankly, my dear, even if every piece of wood in the vicinity doesn’t creak in a non-existent wind, it’s hard to get comfortable when the guide is spinning tales to freak out people who don’t have to sleep in the place (“…where the actor Jim Carrey saw something so terrible that he’s never spoken of it, to this day…”).

Fortunately there was an alternative to this scenario (the tours came round every hour in the afternoons, which didn’t make for much relaxation). On a bitterly cold afternoon, with the snow blowing around outside, t was time to decamp. Pick up the notebook and pen, stop by the coffee bar for a very large cup of something stimulating and grab the comfy leather armchairs in front of the fire. 

And here, dear reader, Stephen King and I found something in common. Although I never heard whether he took advantage of the beautifully dark-panelled lobby-cum-lounge — or, indeed, whether he was driven out of his room by the ghost tours — I do know that somewhere in the Stanley he’s said to have been inspired to write. And so was I.

There the similarities begin and end. He wrote The Shining; I came away with the plot for a romance. Even so, there’s something about sitting where he sat (maybe) and writing. 

You can’t beat it.