Stephen King is considered one of the greatest writers of our time — by some. He certainly is one of the most prolific, churning out mega-tomes and short stories like a runaway word processor with an unlimited supply of energy (which sounds like the storyline of several King stories). But what does he think of other writers, like J. K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)? According to the Master of Horror, Stephenie Meyer is a decent storyteller, but she is no J. K. Rowling.
In an interview with USA Weekend, Stephen King said, “The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn.” He added, “She’s not very good.”
Stephen King went on to explain that Meyer’s storytelling was “compelling” to “a certain, less experienced, segment of the population.” Meyer’s characters are ones on the verge of their sexuality, ready to explore, just not ready to experience it all. Her stories seem to be fraught with the dangers and pitfalls of adolescence, young love, forbidden relationships and forbidden sex.
King: “People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s very exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual.”
Stephen King maintains that Stephenie Meyer writes of vampires and werewolves in her Twilight novels as a code for young women on the verge of sexual exploration. “And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”
Stephenie Meyer, who is fresh off of a hit movie to begin her Twilight series’ transition to film, has sold over 40 million books worldwide, according to USA Today. She has a long, long way to go to catch J. K. Rowling (400 million) or even Stephen King (350 million), but, then, she only has five books in print, four of which are in the Twilight series.
But Stephenie Meyer isn’t the only author Stephen King considers sub-par. The 61-year-old author thinks bestselling author James Patterson (Along Came A Spider, Kiss The Girls) is “a terrible writer” that is “very, very successful.” He also finds that Dean Koontz (Watchers, Strangers, From The Corner Of His Eye), who has sold an estimated 225 million books worldwide, is “sometimes… just awful.”
Could this be the beginning of a literary civil war? Stephen King is a highly respected author. Criticism from his corner could spark a war of words. Stephenie Meyer is a relative newcomer. She may simply shrug off King’s words as a we-can’t-be-liked-by-everybody moment. But writers tend to have big egos, successful writers even larger ones, and criticism of a writer’s style or prowess usually leads the attacked to retaliate, their friends and writing colleagues to come to their defense, and their fans to boycott the offending author.
This is a developing story, one that has the potential to get fairly nasty and ugly. Being a wordslinger herself, it is rather doubtful that Meyer will simply just let the comments pass without a response.
But the public has seen this type of thing before from one of its more prolific and famed authors. Mark Twain despised James Fennimore Cooper’s writing style. Many literary historians attribute Twain’s animosity toward the very successful Cooper (Last Of The Mohicans) on Twain’s inability to stay too far from bankruptcy. Twain published a series of critiques on Cooper’s work entitled Literary Offenses and even went after critics who praised Cooper’s writing, stating that before they were moved to acclamation, they should have actually read some of it.
Perhaps Stephen King would be well advised to go back and re-read some of his older material, not all of which were offerings of literary gold. Carrie, Cujo, and The Tommyknockers spring to mind quickly, all novels of simple plot and somewhat compelling storyline, but not couched in the prose of greatness. His so-called Bachman books, novels he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman before Carrie made him famous, were just so much pulp garbage, which King has alluded to self-deprecatingly on several occasions (such as in the introduction to Blaze).
Stephenie Meyer may be going through her Richard Bachman phase – only with a higher degree of success.
In the final analysis, Stephen King’s criticism of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and her writing could simply be professional jealousy. It could be that the sovereign has detected a pretender to the throne, one he deems unworthy (because he has no problem identifying J. K. Rowling as worthy). However, it could also be his honest opinion of Meyer’s writing ability, her style, her technique. Regardless of how his words are interpreted, they will certainly be grist for the rumor mill.
Given his pronouncements in USA Weekend, it is not difficult to imagine that Stephen King has boxes of the Left Behind series for use as toilet tissue…