5 Nutty Things (and One Serious) About Stephen King’s Shining Sequel Doctor Sleep

Retirees tooling around the country in your RVs…you’re on notice.

Doctor Sleep, the Stephen King novel sequel to The Shining, is due to arrive on September 24th from Scribner Books and will follow a grown-up Dan Torrance (the child from The Shining who had the shining) as he uses his mental abilities to ease the suffering and passing of the elderly. Check out the beautiful Tal Goretsky cover! (There’s a larger version for you below.)

Entertainment Weekly recently sat down with King to talk about the book and got some amazing answers out of the writer about the book and his life. Here are some of our favorite highlights from it.

1.) Stephen King has tired of not scaring the shit out of you.

In the interview King briefly reflected on his recent big book releases like The Wind Through the Keyhole, Under the Dome, and 11/22/63, noting that they didn’t have the kind of scares he regularly dealt out early in his career. Doctor Sleep will be a return to form in this regard.

2.) Why are there are so many retirees wandering the country in RVs? What’s their plan???

Doctor Sleep introduces a type of predatory humans that feast on people like Dan Torrance, who have extranormal mental abilities. And you can find those people at nearly any rest stop or campground. According to King:

Driving back and forth from Maine to Florida, which I do twice a year, I’m always seeing all these recreational vehicles—the bounders in the Winnebagos. I always think to myself, ‘Who is in those things?’ You pass them a thousand times at rest stops. They’re always the ones wearing the shirts that say ‘God Does Not Deduct From a Lifespan Time Spent Fishing.’ They’re always lined up at the McDonald’s, slowing the whole line down. And I always thought to myself, ‘There’s something really sinister about those people because they’re so unobtrusive, yet so pervasive.’

King is on to you, baby boomers. Now stop asking us when we’re going to make you a grandma/grandpa. Also clean the RV before you cross the border. That’s why you keep getting stopped! We’ve told you this.

3.) A cat prompted King to finally started writing Doctor Sleep.

King read a story about a cat in a nursing home that would cuddle up to a resident that, unbeknownst to the doctors or staff, was about to pass away. King made a connection between that cat’s clairvoyance and Dan Torrance’s shining ability and began to wonder about a grown up Dan working in a nursing home. This combined with themes he wanted to revisit and a full story presented itself, making a sequel to The Shining impossible to ignore.

4.) Doctor Sleep will revisit issues regarding fatherhood and alcoholism.

The Shining was basically born from King’s own need desperate need to provide for his growing family (a need that powered his alcoholism, as well). Check out this fantastic analysis by Grady Hendrix for more background on that. And King will not shy away from depicting Dan having grown up in the shadow of that. Repeating cycles of abuse (both to the self and to others) will come up as themes in Doctor Sleep, and considering King’s own experience with them one could not be blamed for expecting some powerful depictions of failing fathers and alcoholism in the sequel.

I knew if I did this sequel I’d have to try to put together some of the same elements, but at the same time I didn’t want to make it too similar. I didn’t want to make Danny a grown up with kids of his own, and try to replicate that whole losing-your-temper-because-you’re-drunk thing. But I did think to myself: ‘Not only alcoholism can be a family disease, but rage can be a family disease.’ You find that the guys who abuse their children were abused themselves as kids. That certainly fit Danny as I knew him.

5.) When Stephen King is dead, that’s the end of his shared universe.

The Entertainment Weekly interview also touched on other subjects, one of them being the supposed The Shining movie prequel (based on an unpublished prologue from the book), which lead to discussion of his shared universe and other writers adding to it. King is very open to others collaborating with him while alive, but he feels uncomfortable with that occurring after his death.

King is sensible about it and realizes it will happen eventually, but hopes it doesn’t for a while and has instructed his kids as to his wishes in that regard.

6.) Finally, this amazing sentence.

When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’

For the context to that quote, check out the full interview. There’s lots of great tidbits in it!

One more time, the fantastic cover to Doctor Sleep.

Doctor Sleep Stephen King cover reveal

Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com. Stubby is right behind you! In the past. Holding hands with its twin. Haunting you with its presence. Driving you with urges. And is a killer car. Escaping from Shawshank.


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