It wasn’t just novels. In the early 2000s, Stephen King seemed existentially exhausted. He’d started the decade with two books about the limitations and failures of storytelling (From a Buick 8 and The Colorado Kid), gone back into the hospital for surgery still dealing with his 1999 accident, emerged with memory problems, then turned in one of his least popular novels (Cell), before getting his groove back with Lisey’s Story and Duma Key in 2006 and 2008. During that low point, he’d also turned in one of his least interesting short story collections, Everything’s Eventual, which felt like it was mostly made up of recycled ideas. There were some good stories in there, but the ones that just lay there, barely breathing, far outnumbered them.
But in 2006, King edited the 2007 Best American Short Stories collection and something clicked. Confessing that he’d lost his knack for writing short stories after writing a bunch of long novels in the late Nineties, he said that reading the huge volume of stories required to put together the Best American Short Stories anthology reignited his spark and in 2006 he wrote “Willa”, his breakthrough story. It felt like the old days to him again, and inspired by his rejuvenated mojo, he powered through the rest of the stories in this volume, which turned out to be King’s most satisfying short story collection since Skeleton Crew.