Following the publication of Insomnia (787 pages) — about an old man who, suffering from sleeplessness, starts to see little men with scissors running around town — King hopped on a Harley motorcycle and drove across the country on a 10-city tour. The trip was meant to help prop up independent bookshops following a wave of discounting at chain stores like Barnes & Noble.
King: It’s worrying because what’s happening now with Walmart and Amazon and Target cutting their prices is that they’ve turned the chain stores into indies. And independent bookstores are really clinging on by the skin of their teeth. When you hear Borders saying things like, “Well, we’re not worried about the price-cutting because it’s important to us to provide the complete bookstore experience,” I go, “Oh my God, this sounds like Johnson talking about winning in Vietnam.” I don’t think the American consumer cares that much about the whole bookstore experience. They care about getting the Michael Connelly book that they want, or the Sarah Palin book — if they’re, you know, into that. I thought James Patterson, who I ordinarily don’t have a lot of respect for, said it best. He said they’re devaluing the crown jewels, and who knows what’s going to happen next?
TIME: You once wrote about plotted novels versus unplotted novels, and you wrote that Insomnia was unplotted and that, in retrospect, you found the results “particularly uninspiring.”
King: When you plot a novel, particularly when you try to make a novel work to fit a foregone conclusion, you know how a book is going to end. And if you sense that a book wants to go in a different direction, you steer it back to that predetermined course at your peril. It’s better to let the book be the boss. I remember the sensation of saying, “I’m twisting this for my own purposes.” It was a book that had one bad guy that really wanted to go off the reservation, and I wouldn’t let him. I made him do what I wanted. And as a result, it was tough for me to believe it. And if I can’t believe some of these things, I can’t expect readers to believe them because, let’s face it, they’re pretty out there anyway.