[In a twist on our semi-regular "How I Wrote It" series, we asked Charles Ardai to describe what it was like to edit one of the world's most famous--and famously prolific and voluble--authors. In his role as founder of the retro-noir Hard Case Crime publishing house, Ardai edited King's latest novel,Joyland -- selected this week as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Year So Far selection.]
There are easy jobs in this world and there are hard jobs. On the list of hard jobs: Coal miner. Brain
surgeon. Middle-East peace negotiator. On the list of easy ones: Anger
management coach to the Dalai Lama. Food taster to Tom Colicchio. And being
Stephen King's editor.
That's not just because some forty years into a stellar career, Stephen
King knows damn well how to do what he does.
(Though clearly he does.) It's also because he's an enthusiastic and
willing collaborator, more willing than many authors one thousandth as
successful to listen to feedback, make changes when they're called for, work
with artists to get the visuals just so, help write lurid taglines for the front
cover, and just generally be part of the publishing process. Working with
writers can be ten kinds of pain, and working with Stephen King is exactly none
Steve would probably tell you he's got one of the world's easier jobs too,
or at least one of its best ones. He clearly loves every minute of it--loves
making up stories and getting to tell them to millions of eager listeners
crowded around a campfire of global proportions, loves the hundred little
details that go into making a book a thing to cherish. The latter is a big part of why he and Hard
Case Crime are such a good match: we both view books not just as vehicles for
the stories they contain but as physical artifacts, colorful little treasures
that shimmer and gleam like prizes in a midway arcade, paper pitchmen that draw
you in with a showman's lure and a coochie-girl's seductive dance. C'mon,
cutie, they whisper from the shelf or from a drugstore's wire rack, want to see what I've got between my covers?
So Steve's job is easy (you just have to be one of the world's most
gifted novelists to do it), and mine is even easier (you just need one of the
world's most gifted novelists to let you do it)"¦is there nothing hard about being
Hard Case Crime?
Well, in this particular case, just one: explaining to readers who've gotten
hooked on ebooks why this book initially isn't available in an ebook
edition. Do we hate ebooks? Of course
not. Steve has done plenty of ebooks
before and I'm sure he'll do more again; so has Hard Case Crime. But JOYLAND is something special, and we
wanted to give it the special treatment it deserved. It's a book about a time long gone but not
(at least by Stephen King) forgotten, a novel that reminds us that music once
came on vinyl, books once came in a form that could be creased and dog-eared,
and amusement parks were once family-owned and the family's name wasn't Disney. It's an old-fashioned book that Steve wanted
readers to experience first in the old-fashioned way.
Which kind of leaves you with
the easiest job of all: sitting back in a lounge chair or a swimming pool or
grassy back yard and reading a terrific new novel by Stephen King.
Tell me--how did we all get so lucky?