Bev was born June 2, 1961 and is originally from New Brunswick, Canada. He studied Crystallography and has a PHD in Chemistry from Dalhousie University in Canada. Bev has been writing for News from the Dead Zone for Cemetery Dance since March of 2001. He is the author of many Stephen King books including; The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion, The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book, and The Stephen King Illustrated Companion.
He also has had the honor of being nominated for awards such as, 2010 Edgar Award for The Stephen King Illustrated Companion, a Bram Stoker Award nomination, Locus Award for Best Non-Fiction, and an Edgar Award for Best Critical Biographical. Bev is also the writer of many essays, interviews, book reviews, and has written short stories for Borderlands, Cemetery Dance, Red Scream, and even a Doctor Who short story. He was the Co-Screenwriter for the “Stephen King Dollar Baby” film, Gotham Cafe. Bev currently lives with his family in Houston, Texas.
(1) You are originally from Canada. What brought you to the United States and how soon did your writing career begin thereafter?
I came to the US in 1989 for a job after spending a couple of years on a postdoctoral fellowship in Switzerland. I had been writing off and on for the previous decade, but not with any serious focus or intent to publish. It took me another decade living in Texas before I got to a point where I could return to writing on a regular basis. I started to get published soon after that.
(2) You studied crystallography at Dalhousie University. Explain to us what that is and what inspired you to switch to the world of writing?
Crystallography is also known as single crystal X-ray diffraction. If you shoot an X-ray beam at a crystal of a substance, you get a diffraction pattern – spots scattered in three dimensions. If you measure the positions and intensities of those spots, you can back calculate – using a lot of mathematical tricks – the exact nature of the molecule that makes up the crystal. You can then generate a 3D image of the molecule. This is useful in any number of fields. At the most basic level, you can identify something you synthesized in a lab if you can crystallize it; however, if you solve the 3D structure of a protein and can identify “active sites,” then you can theoretically design drugs that can interact with the protein, either to make it do something you want it to do, or stop it from doing something you don’t. General X-ray diffraction has applications throughout industry, too. I didn’t switch to the world of writing—I simply added writing to my routine. I still work in the world of X-ray diffraction, but I get up early each morning and write before I head off to the day job. I guess you could say I’ve been a published author since the mid-80s, though, because I have about three dozen peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.
(3) You are known for writing books about Stephen King and in particularly, The Dark Tower series. When did you first meet Stephen King and what attracted you to his style of writing?
I first “met” Stephen King when I picked up a paperback copy of ‘Salem’s Lot at a used bookstore in 1979. I wasn’t reading much horror at the time, but the cover intrigued me and I had a vague recollection of hearing good things about the book, so I added it to the stack of mostly fantasy and sci-fi I bought that day. I was instantly hooked and sought out everything else he’d written to that point, which wasn’t all that much. I’ve followed along ever since. Mostly I’m attracted to his depth of characterization, how he can create such fascinating characters in a few broad strokes—and even better at length. Think about how much we learn in just a few pages about the young man and woman who meet in line at the job fair at the beginning of Mr. Mercedes. Plus he writes ripping good tales, doesn’t he?
*(Yes, he does!)
(4) Out of all his works, what attracts you so much to the Dark Tower series?
I look at the Dark Tower series as a microcosm of his entire writing career. The beginning predates his earliest published novel, and it spans 35 years of his life. The series extends tentacles into so much else that he has written, and vice versa. To me, it’s almost impossible to write meaningfully in any detail about his entire career. Such a work would be a Ph.D. thesis on steroids. But by distilling everything down to these eight books, a person can, perhaps, address the bigger picture. And it’s still big enough and meaty enough to explore at length.
(5) You’ve been writing short stories and for a long time. What genre do you prefer and will we see a short story collection book in the near future?
I started out writing mostly horror, but I have dabbled in science fiction, fantasy, romance, and straight fiction. However, my preference is crime fiction, whether it be mystery, caper or thriller. Most of my recent work, even when nominally in another genre, is crime fiction at heart. For example, my contemporary vampire story, “A Murder of Vampires” from the eVolVe anthology, is a serial killer/cop story. I’ve resisted the temptation to do a collection until I have a few novels under my belt. However, for people who want a sampler, there are two options. Dark Arts Press included four of my stories in When the Night Comes Down, along with similar batches of stories from three other writers. One of the stories was a reprint, but the other three were brand new. It’s available both as a paperback and an eBook. Then, sometime in 2015, another sampler collection of reprints will be published as an eBook. This one hasn’t been announced yet, so stay tuned for more details as they become available.
(6) There are a lot of Stephen King Facebook fan pages. What is your take on the wave of fans and the pages they’ve created to this legendary writer?
I’m a little bit overwhelmed by them! People keep adding me to them, or suggesting I join, and I get group overload. There is a lot of overlap among them. I tend not to pay close attention to which group I’m posting in when I see something pop up on my newsfeed where I feel tempted to contribute. I’m probably not a traditional Facebook user in that I don’t go into the groups individually. I just wait for something to pop up on my timeline, unless someone tags me in a post. The bottom line, though, is that it is evidence of King’s popularity and the strength of his fan base. There are other writers out there who sell more copies of new books than he does who don’t attract this type of adulation. Long before there was Facebook, there was an alt.books.stephen-king newsgroup, but there wasn’t any alt.books.james-patterson, and alt.books.john-grisham might have had a post or two a month instead of dozens per day as on the King newsgroup.
(7) You’ve written for Cemetery Dance magazine since 2001. How did you get on board with them and how does your magazine differ from other horror magazines such as Fangoria?
I can’t remember exactly when I became aware of CD, but I’d been a subscriber for a number of years and had ordered some of their books. I think I’d spoken on the phone with Rich Chizmar a couple of times, too. I gained something of a reputation as a King know-it-all on alt.books.stephen-king, thanks in part to my habit of looking up answers to questions if I don’t know them off-hand. I also made friends with a few people behind the scenes who would supply me with information for the newsgroup. So I became the go-to guy for reliable info. After a hiatus, CD was preparing to re-launch the magazine in 2001. Rich called me up to ask if I wanted to take over the King news, reviews and commentary column that has appeared in the magazine pretty much since its inception. Since I was already doing that online, I figured, why not? The early columns were enormous beasts, some over 7000 words long. However, because of the way the magazine’s schedule can sometimes slide because other things get priority at the printer, the “news” was often somewhat dated by the time the magazine showed up. So we retooled it a bit over the years and added the online version at NewsFromTheDeadZone.com so that current information can get out fairly quickly, but there’s still a venue for longer commentary in the print version. Fangoria tends to be more cinema-oriented, whereas CD is fiction-oriented. Fangoria is glossy and hip, reveling in the gross and the outré, but you’ll never see a short story in its pages, and only a few book reviews. CD is mostly fiction and book reviews, with a handful of long-running columns such as mine.
(8) The Dark Tower is, well, a very controversial subject among Stephen King fans. It seems it is so drastically different than his other works. What do you feel it is specifically about this series that brings such a huge following in the same league as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
I think The Gunslinger is radically different from his other works, especially at the time it was published, but I don’t think the rest of the series is all that different. It is epic in scope, but it bears similarities to books like The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon and The Talisman. I think that if the first book had been a tad more accessible, the series would be more widely read by his regular fan base than it is. I’m not sure the series is in the same league as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. Those works have entered the common consciousness. People who’ve never read one of the books or seen any of the films are familiar with them on some level because they’ve become so pervasive. The Dark Tower isn’t like that, I’m afraid. The average citizen on the street probably hasn’t heard of it. That’s one of the issues with getting a film adaptation going, I think. The Lord of the Rings had a few generations of fans around the world as a built-in audience, and Harry Potter exploded onto the scene. The Dark Tower has a way to go before it achieves a similar level of popular familiarity. It might never get there.
(9) Who is your favorite Dark Tower character and why and your favorite book in the series?
My favorite book in the series is The Gunslinger because for so many years, that’s all there was. I read it in 1984 and loved its dark, moody, introspective feel, and I read it several times after that, before the second book came out. I don’t really have a favorite character. Picking favorites isn’t something I do easily.
(10) There is tons of talk about a Dark Tower movie. What are your thoughts on that subject and would you like to see it come to the big screen?
I wouldn’t mind seeing it come to the big screen, nor would I mind seeing it adapted on HBO or Netflix. I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination. I rarely mind when a director takes a literary work and runs off in a different direction with it. So, when I heard what Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman have in mind for The Dark Tower (as they discussed in the interviews they provided in The Dark Tower Companion), I was thrilled. I don’t care that Javiar Bardem (their early choice for Roland) doesn’t have blue eyes, and I don’t mind if they start the adaptation with the second book instead of the first, for example. I’m a big fan of movies in general. I’d love to see someone have the guts to tackle this, even if they make a real hash of it. On the other hand, if it never happened, I wouldn’t be heartbroken, either.
(11) You worked on a Stephen King “Dollar Baby”, GOTHAM CAFE. Out of all the Stephen King short stories, what attracted you most to “Lunch at the Gotham Café”?
That was a case of an opportunity presenting itself to me. I wasn’t a driving force behind that project. The person who spearheaded it asked if I would adapt the story, which wasn’t anything I’d ever done before. I took a shot at it, and then a couple of other people worked on the script, too. It’s a fascinating story, though. I like the concept that this couple is having a really bad day but, in close proximity, someone else is having a much, much worse day and it all boils over around them, making their issues seem somewhat trite by comparison.
(12) What changes did you make to GOTHAM CAFE to make this your own as opposed to King’s original text?
I wasn’t all that concerned with making the story my own. My main job was to add a little bit of background to flesh out the characters and present the story in as cinematic a fashion as possible. The director had a stylistic vision that he injected into the script, too, which was above and beyond what I imagined. Like I said, I’d never tried anything like this before, so it was very much a learning experience. You have to keep things like budget in mind. Just because you can put it on the page doesn’t mean that it can be shot on the limited budgets these projects tend to have. In the final analysis, I was very happy with how it turned out. We got Mick Garris to cameo as a priest. King provided a voice cameo—the first time he’s ever been directly involved in one of these Dollar Babies. He let us attach his name to the title, which is his ultimate stamp of approval, and we got to screen it for him and a handful of his friends and associates in a movie theater in Orono.
(13) What is your greatest moment so far with the success of The Dark Tower Companion & The Road to the Dark Tower books?
I’d say that one of the most memorable occasions was the time when my publisher wanted to put “Authorized by Stephen King” on the front of The Road to the Dark Tower. I was a little uneasy about that, but I was a fledgling author, so I asked King what he thought. He would have been okay with it, but was it advisable, he asked. He told me that if they said that, it could make it seem like I toed the corporate line. That I didn’t write anything that might offend him. It might diminish the book’s credibility. So I (hesitantly) asked if he had something else the publisher could put in its place, and he supplied this very generous cover blurb that had my editor and the others at Penguin doing the happy dance. That was a good moment. There have been many. I was thrilled to have my picture in Locus magazine along with a very flattering review of The Road to the Dark Tower. I’d been reading that magazine for nearly twenty years, never expecting to be featured in it. Getting a sidebar about The Road to the Dark Tower in USA Today after I provided background about the series for their book reviewer, Bob Minzesheimer, was another shining moment.
(14) What Stephen King story would you like to adapt on a large scale?
I’ll leave that to the professionals. It’s not like there’s a shortage of adaptations going on at any given moment! I know enough about how Hollywood works to be less than eager to get involved with that three-ring circus.
(15) In The Dark Tower Companion, you analyze the series VERY thoroughly and really break it down for the fans. Which part of this book specifically did you enjoy writing and researching the most?
The whole thing was a great pleasure, but I especially liked conducting the interviews. There weren’t any in The Road to the Dark Tower, and I thought it would be good to hear from some of the other people who had a hand in shaping the Dark Tower universe.
(16) What was your most enjoyable interview in the book and why?
This was the first time I’d interviewed King formally, so that was a little strange. We have a fairly casual relationship, mostly discussing books and TV series we enjoy, and making recommendations to each other. Having a list of questions and a phone appointment and a time limit made me nervous, for some reason. The neatest experience was interviewing Ron Howard. I’d set things up with his assistant for a specific day and time. I was experimenting with the gadget I’d purchased to record phone interviews, and the associated software, so I just happened to have everything with me when I got a call from my wife while I was at work saying Ron Howard was about to call me. He was in the UK filming Rush, driving back from the set at the end of the day, and a window had opened up in his schedule. Could I do the interview RIGHT NOW? How could I say no? I fired up the software, found my list of questions and had a wonderful conversation with him as he drove across London. His enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and I was also thrilled to hear him speak at length and in great detail about their plans. It was a “scoop” for me—he’d never talked about the project like this before—nor has he since, really. But I also loved talking to the artists associated with the Marvel series. I’m not a big comic reader and didn’t have a very good understanding of the process by which they are created, so I felt like I learned a lot about comics and came to appreciate them more as a result. Richard Isanove, the colorist, was a fantastic interview subject.
(17) Do you feel the Dark Tower comic book series is just as important as part of the series itself?
I think the comics are important, but I don’t think they are canonical. I don’t think Robin Furth would argue with that, either. She has written about how they went off-script on occasion and their reasons for doing so. And while King was overseeing the project, he tends to be an all-in or all-out kind of guy and my feeling is that he put his trust in Robin as caretaker of his creation and didn’t guide them all that much beyond his initial outpouring of story ideas at the famous meeting with Marvel that kicked everything off. He was there as a sounding board for whenever Robin had questions, but wasn’t micromanaging them. I especially like the essays Robin contributes to most issues, as they really help build context and background for Mid-World and its inhabitants. I treat the comics at length in The Dark Tower Companion because I realized that there would be a fairly large audience for whom the graphic novels would be their introduction to the series. I wanted to say, yes, there’s all this, but this is what it all means in a larger context, if you’re looking for more information. Similarly, if and when the film adaptations come into being, I saw the Companion as a resource for people who’ve never read the books but who want to know more about various topics that might come up in the movies. And, for those who’ve read the books but not the comics, here’s a condensed version of what they’re missing out on.
(18) What is it about the “mystery” and fantasy behind the Dark Tower series that keeps one constantly questioning its true meaning? Do you agree with how King ended the series?
I agree with how he ended the series 100%. I remember the morning I finished the seventh book for the first time. I was reading it in first draft manuscript, picking up a sheet of paper, reading it, putting it down on the pile, picking up the next. I had 200 pages left to go and I had one eye on the clock because I was supposed to go to my day job, but I just couldn’t stop. I got to the point where he “recommended” for people to turn away, and kept right on going. It was the perfect ending. How could it be anything other than that? My first comment to King was that he’d made me late to work, and I think he liked that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk about the ending with anyone for nearly two years after that, so I poured all of my thoughts and ideas about what things meant into The Road to the Dark Tower. Even my editor hadn’t read the last three books at that point, so I was really on my own. Over those months during which I wrote that book, I spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of various things. I tried not to bug King too much with questions, but I did fire off the occasional one when I encountered things that I wanted to probe more deeply. My biggest question was: is Roland’s next journey his last? King gave me a fairly direct answer to that one about incremental growth and I came to see Roland’s existence not as a loop, as many people said, but as a gradual upward spiral, sort of like the staircase inside the Tower. Each time, a little bit better. Approaching perfection, but not getting there quickly.
(19) You have been recognized and praised for your work about King along with such King contributors as Rocky Wood and Stephen Spignesi. How does that inspire you to be in such a class of such great talent?
Back in the day, when I had the reputation for answering questions in the King newsgroup, it was Steve Spignesi’s book, The Shape Under the Sheet, that was my #1 go-to resource. I usually said that Steve was the guy who made me look smart. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, but he published my Dreamcatcher commentary in The Essential Stephen King, which was my first experience of being involved in a signed, limited edition. I did get to meet Rocky on a number of occasions, and always enjoyed hanging out with him. He is missed. This gig has put me into contact either personally or professionally with so many people. My fiction has ended up in anthologies cheek-by-jowl with writers whose work I admire, and I’ve had the opportunity to interview some very cool people over the years. It’s all been quite a ride.
(20) Who were your inspirations growing up as a writer?
My earliest influence was Poe. I purchased a copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination from a discount bin (along with The Jungle Book and The Wizard of Oz) when I was eight or nine. I probably read the other two, although I don’t have strong memories of them, but I read the Poe to shreds. Those stories have stayed with me, and their initial impact makes them seem much longer in my memory. They are dense compact tales that pack a real punch in just a few pages. I am also inspired and influenced by Bradbury, though he’s a very hard act to follow. Also, I’d have to say Agatha Christie, whose novels I devoured as a teenager. I also liked the way Isaac Asimov wove science into his novels in an entertaining way. I read a lot of different people these days – you can get a sample of that by looking at what I’ve reviewed at www.onyxreviews.com.
(21) You have won many awards and been nominated for such awards as the Bram Stoker Award and the Edgar Award. Which one was your proudest moment?
I would have to say that the Edgar nomination for The Stephen King Illustrated Companion was my favorite accolade to date. My wife and I went to New York for the ceremony, knowing full well I had no chance of winning, so we just dressed up to the nines and had a great time. I was up against PD James, one of my favorite writers, who’d written a non-fiction work that year, so I figured she was a shoe-in to win. As they say, it was an honor to be named in such company. However, every award experience comes with its own particular thrill. Knowing that my story “The Bank Job” was selected for the Al Blanchard Award when contending against at least 150 other stories was gratifying. I got to meet Dennis Lehane through that one. And, recently, taking third place out of 130 submissions in the Hofstra Law School competition was incredibly encouraging. The stories all had to feature lawyers, the judges were all lawyer/writers (Alafair Burke, Lee Child and Marcia Clark), and the second and first place winners were a trial lawyer and a law professor, so I felt like I’d cracked the code pretty well.
(22) Final question, What’s next for Bev Vincent?
There will be some new short stories this year, including a round-robin story written by (in order of appearance) Ray Garton, me, Kealan Patrick Burke and Rich Chizmar. That’s for the Cemetery Dance Collectors Club, and I hope it’ll be out this year. Then, in addition to the mini-short story collection I alluded to above, I’m 2/3 of the way through a novella that will be paired up with one from a very well-known horror writer. It will be the longest work of fiction I’ve published to date, and a great warm-up for that novel I’ve been planning to write for the past couple of years but haven’t managed to get around to yet. You can always find out about the latest goings-on at my website, www.bevvincent.com.
I want to sincerely thank Bev Vincent for his time and patience. It was an honor and joy working with him on this interview and you can find all of Bev’s books at his website or at Amazon.