New book traces the real places in Maine that inspired Stephen King

Sharon Kitchens celebrates the release of her new nonfiction book, “Stephen King’s Maine,” at Space on Thursday. Photo by Winky Lewis

Stephen King is Maine to many people. For some Mainers, the prolific author and horror guru is a near-mythical figure who defined Maine as the primary home of America’s darkest forces and most inventive nightmares.

For others, he was that guy who lived around the corner, drank coffee at the local diner, and always seemed to file away every interaction and local character for later use.

These are the people Maine author Sharon Kitchens spoke to for her new nonfiction book, “Stephen King’s Maine.” Kitchens will be at a book release party Thursday at Space in Portland, where she will sign copies, answer questions and join the all-King double feature screening of Maine filmmaker John Campopiano’s 2021 documentary “Pennywise : The Story of ‘It’.

Here are five things you need to know about the book (that won’t spoil the fun of reading it).

1. “Stephen King’s Maine” achieves the impossible.

Stephen King is a cultural heavyweight at this point. IMDb lists some 350 King adaptations for film and television, while King’s literary output is regularly offered for college credit in courses across the country. There are probably as many books about King and his works as there are actual works, which is saying something. But Kitchens, a happy Maine transplant for many years, has found a whole new way to better understand Maine’s favorite author.

“Stephen King is my favorite storyteller, and I reread my favorite, ‘It,’ every few years,” Kitchens said. “Like most good things in life, my book was essentially random. I had been driving past his house in Durham for years without a clue. I went on a hike in western Maine and thought, “That’s so Stephen King” and saw a rusty old car or a huge mausoleum or library in a town of 100 people that looked like at a castle and I finally realized, “Oh my God. My goodness, he writes about the places I visit! »

“And so I started driving,” Kitchens said. “I took out graph paper to trace where things were, not to find King, but to have experiences from the places he put in his books.” After writing about it online, some amazing girlfriends I admire (including Michelle Souliere, owner of event sponsor The Green Hand Bookshop) asked me if I’d thought about doing more with it.

2. “Stephen King’s Maine” is as much about regular Mainers as it is about Stephen King.

Kitchens is present in every Maine town where King lived and worked: Durham, Orono, Lisbon Falls, Bridgton, Yarmouth, Lovell. And there, the author set out to find Mainers willing to talk not only about King, but also about the places in which they lived. “I would introduce myself and explain up front what I was doing and basically ask, ‘Would anyone like to talk?’ ‘Almost everyone said yes. So for months, Kitchens sat over coffee at restaurants that her encyclopedic knowledge of King pointed to as obvious models for places in “Salem’s Lot” or “Cujo” or “It,” and simply listened.

“Stephen King’s Maine” by Sharon Kitchens

3. Stephen King at least knows the book.

“I contacted King’s agent before I agreed to do the book,” Kitchens said with a laugh. “I received a short note that simply said, ‘This looks interesting.’ Have fun.’ He’s a very busy guy, so I’m not expecting any further response, but I haven’t received a cease and desist letter.

4. “Stephen King’s Maine” is also a great guide to enjoying great Maine food.

“As I re-read, I was struck by how much King loves writing about food,” Kitchens said. “People in his books love to talk about it. It may not seem obvious, but food is almost a secondary character in his stories. So, in the book, I find the now-defunct Bridgton location, famous for its chili he put in “The Dead Zone.” I go to Simone’s in Lewiston for hot dogs. The people in King’s stories use food to show their friendship and love – and they are all very good customers.

5. Stephen King’s Maine lives on in the memories of Mainers.

The kitchens were happy to play Stephen King’s detective: while looking through his high school yearbook at the Lisbon Historical Society, they discovered the old Sunoco station where evocative junk cars set off the automotive horrors of “Christine” ( the place also processed local deer, for added intrigue). ), discussing with the new owners of the old businesses frequented by the author. Kitchens said the experience was like walking into a Stephen King book — only with nicer people.

“There are some places that fit perfectly with the way King describes geography,” Kitchens said. “And conversations with the kinds of people he writes about – the librarians, the farmers, the gravediggers – in the places he writes about gave me a real mirror into the life of the things he writes about.”

For Kitchens, being the protagonist of her own journey with Stephen King was far less painful than most of the unfortunates caught in King’s world. “It was an incredible experience,” Kitchens said. “The ordinary people in these small towns have extraordinary stories and are the warmest, most incredible people. Sharing rides, meals, coffee – I felt like I was writing again from the place of a 12-year-old, fascinated by the way these plots and worlds were constructed.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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