Author Stephen King has several projects out this month: “Mr. Mercedes,” a television series based on King’s first hard-boiled detective novel; “It,” a film adaptation of his 1986 best-seller; and “The Dark Tower,” currently in theaters. Maine’s most famous resident, King prefers car travel to air, and has surprisingly modest requirements when on the road.
While King is best known for his horror novels featuring terrifying clowns and serial killers, his own particular fear is much more mundane. “I travel by plane when I have to — I travel by car when I possibly can. The difference is if your car breaks down, you pull over into the breakdown lane. If you’re at 40,000 feet and your plane has trouble, you die. I feel more in control when I’m driving than when I’m flying. You hope that the pilot won’t have a brain embolism and die at the controls.”
And while work occasionally brings him overseas, he’d really prefer to stay home. “I’m not a big travel buff. I do it when I have to, and I try to enjoy it — and I’ve done more of it than I want to.”
Vacation for him means wintering in Florida — his wife flies, but he drives. “It’s so much easier now because you have Siri to guide you along the way and if the traffic gets horrible along the turnpike or something, she’ll take you around by back ways and usually there are no hillbillies that are going to eat human flesh.” And his needs are modest — he stays at Motel 6 and eats at the Waffle House. “I’m not hard to please. Give me a motel room somewhere near the Interstate with a chair out front where you can sit and read a book and I’m just as happy as can be.”
He’s not kidding around, either. He’s a Motel 6 expert. “A tip for the lonesome traveler: Always ask for a room on the end of the motel because the chances of having a party next door are a little less. Or, if it’s a three-story hotel, get a room on the top floor and then you don’t have to worry about the couple above you deciding they’re going to go at it all night long.”
And when it comes to packing, he keeps it simple there, too. “I take the basics. And I don’t have any particular requirements for shampoos, emollients, anything like that. They usually have it in the Motel 6.”
Here’s what he takes on every trip.
“I’ve got to have my audiobooks, which I keep on my iPad now, it’s much more convenient than having to drag along a CD player and earphones and all that jazz. Got to load in at least one or two movies that you really want to see so that you have something to watch. Or two or three episodes of ‘The Americans.’”
“I gotta have my big crossword book because you can’t always read. If you’re on an airplane flight from, let’s say Maine to Los Angeles, you have to have something to do.”
“I’ve got this old suitcase that my wife hates that I’ve been carrying around for probably 30 years now, it’s an old battered gray Samsonite suitcase. My feeling is that if you can’t get everything you need into that one suitcase, you don’t really need it. It doesn’t have any wheels. It’s old school.”
“I always carry a couple of books. There’s the book that I’m going to read and the backup in case the book is terrible. The best book that I read recently was ‘My Absolute Darling,’ which is just a knockout, maybe the best thing I’ve read this year. But you’ve got to have at least one book by someone that you trust. You don’t want to be caught short.”
Jeans and T-shirts
“I’m not very good with big bunches of people; most writers are not. We work in solitude. We’re not built for the audience the way that some actors and comedians are. So I decided that if I was going to be afraid at least I would be comfortable. And it makes it easier to pack, too.”