Stephen King doesn’t carve pumpkins for Halloween.
It was an answer to the most creative of the audience-submitted questions for Monday night's event featuring the bestselling author and his son Owen, who came to Missoula promoting their newly released and co-written book “Sleeping Beauties.”
After each reading sections of the novel to a packed Dennison Theatre, the Kings spent nearly an hour asking each other questions of their own devising and ones written by the public.
Stephen King recalled the last time he had been to Montana, when he was riding a motorcycle along Interstate 90 in the snow.
“Does the winter here always suck?” he asked.
During their stop for the tour, King said he was surprised to look out the window of his hotel and see a man fly fishing in the river in the cold.
“I thought to myself, the hotel hires this guy.”
Before reading, Stephen King made reference to the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night that killed more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more.
“You probably know that another dysfunctional (ass) went nuts in Las Vegas,” he said.
Missoula writer Sarah Aswell, who introduced the Kings before they came out on stage, also made reference to the tragedy in Nevada.
“It wouldn’t be the first time Stephen King has allowed us to escape from the real scary world. And into another scary world,” she said.
Owen asked his father where he got the idea for the recently adapted into a movie “It.” While living in Colorado, Stephen said he got a flat tire, called to have his vehicle towed and started walking home. Crossing a bridge in the park, he heard the clunk of his cowboy boots, and was reminded of the fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”
“That would be a good story there, but an ogre really doesn’t cut it and a bridge doesn’t really cut it,” King said. “I’m still trying to make it up to the clowns of the world.”
Prodded by one of his father’s questions, Owen told the story of — starting at the age of 8 — being assigned books and a stack of blank tapes by his father to record audiobooks, starting with Dean Koontz’s “Watchers.”
“I think if you aspire to become a writer, a really important thing to do is to read around,” Owen said.
Over the years, Owen and his brother Joe gave their father Christmas and birthday gifts of these custom-recorded audiobooks, including Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” and an unabridged “War and Peace.”
Owen teased his father over his superstitions, saying he had declined to borrow a black pen to sign books before one of their shows, saying black was the color of death. Stephen held up a fistful of blue pens.
“The thing is, I have never died using one of these pens.”
On the tour, Owen said he’s taken to testing his father every night with questions from a Stephen King quiz book he found, picking a different novel each evening. On Monday, Stephen was only able to get one of four correct about “Christine,” relying on the audience for help identifying the name of the narrator, and the town it was set in.
Monday’s event was put on by Shakespeare & Co., with owner Garth Whitson saying he sent a single email asking if Missoula could be part of the tour.
“Then I get a phone call and then I’m shaking,” he said.
The appearance sold out the day tickets went on sale in early August.
Although the Kings announced in advance they would not be holding a book signing after the event, every member of the audience went home with a copy of “Sleeping Beauties,” 400 of which were presigned by Stephen and Owen.