My Inspiration: David Hofmeyr on Stephen King

David Hofmeyr is the author of Stone Rider –  a gritty coming-of-age story in which a boy who has lost everything joins a brutal race to win the chance to escape his dying world. Stone Rider is set in the dustbowl town of Blackwater, where rival Tribes of teenagers ride semi-sentient mechanical bykes. Unnerving and haunting, but ultimately hopeful, this is a story about revenge and survival.

Don’t miss your chance to ask debut author David, all your questions during his Figment chat on Sept 7th.

My Inspiration: David Hofmeyr on Stephen King

“Garraty wondered how it would be, to lie in the biggest, dustiest library silence of all, dreaming endless, thoughtless dreams behind your gummed-down eyelids, dressed forever in your Sunday suit. No worries about money, success, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, sex, or love. Absolute zero. No father, mother, girlfriend, lover. The dead are orphans. No company but the silence like a moth’s wing. An end to the agony of movement, to the long nightmare of going down the road.”

Set in a dystopian present, The Long Walk revolves around the contestants of a grueling 9780385744737walking contest, held annually by a totalitarian version of the USA. I have a strong memory of reading the story in my early teens and being transported by the macabre coolness of Stephen King’s writing. Fast-forward thirty years and I’ve written a story with distinct associations. Stone Rider is a coming-of-age story in which a boy who has lost everything is forced to join a brutal race where rival Tribes of teens ride semi-sentient “bykes” to win the chance to escape a dying world.

Stone Rider was inspiredbymany ofthe books and movies I devoured when I was a young adult—the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood; the apocalyptic poetry of T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats; the cult classic Mad Max; the road gang film Cool Hand Luke; the searing prose ofCormac McCarthy’s The Road, Blood Meridian, and The Crossing; science fiction epics like Dune and the twisted Brave New World—but I suppose it’s The Long Walk where the most vividreflections lie. A brutal contest. A single prize. A despot. A dystopian world. What’s not to like?

The despotic character who runs the marathon event in The Long Walk is known simply as the Major. He’s described as a pristine, methodical man who never appears in public without his reflective sunglasses. I draw a similar character in Stone Rider called the Colonel. Yes, he mirrors the Major but he’s also part Boss Godfrey—“the man with no eyes” in Cool Hand Luke—and, most terrifying of all, part Judge Holden from McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, a man depicted as hairless from head to toe and philosophically emblematic of the eternal nature of war.

There are shades of a few other Stephen King novels in Stone Rider—in particular, The Gunslinger, his first in The Dark Tower series. I was blown away by the lean, raw power of his opening sentences. It just doesn’t get any more epic. . . .

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied.

Stone Rider has been described as many things. The Hunger Games meets The Road. A cross between The Outsiders and the early Western novels of Elmore Leonard. The story has many more influences and inspirations. Who can say what one thing provoked the first image to stir? But the crazy, distorted worlds of The Long Walk and The Gunslinger sift through the pages of Stone Rider like handfuls of golden sand.

Like Stephen King, I’m drawn to the sunshine and clarity that fill our ordinary lives, but also to the darkness, “the place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters.”

Thank you, Mr King, for the lessons learned. Respect.

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DAVID HOFMEYR was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2012 he was a finalist in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition, and in 2013 he graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. He works as a Planner for Ogilvy & Mather in the UK. Stone Rider was Hofmeyr’s YA debut. Blood Rider is its companion. Visit David online at davidhofmeyr.com and follow him @dhofmeyr on Twitter.

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