When asked how he came to write the Season 2 premiere of “Under the Dome,” the television adaptation of his 2009 sci-fi novel that returns to CBS on Monday, Stephen King is refreshingly candid.
“I knew that George R.R. Martin had written a few episodes of ‘Game of Thrones,’ and I was very jealous,” said the prolific author, 66, via telephone from the North Carolina set of “Under the Dome.”
The series, which follows the inhabitants of the small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, after it is suddenly cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible but impenetrable dome, became the most-watched new program on broadcast television last year, despite airing in what was once thought of as the dead zone of summer.
King, whose novels, novellas and short stories have been made into films and TV series dozens of times over the years with varying degrees of success (some, like “Carrie” and “The Shining,” have even spawned multiple adaptations), is not especially territorial when it comes to his work.
“It’s a no-lose situation,” he said. “If it’s good, I just say it was based on my work. If it’s bad, I just say, ‘Well, that wasn’t my idea.’ ”
Despite his laissez-faire attitude, King relished the opportunity to tinker with an adaptation of his own work. “It gave me a chance to set the arc in motion for the season,” he said between mouthfuls of pizza (served, much to his amusement, with a side of ranch dressing), “and it gave me a little more input into what was going to happen.”
“We thought this would be a great way to solidify the support of the fans but also put his creativity and imagination to work,” show runner Neal Baer said. “Stephen is very supportive and collaborative and has always said to us from the beginning, ‘It’s your baby.’ ”
In its freshman outing, “Under the Dome” focused on the revelation of long-buried personal secrets. The season ahead will feature strong environmental themes, Baer said, as the residents of Chester’s Mill fight “pestilence and plague” resulting from their poor stewardship of the land.
“For me, the most interesting idea is this Malthusian concept that there’s too many people and too little space, there’s starting to be this talk about euthanasia and thinning of the herd, and that’s a scary idea,” said King, who will make a cameo in the season premiere. “In a fantasy series, you have a chance to tackle some of these hot-button issues, and people will accept it, because it’s only make-believe.”
This foray into screenwriting is but the latest creative adventure for the intensely productive author, who will also release two books in 2014: “Mr. Mercedes,” a suspense novel published this month, and “Revival,” due out in November and which King describes as a “scary, dark piece of work” in a similar vein to “Pet Sematary.”
Given the sheer volume of writing he’s generated over the years – more than 50 novels, hundreds of short stories and a dozen or so screen- and teleplays – it’s not surprising to learn that King is a creature of habit, especially when he’s home in Bangor, Maine, where he lives with his wife, Tabitha.
“Most writers have a ritual that would look strange from the outside,” he said, adding that he begins each morning with a three-mile walk “to open up my head and think a little bit,” followed by a pot of tea. After that, he settles down to write from about 8:30 a.m. until shortly after noon, with a goal of completing six pages a day. At this rate, working seven days a week, he can complete a draft of a novel in four to six months.
That’s not to say that King lives free of the self-doubt that afflicts most, if not all, writers. In fact, he’s currently a “mess” over the troublesome third act of an upcoming book.
“I don’t usually plot in advance; the book usually tells me what to do. But I’m getting to the point where there’s a lot of mist ahead and I just sort of hope things work out,” he said. “They usually do.”