Interview with Robin Furth

With the recent publication of The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel (Scribner, April 2012), Stephen King fans may need a refresher course on the 7-book (now 8-book?) series. Read on for an interview with Robin Furth, personal research assistant to King and author of the The Dark Tower: A Concordance.

PW Daily for Booksellers (July 16, 2003)
Book of the Day: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Concordance, Volume I

When Stephen King set out to write the last three books of The Dark Tower series, there were so many characters and places to juggle that he needed a research assistant to categorize them all for easy reference. He enlisted Robin Furth, whom he had met while she was in the Ph.D. program at the University of Maine. Furth, who loves folklore and fantasy worlds, jumped at the challenge and created a concordance that she says was “a lot bigger than he expected.” They decided to publish the extensive Concordance in two volumes through Scribner, with Volume I being released in July of this year and Volume II accompanying the last Dark Tower book in late 2004.

The Concordance is released in good time, set to stock shelves along with the re-released editions of books one through four of the Dark Tower series, (Viking) the first of which (The Gunslinger) has been revised by King. The U.K. edition of the Concordance is being published by Potter & Stoughton in October, and according to Furth, it may be published in Germany and France as well.

Will Furth’s Concordance help build up excitement for the November 4 release of The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (Donald M. Grant/Scribner)? Furth said she hopes her book will serve as a reference for Dark Tower readers and will interest new readers enough so that they pick up The Gunslinger or the other books in the series. We at PW know one thing for sure: “Tower junkies” will be swarming all over this one.

PW‘s Dena Croog spoke with Furth about the daunting task:

PW: What kind of difficulties did you encounter when you were compiling the data?

RF: When I did the first four books for Volume I, it was funny because I went to [King’s] office and they gave me what was available. So I indexed using a British version of the second book, and then a U.S. version of a trade paperback for one and the larger edition for the final books. So when it came to publishing it, I had to re-index the whole thing!

PW: Had you read the Dark Tower books before starting the Concordance?

RF: I had read quite a few of Steve’s other books. When Steve said, “Do you want to do this, do you want to take this job?” that was the first time I read them, and it was pretty amazing. They’re quite haunting books. Since I’ve been working on them, it’s really affected my dream life. Sometimes it’s humorous, like well, one point, when I was indexing for the first volume, I’d be in the middle of a dream and I’d turn around and there’d be Oy behind me, you know, walking along, and I was, “Well what are you doing here?” Sometimes they get scary—I had dreams about Blaine and the Crimson King. It’s quite haunting in other ways, with the characters, feeling like one of them is looking over my shoulder. Certainly Roland. He’s got quite a presence, I think, on the page. Also with his fan base you can really tell that he’s got a presence in the popular imagination.

PW: Did you refer to the numerous Dark Tower Web sites when you were creating the Concordance?

RF: I didn’t really. At the end of the first volume, when I started on the second volume, I thought I really have to know what’s out there and see what different people are saying. That was quite amazing—to look through and see these really amazing Web sites, some of them really beautiful and really imaginative. You know, the amount of time that people have put into it. So it was nice because I felt, “Gosh, I’m living in a shared world here.” You know, because I’ve been pretty much plunged in Mid-World for over two years now.

PW: Would you say that the Concordance is a good preparation for someone who is about to read the fifth book?

RF: Yeah. What I’ve found really amazing with the series was that there are stories within stories within stories. There are so many folk tales woven in and bits of Mid-World history. If someone is really interested in tracing certain aspects of Roland’s world, they can look it up and find page references and cross-references. One of the things I really wanted to do was make a bridge for people who had read the original Gunslinger and don’t have the new version, or that only have the new version but haven’t seen the original, because there are new characters. Other characters were deleted. Some plot twists were added. Also with the maps, I wanted to show the differences. In the new version of The Gunslinger, Roland and Walter are being pulled southeast, like they are already being pulled by The Beam. I thought that was really interesting that [King] added that in. My maps are kind of silly, but they were really fun to work on.

PW: Many of King’s other books also tie into this series.

RF: Well, that’s what is really amazing, when you read Insomnia, Bag of Bones, or you know, The Eyes of the Dragon, Hearts in Atlantis. I mean there are echoes. Seeing the Crimson King come up in other books–I mean Ralph Roberts [from Insomnia] meets the Crimson King–and you think, “Wow.” It just makes it such a dream world. It’s like this world of books–you open this door, and here’s this imaginary landscape where all the countries of the different books are all the same landscape. They’re all interconnected. There’s a story, but it’s always hinting that there is another landscape behind the book, and then another history behind that. The whole idea of a multi-verse, and the Tower. All the different worlds spinning. I like that it is so layered, and that I re-read and I find something new. I think that’s fascinating–the folklore and the stories there. It’s like Stephen King is drawing from a very deep well.