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Stephen King's Wife Saved His Writing Career By Digging Through The Trash

Stephen King has sold at least 350 million copies of his books — and chances are you've read or heard about most of them. And even if you haven't somehow read one of his 64 novels or 200 short stories, then you've probably watched one of the 38 movie adaptations of his works. Yet before King was one of the literary world's most beloved authors, the legendary master of horror nearly gave it all up for good. That is, until his wife, Tabitha, reached into a trash can.

A rough start

King's doubts about his future as a novelist weren't unwarranted at the time, though. Before 1973, he and Tabby were flat broke for long periods of time. The double-wide trailer they shared barely had room for their four-person family, and their Buick had transmission problems that were too expensive to fix. It even got to the point where they couldn't afford a telephone.

Making ends meet

After graduating from college, King was forced to work at an industrial laundry and at a gas station to make ends meet. Tabby also pitched in, working at a nearby Dunkin' Donuts. "We were as poor as church mice, with two small kids, and needless to say, it wasn’t easy to make ends meet on that salary," King told Playboy in 1983. But then he got a job as a teacher.

Writing when he could

King became an English teacher at Hampden Academy for $6,400 a year. It was a salary so low that he had to keep his job as a laundry presser just to keep his family from going under. But he still harbored dreams of being a writer. "I’d come home exhausted from school and squat in the trailer’s furnace room, with Tabby’s little Olivetti portable perched on a child’s desk I had to balance on my knees, and try to hammer out some scintillating prose," he said.

Sporadic sales

He was selling some of his short fiction, too. Smaller men's magazines, such as Cavalier and Dude, occasionally picked up one or two of his pieces and paid him just enough to keep the lights on. "The money was useful, God knows, but if you know that particular market, you know there wasn’t much of it," King explained. And it didn't help that King was spiraling into alcoholism.