Who is Joe Hill?
Joe Hill is a well-known American author, who mostly writes horror, super natural, dark fantasy, and science fiction. Born as Joseph Hillström King into a family of celebrated authors, he grew up watching his parents working quietly in their respective offices. Their dinner table conversations were also dominated by talks of novels and publishing. Living in such an environment, it was natural that he would also grow an interest in writing, devoting at least two hours to the task each day since the age of eleven. He started writing professionally at the age of twenty-four, but he soon realized that he should take a pen name if he wanted to succeed on his own without any reference to his celebrated father. Writing under the pen name of Joe Hill, he had his first book, a collection of short stories, published at the age of thirty-three and at thirty-five, his first novel, ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. Today, he is an established writer with a huge fan base and numerous awards to his credit.
Childhood & Early Life
Joe Hill was born as Joseph Hillström King on June 4, 1972, in Hermon, located in the US state of Maine. His father, Stephen Edwin King, is a famous author with more than 350 million copies of books sold. For a time, he wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman.
His mother, Tabitha Jane née Spruce, is also a celebrated writer with eight novels and two non-fictions to her credit. He was born the second of his parents’ three children. His elder sister, Naomi King, is now a Unitarian Universalist Church minister, while his younger brother, Owen King, is an author.
Until 1975, the family lived in various places, including Boulder, Colorado, eventually settling down in Bangor, the third largest city in Maine. It was here that Joe spent his formative years.
Every day on coming home from school, he would find his father working in his office and his mother in hers. Very soon, he started duplicating them, writing a story each day.
About this childhood experience, Hill later said, “… I just thought that was what you were meant to do… I thought you were meant to sit by yourself in a room and make up a bunch of stuff, then one day someone would pay you for it. And weirdly, that’s what happened.”
By the time he was eleven, he had taken his vocation seriously enough, writing at least for two hours every day. He also watched a lot of straight-to-video horror films and played role-games. These helped him to develop his imaginative power.
From his childhood, he did not want to cash on his father’s name. When he was in high school, he came up with the pen name, Jay Stevenson, which was a pun on “J., Stephen’s son”. By the time he had left school, he had authored several full-length books.
When he was about sixteen years old, he wrote a book as a summer project. Every day, after school, he and his father would sit together to edit five pages. Then they would talk about the changes made. In this way, he learned the importance of rewriting.
After school, he was enrolled at Vassal College, from where he graduated in 1995. Thereafter, he moved to New Hampshire, where he started writing full time, financially supported by his parents.
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Adopting Pen Name
Although Joseph Hillström King began writing full time in 1996, his preference for horror and supernatural, a genre in which his father also wrote, made him anxious that people would be comparing his writings with his father’s. He also wanted to succeed on his own.
By 1997, he had decided to distance himself from the family name, choosing Joe Hill as his pen name. It was more than just an abbreviation of his name; it was also a tribute to the Swedish-American labor leader Joseph Hillström or Joe Hill, after whom he was named.
About those early years, he later said, “I was very insecure… I didn’t want to sell something because someone saw it as a way to make a quick buck and then have it come out and someone would say it was terrible.”
Like many other authors, Joe Hill initially faced several rejections. Finally in October 2005, he had his first book, '20th Century Ghosts’, published through a UK publisher. Printed in very limited numbers, it was a collection of his short stories, which earned him three distinguished awards.
His next published work was his debut novel, ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. Published in USA on February 13, 2007, and in UK in March 2007, it reached #8 on the "New York Times" bestseller list on April 1, 2007.
In 2008, he began working on a comic book series, ‘Locke & Key’, starting it with ‘Welcome to Lovecraft’. It was followed by five more: ‘Head Games’ (2009), ‘Crown of Shadows’ (2009-10), ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ (2010-11),’Clockworks’ (2011-12) and finally ‘Alpha & Omega’ (2010-13).
On February 16, 2010, Joe Hill had his second novel, ‘Horns,’ published. Shortly, it was adapted into a film by director Alexandre Aja. Premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, the film was theatrically released in US on October 31, 2014, grossing $3,875,442 worldwide in 31 days.
In 2013, he had his third novel, ‘NOS4A2’ (pronounced Nosferatu), published. Later, the novel was adapted as a ten-episode television series, which was aired on AMC from June 2 to July 28, 2019.
In 2016, he had his fourth novel, ‘The Fireman’, released. It was followed by three collections, ‘A Little Silver Book of Sharp Shiny Slivers (2017), ‘Strange Weather’ (2017) and ‘Full Throttle’ (2019). Meanwhile, he had also released several comic books and had numerous short stories published.
Since 2018, Joe Hill has been working on his fifth and latest novel, ‘Up the Chimney Down’. It is expected that the book will be published sometime in 2020.
Joe Hill is probably best known for his debut novel, ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. Published in February 2007, the book peaked on The New York Times bestseller list at #8 and won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel.
Awards & Achievements
Joe Hill has received numerous awards and prizes. Notable among them are four Bram Stoker Awards, presented annually by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), for his collections '20th Century Ghosts’ and ‘Strange Weather’; short story ‘Best New Horror’; and his debut novel, ‘Heart-Shaped Box’.
He has also received British Fantasy Awards for '20th Century Ghosts’, ‘Strange Weather’ and ‘Best New Horror’ as well as the World Fantasy Award for his novella, ‘Voluntary Committal’.
In 2011, he received the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for his comic books ‘Locke & Key.’ In 2017, he got the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel for ‘The Fireman’.
Family & Personal Life
In 1999, Joe Hill married Leanora King, whom he had met at Vassar College. They had three children, the eldest among them being Ethan King, now an actor. The couple divorced in 2010. In 2018, he married Gillian Redfearn.
At the age of nine, Hill appeared as Billy in George A. Romero's film ' Creepshow', written by his father.