God bless Joe Hill who took to the Internet airwaves last night for an unexpected hour-long Facebook Live, answering questions from readers and fans while promoting Strange Weather, now available in paperback. Among the many delightful stories and crazy anecdotes shared by Hill during the hour were these 18 things we learned about the life and times of one of our favorite authors. (Okay, so not all 18 of these are crazy, but hey… almost all of them are.)
1. He would keep a burrito as a pet.
After claiming that there are no bad questions, Hill followed this statement by saying: “I was in Colorado once and this kid stood up and asked: ‘What would you do if you bit into a burrito and it screamed?’ Even that wasn’t a bad question. In fact, it was a brilliant question. I gave it quite a lot of thought. Because I’m an empathetic, caring, and loving person, my first instinct if I bit into a burrito and it began to wail would be to spit the piece out and try to stick it back on. I’d bring the burrito home. Keep it as a pet. Give it a name. We’d watch TV together. Not the Food Channel because that would be upsetting, but maybe Animal Planet. So that’s what I think I would do if I bit into a burrito and it screamed. … But there’s another part of me – a colder part of me – that thinks the damage is already done and the best thing I could do is just stuff the fucking thing down my throat to make it stop.”
2. Locke & Key is now at Netflix.
After a $10 million pilot for FOX and a $15 million pilot for Hulu, neither of which picked up the show, Locke & Key, based on the comic book series written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez, is now at Netflix. “Netflix, God bless them has offered a series order, so this time it looks like we’re really getting on the air.”
3. NOS4A2 is coming to AMC.
“My third novel, NOS4A2, was about a car that runs on human souls instead of gasoline. That car is piloted by an evil man named Charlie Manx who has been staying alive by kidnapping children and feeding off their souls for a century. NOS4A2 has been quietly bubbling away at AMC almost since it came out. It’s been stewarded by a company called Tornante that has really freed up the creative individuals’ vault to do some of their best work. AMC loved the package Tornante put together for NOS4A2. I think they also loved the way people responded to The Terror, which was based on a Dan Simmons novel with a similar heft. So AMC decided to take a bet on NOS4A2 and begin filming. It’s a straight to series order, so it’s not like they make a pilot and then decide. They’ll be filming episodes back to back. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be terrific. NOS4A2 has been the passion project of a young writer named Jami O’Brien. No one has worked harder on getting it to air than she has. I read the pilot script and it was just about one of the most beautiful pieces of screenwriting I’ve ever read in my life. It’s one of those things that is so good you can’t help but feel a little envious as a writer, and wish that you could do something on that level. I have tremendous faith in her instincts.”
4. He has two new novels in the works.
“Will I get in trouble if I say? Your publishers and the media people you work with have great instincts and they want to roll out your work in the best possible way, so I don’t want to step on any announcements. I will say there will be a new book in the Fall of 2019 if my heart doesn’t fail me and another book in the Fall of 2020. I have two pieces, both of which are close to completion.”
5. He’s terrified of tetanus.
“Did anyone see the movie, A Quiet Place? You know what gives me the creeps? Nails. That’s the best part of the film. Not the monsters, not anything else. It’s that fucking nail. Standing straight up. Sorry about the language. I guess now is a good moment to say if you’re watching this with your children… well, you’re a lousy parent and it can’t be on me. I was in agony for 15 minutes waiting for someone’s foot to sink on that nail. So you wanna know what scares me? Tetanus. Tetanus freaks me out.”
6. He has a newsletter.
“I have a newsletter. You can sign up for it over at JoeHillFiction.com. That’s the best way to stay tuned to what I’m doing.”
7. He believes we are living in the golden age of horror films.
“Not since the Universal horror films have we had it so good. It’s been one great horror film after another. Even by the current standards though, Hereditary is something special. It is profoundly and deeply scary, and profoundly and deeply intelligent.”
8. He thinks Russell Crowe would be a great choice to play Jude in a film adaptation of Heart-shaped Box.
“I do think Russell Crowe would be pretty great because he has physical mass. Jude is a big man. I think Russell could pull off the beard too. And also, he can play guitar can’t he?”
9. He looks at writing like fighting Netflix and YouTube.
“I would be afraid to write something that didn’t have the underlying components and engineering of a thriller. I’m very insecure and I’d be worried about people getting bored, or putting the book down. As an entertainer at this moment in the 21st century, you have to be aware that we live in a culture of perpetual distraction. Just look at Netflix. There is so much to watch. With a book, every single page you’re fighting Netflix. You’re fighting YouTube. Every single year, they produce 500 new original scripted shows for TV. That’s a lot of content and moving pictures and stunts and famous people – and all I can fight it with is words on a page. And I think the best way to stage that fight is by putting characters in situations where you desperately care what happens to them and you need to know what happens on the next page. If I can keep you wanting to know what happens on the next page then you’ll stay with me.”
“The Fireman is a plague novel about a runaway pathogen that causes people to spontaneously combust. It’s this stuff called Dragonscale and it actually looks beautiful, sort of like an abstract tattoo but when you get anxious, the Dragonscale starts to smoke, and if you can’t control your fear you burst into flames. I wrote a story about a woman named Harper who has the infection but she’s also pregnant. Harper resolves to stay alive to deliver her baby. It’s a big book. There’s a lot going on. That’s only a tip of the iceberg. It’s the first time I’ve written a novel where I thought I might write a follow-up sometime, but if I did I would probably wait another 6 or 7 years. There’s some characters I’d love to see get a little older before I revisit them. But it’s a possibility. That could be fun.”
11. He’s doing a lot of Summer reading.
“So at the moment, I’m reading a brilliant collection of fantastically creepy tales by Carmen Maria Machado called Her Body and Other Parties. Definite recommend. Very fucked up. Very hot. Wildly like screwed up but also very sexy and also very scary. I’m reading How It Happened by Michael Koryta. Brilliant novel. It just starts with the pedal down and it keeps it there. I’m listening to this one on audio. And I’m picking at the gothic tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The guy did a lot more than Sherlock Holmes, and he knew how to compose a great tale of dread and horror and the creepy fantastic.”
12. Tom Savini was his babysitter on the set of Stephen King & George Romero’s Creepshow.
“If any director, alive or dead, could adapt one of my stories, I’d have loved to have had a chance to work with the late George Romero. It would have felt like closing the circle in some ways. When I was a kid, I was in the movie Creepshow. I was the kid with the voodoo doll. I was about 7 years old, and George was this big bearded guy who led this group of filmmakers who were more like revolutionaries.
Tom Savini was on the set, who was like my first rock star in a leather jacket with arched eye brows, he was just so cool. Tom Savini somehow got drafted into being my babysitter as well as doing the special effects on the film. So he’s painting scars on famous people and building monsters at the same time that he’s feeding me crackers. He was a really great guy and I just loved what he did. By the time I left Creepshow, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, and that was to murder people in interesting ways and invent fascinating unexpected monsters. In some ways that it was I wound up doing, I just wound up doing it on paper instead of with latex and karo syrup. I would have loved to have worked with George Romero though as an adult. The word visionary is kind of thrown around, but when it comes to George Romero, it fits the bill.”
13. His parents are his favorite writers.
When asked who his favorite author is, he immediately says, “Can you count family? Both my parents. My brother Owen, and his wife Kelly Braffet, too. They are terrific writers.”
14. Speaking of parents, he looks and acts just like his father.
You’re going to have to take my word on this one. Actually, you don’t. You can see it for yourself. Go like and follow Joe Hill’s official Facebook page at Facebook.com/JoeHillAuthor and watch the live stream. The resemblance, from cadence to imagination, is downright uncanny, and boy, is that a beautiful thing.
15. He was a strange kid.
“When I was a very little kid, I used to have 50 matchbox cars. I wouldn’t drive them, I’d just line them up end to end. Then I’d look at them for a little bit, and then take the line apart and put them together again in a different way. Both my parents thought this was very mysterious behavior.”
16. Dark Carousel was originally titled Wild Horses, and it may have a fantastic new title someday.
“Dark Carousel is a short story exclusively on vinyl, read by an incredible actor, Nate Corddry. It’s a story about 4 teenagers taking their last stand against adulthood in the summer of 1994, and there’s an incident on a merry-go-round that leads to trouble and people get dead. The record includes a song by Matthew Ryan, a cover of the Rolling Stone’s classic Wild Horses. Originally, Dark Carousel was called Wild Horses. That was the title of the story. I love the American rock and roller Matthew Ryan and I loved the idea of a story of mine being released straight to vinyl. I’m a rock guy. I love the Stones, the Beatles, Zeppelin. Rock and roll is one of my great enthusiasms. It’s how I go to bed at night, thinking about the Stones. The Who. So I loved the idea of having my own vinyl record just like I’m a rock guy! And I loved the idea of having some music on it and bringing Matthew Ryan in to do a cover of the Stones classic. It’s incredible. It’s the way the song was always meant to sound.
But then we had to negotiate to get the song. The copyright to Wild Horses is owned by the Stones and ABKCO Records. They said it would be I think about $15k to use the cover of Wild Horses on both the record and the audio download; $12k for the audio download and $3k for the vinyl. My publisher was like, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot more money than we can do!’ and I said that’s okay, let’s just have Matthew Ryan’s cover of Wild Horses on the vinyl. It will be a special exclusive and support local record stores. Well, ABKCO Records says, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. After thinking about it, we really think it should be another $3k on top of that because you’re using Wild Horses as the title of the story, which implies the endorsement of the Rolling Stones. So it needs to be $6k total.’
I heard this and thought about it for a minute. I told my editor, call them back. Tell them thank you so much. We’ll send you a check for $3k to use the song on the record, and I’ll change the name to the fucking story. So that’s how we got the rights to use Wild Horses on the record, and my deepest thanks to ABKCO for making it available. That said, I may change the title again for my next collection and instead of calling it Wild Horses or Dark Carousel, I might call it ABKCO Records Can Suck A Big Horse Dick. I don’t know. It sounds like it might be a good title to me.”
17. There are at least 4 lost Joe Hill novels floating around out there.
“Between 1996 and 2005, I wrote 4 novels I was never able to sell. Paper Angels was sort of a Cormac McCarthy rip-off. The Breyers was a mess about a pair of teenagers on a killing spree; a disastrous book but some elements of it I lifted and used in Locke and Key. The Fear Tree was the best of them that I spent 3 years writing, and I thought it was a real home run. A big epic fantasy. I was convinced it was going to make my career and instead it was turned down by every publisher in New York, every publisher in London, and for a final squirt of lemon juice in my eye, it was turned down by every publisher in Canada, which just goes to show no matter how low you go, you can always go lower.”
18. Strange Weather is now out in paperback.
Strange Weather is four novellas in one book. In his own words, Hill describes each of the stories as follows: “The first story, Snapshot, is about a Polaroid camera that steals memories. The second story, Loaded, is about America’s hard-on for the gun. The third story is called The Loft and it’s about a guy who goes parachuting to impress the girl, only to wind up stranded on a mysteriously solid cloud 10,000 feet above sea level and he can’t get down. This is a cloud with a mind of its own. A lonely cloud. And it wants to hold onto him so it can have some companionship. The fourth story is called Rain, and that is a story about climate change. It’s about what would happen if the climate changed and the sky started raining nails instead of water.
“Strange Weather developed over a period of 4 or 5 years. What would happen is I would write a book like NOS4A2, and then follow it up with one of these short novels. I hate when writers compare their books to children. I have children. Children are not novels. But if we could use that metaphor for a second, it’s almost like NOS4A2 was the baby and then Snapshot was the afterbirth. So, Strange Weather is less like fiction and more like literary placenta. Wow, that really sells it. Doesn’t that really sell it? In stores now!”
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