The book jacket bears his name: Joe Hill. Nothing particularly noteworthy there, except that Joe Hill just happens to be the son of Stephen King, one of the most well-known novelists in the world.
Like any child of famous creative parents, particularly his dad, he knew he’d be following in some very large footsteps.
Joe’s mother, Tabitha King, is no slouch, either. She has published more than half a dozen novels, from suspense to science fiction.
But when Joseph King was 18 and decided he was going to be a writer, he knew he didn’t want to write using that fame-laden last name. If he did, he might just be getting published because of his famous dad. “I didn’t want to succeed in that way,” he told BuzzFeed last year, “because I didn’t believe it would be real success.”
So Joe cut his surname, halved his middle name (Hillstrom), and began his writing career. Like any child of famous creative parents, particularly his dad, he knew he’d be following in some very large footsteps.
His 700-page novel, “The Fireman,” is burning up the best-seller lists. It’s currently Number Five on The New York Times Best Sellers list, after coming out just a few weeks ago. It’s his fourth novel, the latest in a slow and steady climb for Hill, 43 — a career journey that started with a lot of rejection.
One of his first works, was “The Fear Tree.” He spent three years writing it. He was sure it would hit big. It was rejected by every publisher in New York, England, and Canada. It has yet to be published.
His first novel, “Heart-Shaped Box,” was published in 2007, and it was well-received. It was the same year that “Vanity Fair” broke Hill’s cover, revealing him to be King’s son (although taking one look at him might be the first clue as to his true identity).
[lz_bulleted_list title=”Joe Hill’s Novels” source=”]“Heart-Shaped Box” – 2007|”Horns” – 2010|”NOS4A2″ – 2013|”The Fireman” – 2016[/lz_bulleted_list]
His second novel, “Horns,” was published in 2010 and brought him his own real fame. The dark fantasy story of a man who finds horns growing from his head was a hit. It became a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2014.
“NOS4A2,” his third novel, was published on April 30, 2013. The novel made it to No. 5 on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
And then last month, “The Fireman” was published. It centers around a highly contagious pathogen called Dragonscale — for the black and gold marks it makes on the skin — that is burning across the country. Once you see them, you know you will sooner or later combust. He has described it as his father’s book, “The Stand,” if it was soaked in gasoline and set on fire.
Hill says his dad has always supported his career path.
“There’s a great Jay Leno joke where Jay Leno says, ‘You know, Stephen King says to the kids, let’s all have a bedtime story, and the kids all go NOOOO!’ Actually, my dad told hysterical bedtime stories,” Hill told NPR in a recent interview. “I remember he wrote one called ‘The Fart Cookies,’ which was about three children, Naomi, Owen, and Joe, whose parents were sick, and they went to a witch for help. And she gave us cookies, and you ate them and you began to fart out of control. So he told the best bedtime stories in the history of bedtime stories.”
Hill also says that his father has “forgotten more about writing great stories than I’m ever going to know.”
Hill’s brother, Owen King, is also a writer. The younger of the two King sons, Owen publishes under the family name, but his writing is different. In 2013, he wrote “Double Feature,” a novel about a famous father and his resentful, rebellious son. In the novel, the father is a philandering star who appears in films about killer rats and the outbreak of werewolf attacks in ancient Greece.
“I know readers will want to know if Booth is based on my dad,” King said when the book came out. “But two people couldn’t be more different.”