Thursday 18 March 2010

Joe Hill book signing

I had a really enjoyable time at Joe Hill's reading/signing session at Manchester Waterstones last night. Joe kicked off by telling an amusing story about his recent visit to the mall where the original Dawn of the Dead was filmed, using a plastic severed hand to very good effect (and much laughter). Next he donned a pair of plastic horns and read the first two chapters from his novel Horns, pressing a button to make the horns flash in warning whenever he got to a sentence containing an expletive (for reasons he had explained earlier, again to much amusement).

It was in the subsequent Q&A session that Joe's personality and love for the speculative genres really came across. Naturally many of the questions were linked to his family (did your dad give you any advice, did you want to be a writer because of your dad, etc) but Joe fielded these questions with good grace (even though he must have answered these questions a million times before, and the constant reference to his family must annoy him at times).

Most interesting was his revelation that he decided early on to deliberately drop his famous surname and to forge a career on his own terms, rather than relying on his father's influence (contrary to rumours in some quarters, Gollancz had no idea who Hill really was when they bought his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box). Joe explained that this decision was largely because he felt - quite understandably - that his parentage would distort publishers' opinions of his own work; he wanted a publisher to publish his book based on its own merits, rather than because they could market it as the debut novel by the son of a famous author.

It's a decision that Joe deserves a lot of credit for, and it's good to see that it proved the right decision: Joe did get published, and is now a New York Times bestselling author. He's also a very amusing guy, full of witty retorts and entertaining stories. If you get the chance to go along to one of his readings, then I recommend you do so.


logankstewart said...

Sweet. That's the first time I've seen what Joe looks like, and you can definitely see his father in him. I haven't gotten around to Heart Shaped Box (or Horns for that matter), but hope to eventually.

On the subject of book signings, I went and saw Pat Rothfuss last night at a spontaneous signing tour. If you're interested, I've got a write up on my blog.

Take care.

Unknown said...

By the time heart shaped box was in arc, his identity was well known and nearly every review since mentions his dad. His success isn't really free from dad's coattails.

Dan Smyth said...

Still, Heart-Shaped box was really a good novel and I'm very much looking forward to Horns after James's review. Have to say though that this situation with Joe Hill getting published turned out a sight better than the science-fiction Herbert debacle.

Harry Markov said...

I have yet to read Hill's work. I have it on my radar, but so far no time or chance to get on board.

Cara said...

I've read Heart-shaped Box (bought purely because of the title being a Nirvana favourite track) and really enjoyed it. It was only afterwards I found out that Joe Hill was Stephen King's son... that apple didn't fall far from the tree!!!
Joe Hill reminds me of The Lawnmower Man (not the film)... is this wrong?