Joe Hill

Posted: August 24, 2020
The second season of NOS4A2 is just a few episodes from ending when I get the chance to talk to Joe about the TV show and some other things I've been wondering about. I have spoken to Joe before and I know he is very easy to interview and one of those people who talks a lot, which, just to be clear, is a good thing. So, I was really looking forward to talking to him and for about 15 minutes we talked about NOS4A2, Twitter, his dad and when we can expect a new book. Here is what happened...

Joe Hill: Hi Hans, how are you? Good to talk to you.

Lilja: Yeah, same here. Thanks for taking the time.

Joe Hill: It's a pleasure.

Lilja: I've seen the second season of NOS4A2, liked it, but also thought it followed the book more than season one did.

Joe Hill: Yeah, I think there is some truth to that.

Lilja: Season one was almost like a prequel to the book and then the book happened in season two. Is that how you see it as well?

Joe Hill: Well, I don't know if I would say that the first season is a prequel to the book. I would say it expands on the first third of the book to teach us more about these characters and show us more of their inner lives but I do think that the first season of NOS4A2 is like the Terminator and the second season is more like Terminator 2. In the first season we introduce the world and we're learning about who these people are and sort of setting up the rules and expectations but then in the second season we get to hammer down from the first episode. We're going from 70 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour as fast as we can and for storytelling that's where I'm the most comfortable. I've done a lot of writing for comic books and I got a comic book imagination and it's my feeling that stories work best when characters are imperiled. It doesn't need to be physical. Moral, emotional or spiritual can be very powerful but if there is no sense of danger or risk you might be in trouble. You might not even have a story at all.

Lilja: Yeah, I agree. Do you think we'll see a third season of NOS4A2?

Joe Hill: I think we could. I'm really happy with the show. I adore Jami O'Brien the showrunner and her lieutenant Tom Brady and their entire talented writersroom. I'm in admiration of the work the actors have done all across the boards from the bigger parts like Ashleigh Cummings to smaller roles. Vic and Linda played by Virginia Kull delivers some of the most emotional hard-hitting stuff in the second season, so we have been very lucky. I feel that if we only get two seasons, we can go out with our heads held high, we told the story we wanted to tell, to the best of our ability but could there be more? I think that depends on the viewers. In the second season we begin to introduce new characters like The Hourglass man and old Snake who have supernatural powers of their own much like Charlie and Vic McQueen and there are a lot of strong creatives in the world of NOS4A2, some of them good and some of them very, very bad. There are certainly more to explore there if there is an appetite for it.

Lilja: Yeah, I would definitely like to see a third season with more villains like The Hourglass man.

Joe Hill: [laugh]

Lilja: I really enjoyed him and was actually sad to see him go.

Joe Hill: Oh yeah, the poor Hourglass. He was a real sinister figure and I think we can all breathe easier since he is definitely certainly 100% absolutely dead.

Lilja: You also have the TV series Locke & Key on Netflix and it's kind of different how we can see a TV series now than we could 10 years ago. Some release all episodes at once and others one episode a week. Do you have a preferred way you like to watch a show?

Joe Hill: This is interesting. To talk about this subject, I need to be a bit of a film business geek but here is the thing. At the risk of sounding like a film business nerd there are two ways to deliver a television show. Streaming like on platforms like Netflix and Hulu has been growing in popularity for the last decade, the other way to deliver a television show is linear television that basically means TV on a schedule, that a show airs on a particular time and the narrative in Hollywood is that linear television is on the way out and that streaming is definitely the future. I definitely think there's room for both and I love Netflix as much as the next guy, the storytelling they do is amazing but it's interesting that in the time of the coronavirus linear television suddenly looks good. Every Sunday night when a new episode of NOS4A2 aired the NOS4A2 hashtag on Twitter turns into a kind of party with people commenting on what's happening on the show in real time and having a conversation about it. These days no one can go to the movie theaters because of the risks to one's health and then this is the next best thing, being able to sit home, enjoying a scary story together using the Internet to connect. There is a lot to hate about social media, but this is one part of social media that is very cool.

Lilja: Yeah, it's good when everyone is on the same episode and you can't spoil it.

Joe Hill: And the thing with streaming a show is that you can watch on your schedule which is great, just click a button and it's on right away...but...when you are watching something linier you're all discovering it at the same time and I think in an era when people are socially distancing, when you can't go to restaurants or movie theatres and you can't socialize the way you did this is one way to bridge the gap and I think that horror is especially, and this is going to sound strange but I think horror is especially good at bringing people together, people love sharing the experience of being scared. That is why it's more fun to ride a rollercoaster that's packed than one with just one or two people. You want to hear everyone else screaming, it makes it more fun.

Lilja: You mentioned social media. I know you are quite active on Twitter...

Joe Hill: I'm sorry to hear you say that [laugh] I'm trying to shrink my profile on Twitter. I try to spend less time there because I don't think it's a healthy place.

Lilja: But it's a good way to reach a lot of people for good discussions, right? There will always be bad ones as well sure but still...

Joe Hill: I recently re-read 1984 and I wrote an introduction for Suntup Editions limited edition and when you look at social me when you look at 1984 they all turn in on the same time, hating whoever is on the screen, screaming at them, throwing things at the monitor and to me that is not how I want to be as a human being I don't want to engage in tribal hate and I see a lot of that one social media and sometime it's sort of justified but the thing is that most people have stupid ideas and do stupid things and really intelligent wonderful people can be totally clueless and upsetting in some aspects of their lives but on social media your stupid moments are recorded forever and you can be declared a kind of unperson for screwing up and I don't think that is the right way to respond to people. Hatred is not the right way to respond to other people's screwups.

Lilja: I see what you mean.
You are very busy working on TV shows and books and comics. Have you been even more productive now with the isolation?

Joe Hill: It's about the same, I'm trying to slow down a little bit but I had a really busy year last year when I was writing four comic books at once plus working at the beginning of a novel and I was writing screenplays as well. I made it through and I think I did good work and I'm pretty happy with what I came out with but by the end of the year I thought "I can't keep up this pace, I have to slow down. this isn't healthy to pile up work like this". So right now, I've turned down the volume on work a bit, I'm working on a novel, I'm generally writing one comic book on the side as well, but I won't work on more than one comic book at a time. Carrying five comic books at the same time was cool to try but I don't think I can keep going like that for year after year.

Lilja: Yeah, I understand.

Joe Hill: Some people can though. Some of the writers I admire the most can carry four or five comic books at the same time. In some way I think of myself more as a comic book writer than a novelist and a lot of my peers it's a routine to carry four or five comic books at the same time.

Lilja: Can we expect a new book this year or will we have to wait till the next?

Joe Hill: The next book might be out in the spring of 2022. I got one I'm working on. I'm really happy with it and it's really tugging along but I'm not talking about it too much but it's another really big one like The Fireman and NOS4A2 and I think realistically at the pace it's going, given some of the slowdowns associated with the Corona virus and the economic setback probably not another novel next year, probably not until 2022.

Lilja: When we spoke last year when season one of NOS4A2 aired you mentioned that you were working on a book called Up the Chimney Down is that something you're still working on?

Joe Hill: I got two hundred pages of Up the Chimney Down and I think it's a pretty good book but I'm not working on it at the moment. And sometimes though, to bring it back to NOS4A2 for a minute. At one point I had Charlies backstory, the story of his childhood and how he got his supernatural gifts. Originally that was part of the novel but it slowed the action down when we wanted to go faster and later I reinvented that material as a graphic novel in a comic book called Wraith and we got to tell Charlies backstory in a more satisfying way and probably the most exciting exploration of Charlie's youth and powers are in the TV show. I have thought lately about Up the Chimney Down and wondered if it's actually a comic book instead. So, I don't feel it was wasted effort and I don't think it's a failed book, it's just sort of a thing I'm still kind of looking at, thinking about, trying to decide what its best final shape is. And this is not uncommon. I had a lot of this with Hors. I had a long time with it where it went through different forms, different titles, different characters before I finally settled on the story I wanted to tell. So, I can wait [laugh].

Lilja: Speaking of NOS4A2 do you think you'll write more about Charlie Manx in novel form?

Joe Hill: Well, I definitely think there is room for the TV show to continue if there is an appetite for it. Within the book I mentioned a couple of things. At one point we get this map of United Inscapes of North America and there is a place on that map, it's full of imaginary locations and one of those places is a town called Orphanhenge and I have a story idea for Orphanhenge for years. Whether I'm going to write it is another question but it's something I've thought about. You know most of my dad's stories seems to take place in the same universe so Cujo takes place in the same world as The Dead Zone and all the worlds are united by The Dark Tower and in some ways I think that a lot of my stories are all taking place in the same world and maybe that world is one level down in the tower from the worlds of my dad's stories. So, I think the answer to if there will be more to this world is probably kind of inevitable because that is the world where my imaginations comes from, that's the world where all the stories come from, that same fabric.

Lilja: You mentioned your dad's books, a lot of people online have been speculating about if NOS4A2 is connected to his books and if they are in the same universe. And on the map you mentioned we can also find the Pennywise Circus, so is there any truth to that?

Joe Hill: Yeah, you know I thought that when I did Stephen King references it was a first. I always thought they were jokes and that there wasn't anything deeper to them. At one point when I was working on The Fireman I did begin to imagine that maybe the world of my story is somewhat adjacent to the world of his is a more curious way which would make sense because I'm somewhat adjacent to him because Tabitha and he raised me and the context of my life is my parents work and having them in my life as mentors and they are the people that care about me so I think invariably there is some connection in my stories to his and in my stories to my mom's as well.

Lilja: Makes total sense.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and I look forward to seeing what's next for you.