Author: Joe Hill
Venue: Porter Square Books
Porter Square Books is a quaint bookstore tucked away in Porter Square, Cambridge and features a popular fair-trade cafe. We arrived early for front row seats, and discovered while waiting that we had been seated in the… SAT prep and pregnancy help section. Huh?
Anyway, enter Joe Hill, tall and lanky, and a spitting image of his father. He exuded a very distinct “accomplished nerd” appeal, as in awkward yet confident. I have to say I was a little taken aback by his appearance because the only photo I had seen of him was this:
Which incidentally kind of coincides with the mental image I have of Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box– jacket, rock, auto-enthusiast. Oh author portraits. How you mislead us so!
Anyway, Joe Hill read an excerpt from Horns, his newest horror/thriller novel in the same vein as Heart-Shaped Box, in a smooth, confident drawl. He has this way of uniquely elongating the vowels in the last word of very sentence. I recognized in the excerpt familiar characteristics of Hill’s writing– great attention to sexual awareness, a small-town backdrop, strong dialogue, and a large dosage of boyish fun. Honestly, I wasn’t very taken with Heart-Shaped Box and probably will not read Horns; I am, however, a HUGE fan of Locke & Key. I don’t find Hill an exceptionally lyrical writer, and I find his imagery and overall sentence-stringing a little banal, but I will touch upon that later.
The highlight of the evening was definitely the Q&A. Hill added a little twist to the night by providing blinking red horns to everyone who asked a question (until supplies ran out) to encourage people to come forward. The rules were you had to wear the horns while asking the question, and then for the rest of the night. Much merriment ensued.
For the most part, I was put off by the questions, which were largely uninsightful and could have been answered by a simple Google search (inspiration, how long did it take to write, what are you working on next, what is your brother up to) but there were some quirky and memorable answers (note: Paraphrasing):
Q: (Something along the lines of) Do you like writing comics or novels better/ How are they different for you?
H: In some ways, comics are almost easier than novels. You don’t have to worry so much about sentence structure and imagery, and you can focus on the story and dialogue more. I could spent hours writing a couple sentences to try to make them sound right but comics are more forgiving on that front.
[Interesting he should say this because I think it is for these very reasons that he is such an excellent comic writer and not so much a novelist]
Also, I think that one of the greatest losses for literature was the change sparked by Hemingway. Prior to Hemingway, books were illustrated, and then suddenly they weren’t and I find it unnatural for the reader to not be able to see the author’s vision. Additionally, back in the day books were serialized, and I just find that process of creation very natural, to write and and develop a story in installments.
Q: You cited Alan Moore as one of your influences. Could you just geek out a bit and discuss more in-depth what exactly you drew from him?
H: Well, Alan Moore has influenced me in so many ways, but there is one particular concrete example. He has this specific method of doing transitions in comics. For example, in the last panel of one page, a person will be fanning his shirt and remarking that it’s very hot, and when you turn the page, there’s a huge panel of a factory on fire.
Hill also commented on the fact that this is the prime time for reading and writing genre. He talked about the increasing quality of fantasy/sci-fi, with a little shout out to Kelly Link who was in the audience, and how there exists an increasingly larger intersection of literature and genre (ex. Michael Chabon). I am inclined to agree =)
On a related note, we’re having a signed book giveaway!!! Featuring Joe Hill himself =) I snagged a signed 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill‘s first published short story collection which I have yet to read, but have heard is excellent. To enter, tell us what you think has been your favorite post thus far, whether it be a review, feature, or random tidbit, and why. You can comment here on this post with your answer to enter. Shipping will be covered by me, and the winner will be announced on March 11th.
Tell your friends! And happy booking!