I didn't find out that Joe Hill is giving a reading at the South Portland Borders until after my review of his 20th Century Ghosts ran in the Phoenix a couple weeks ago. So I used the news as an excuse to provide you all with more coverage of this smart author. This afternoon, I did a short phone interview with Hill, who lives near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We touched on a variety of topics, including typewriters (he plans to write his next novel on one), genre fiction, comic books, and Sarah Palin (I mean, really, it's unavoidable these days). Here are some highlights.
On the connection between words and writing implements:
"The typewriter is a forward-motion machine," he says. While today's writers can use word processers to "endlessly tweak" their sentences toward "intricate beauty," the typewriter fornces you to "just plunge forward." Some people might find 1960s and '70s stories (written primarily on typewriters) "less lyrical" he admits, "but they kind of thrash along in an exciting way." That's why, when he finishes his last book (a supernatural thriller to be called Horns) for William Morrow, he plans to write his next novel on a typewriter.
On crossing over between genre and literary fiction:
"For me as a writer, I love an exciting concept. I still have something of a comic book imagination. But for whatever reason, after a couple of days I need a character, someone with secrets and regrets. If I don't have that, it doesn't matter how good the concept is, it'll end up in the trash can."
On horror fiction's role in society:
"One of the things that horror fiction's always done is provide a safe place for society to explore what they're really scared of," such as nuclear annihilation (a la Them!) or communism (a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
When asked what he thinks is scary:
"I think Sarah Palin's a little scary."
Joe Hill will read at the South Portland Borders on October 28 at 7 pm.
Psst -- sneak preview -- He'll be reading a complete (and forthcoming in 2009) short story called "The Devil on the Staircase."