...when Hill's fantasy-tinged thriller, "Heart-Shaped Box," came out last month, it was inevitable that his thoroughbred blood lines as a writer of horror and the supernatural would be out there for all to see....
Hill, 34, took on his secret identity to test his writing skills and marketability without having to trade on the family name....
"I really wanted to allow myself to rise and fall on my own merits," he said over breakfast in this coastal city. "One of the good things about it was that it let me make my mistakes in private."
The moniker he chose did not come out of the blue. He is legally Joseph Hillstrom King, named for the labor organizer whose 1915 execution for murder in Utah inspired the song, "Joe Hill," an anthem of the labor movement. His parents, who came of age during the 1960s, "were both pretty feisty liberals and looked at Joe Hill as a heroic figure," he said.
Hill's decision to follow his father's career should come as no surprise. His mother, Tabitha King, has been turning out novels for decades. His younger brother, Owen King, came out in 2005 with a well-received novella and short story collection that is more literary than horrific and laced with absurdity.
Like Hill, Owen King wanted to cut his own path and his book did not mention his parentage. But he decided against a pen name, figuring it would be too much trouble to try to go by an alias when meeting people or having an agent, manager, publicist or personal assistant handle details of his professional life.
The only sibling who has yet to make it into print is Naomi King, oldest of the three, who has switched careers from restaurateur to Unitarian minister. But Hill said his sister is working on a nonfiction project: a book-length study of the sermon as literary text and its place in American culture.
The Kings should certainly be proud. A family of five, all writers, is really something. I'm going to have to place Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box" on my TBR list but that's a mighty long list, so if any of you have already read it, tell us what you think of it, please.