Critics have described bestselling author Joe Hill's work with words like creepy, scary, terrifying, compelling and chilling, but one word seems to pop up more than others - original.
With so many great suspense and horror books out there, it's quite a compliment to say someone's work is original. He explains it has a lot to do with what he's reading when he's not trying to write his next bestseller.
"For the most part, I lean toward historical fiction," he explains. He says when he was kid - he is the son of authors Tabitha and Stephen King - he enjoyed reading horror, fantasy and science fiction. "But now, I would rather not read those types of books because â€¦ I don't want to be influenced by what my peers are writing or point me in a direction where I repeat somethingâ€¦ Plus, there's just something about how people wrestled in big problems in other eras that I find terrifically interesting."
While Hill is best known for his New York Times bestselling novels "The Fireman," "SOS4A2," "Horns" and "Heart-Shaped Box," he first came on the literary scene with a comic book series he created with Gabriel RodrÃguez, "Locke & Key," which is now being turned into a TV series for Hulu. Hill says he wrote the first two scripts for the series and the pilot was filmed in Toronto.
"It's great - it's so great. We are just waiting for the green light so we can film the next nine episodes."
Hill recently released a new book, "Strange Weather" which is a collection of four novellas that explore the possible horror that could be lurking just below the surface of everyday life. If you enjoy reading his latest book, you may want to check out the audio version, since Hill hand-selected the people who read each short novel. As he says, "With audiobooks, a great narrator can make a good story even better."
He explains, "'Snapshot' is a story about a man threatened by the tattooed Phoenician who erases memories with a Polaroid camera. It's set in the '80s, so Wil Wheaton narrates it. 'Loaded' is about gun violence in America and Stephen Lang - the bad guy from the 'Avatar' movies - narrates it. He just has a great delivery.
"'Aloft' is about a man who goes skydiving and ends up stranded like Robinson Crusoe on a cloud high above the Earth and Dennis Boutsikaris narrates; he did a great job. 'Rain' is a climate-change story where it's raining nails; Kate Mulgrew reads it. I love working with her. She did two of my other audio books."
While Hill is known to use supernatural elements to create haunting imagery, he says his short novel in this latest book, "Loaded," is different.
"It is very much a crime novel. There are no supernatural elements to it. â€¦ As I wrote it, I thought about Elmore Leonard and George Higgins - those are writers who don't use a lot of metaphorical language and really rely on action and dialogue to tell storyâ€¦ I think tonally it's very different from what I've written.
"It was great fun. â€¦ I don't want to wear out the soil by planting the same thing over and over againâ€¦ I do try to mix it up with every story. â€¦ The thrill of a new form and working in a different genre, in a different style, is part of what keeps you fresh."
As a busy writer, he says he enjoys getting the chance to start a new book tour so he can get out and explore, even though sometimes it's a short stop.
"When I first started doing book tours, I thought it was one of the coolest things ever - and my publisher gets to pay for it. But I quickly learn you see the airport and a book store and that's it."
If you want to hear what Hill is working on for his next book, catch him during the Savannah Book Festival at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Savannah Theatre.
"Normally at these things, I read a little from my new book and do a Q&A," Hill says. He plans to bring something with him that he recently tried out at a reading near his home in New Hampshire that left the crowd feeling Hill might be able to see the future.
"I read a story I wrote about something terrifying happening on a global scale," he says. "The next day there was news of the false alarm in Hawaii, which was weirdly like what happened in the story, so people at the reading were freaked out."
He laughs and says he's anxious to try that out again on the crowd in Savannah.
"You spend so much time as a writer alone in a room playing make-believe. The opportunity to get out and talk about stories and be with people reading your work is fun. When you publish a book, it goes off and has all these adventures without you â€¦ When you go to reading, you are able to find out what the book has been up to and who has discovered it."
Book: "Strange Weather"
When: 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Savannah Theatre, 222 Bull St.