Dad Was This Huge Looming Presence

“I was very conscious that [Dad] was this huge, looming presence…”

—Joe Hill

Today’s story is about Joe Hill.

So you want to be a writer. You’ve picked a tough trade. Many try. Few succeed. But you’ve got an edge. One hell of an edge.

dad is a looming presence

Writer Joe Hill, son of Stephen King.

He’s the world’s best best-selling author. Fifty novels. Fifty-million sales. Stephen King is his name. Most would kill for that “in”. You lucked out. The King of Scream is your dad.

You’re a lucky guy — the son of the King. As an aspiring writer, what do you do to leverage Dad’s name?

A crazy move most would say. You change your name!

What happens? You struggle for years. You write. Submit. Rejection, day after day. You soldier on with your “art.” You try not to get down. You peck away in obscurity. Just like every other writing schmuck.

Then, your stuff starts to catch. On your own, you become a best-selling author. Award-winner. Genre-shaper. Critical darling … before anyone knew you were Stephen King’s son.   

Variety magazine broke Joseph Hillstrom King’s “cover” in 2006.
Under his penname, Joe Hill, Joseph King sold his first piece in ’97,
and many since then.

Why did this son reject his dad’s name? A family rift? Rebellion? Not at all. The plot twist is this: Joe Hill, the son, is a fan of his dad. He’s read Twilight Zone “at least 20 times,” he says. The two are close. “Very emotionally tight,” according to Joe.

But “I was very conscious that [Dad] was this huge, looming presence in the work of pop culture, and it’s very difficult to carve out a space of my own.” So Joe started carving alone. But there is more to the story.

When Joe rejected Dad’s name he was following Dad’s lead.

After Stephen King established his name, he started writing as someone else. “Richard Bachman” is Stephen’s pen name. Stephen King wanted to prove he could make it again on writing alone, not the “King brand”… (Even if it was he who created it!)

(He could. Richard Bachman’s books have sold millions, too.)

Advice to kids of big dads.

First “get your chops.” Then partner with Dad.

Joe Hill's books, Stephen King

Some of Joe Hill’s books

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