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The Devil IS in the Details

Everything you wanted to know about HORNS and weren’t, apparently, afraid to ask:

When is the book out?

February 16th (not the 9th, as has frequently been reported, including by yours truly).

What’s HORNS about?

HORNS is about a decent enough young man named Ignatius Perrish, a guy who has always tried to do the right thing, only to see his whole life abruptly torn away from him. His girlfriend, the person he loves more than anyone in the world, is killed, and although he’s never charged with the murder, everyone, including his family and friends, believe Ig is responsible. Then one night Ig goes out drunk to rage and curse God, and when he wakes, he discovers he’s grown a pair of horns, and that people have a sudden compulsion to confess their darkest secrets and ugliest impulses to him. It isn’t long before Ig turns his terrible new powers to finding the man who killed his beloved, and taking his revenge.

The way you fuse the believable and unbelievable is my favorite aspect of your work, so is it a tradition set to continue with Horns, given another outlandish premise?

I think the best way to approach fantasy is to ground it in the fine details of everyday life. If I want to describe a devil sitting on a rock in the sun, I’ll probably start with the buzz of the locusts in the trees, and the smell of hot slate and dry summer grass, before I get around to the horns and the pitchfork.

Will HORNS be available on the Kindle and as an eBook?


The same day the hardcover comes out?


You aren’t coming to The South/The Midwest/Canada on your book tour? Why do you hate my part of the world?

I’m only on the road for about a week in February, and a couple weeks in March, and so there’s a real cap on how much territory I can cover; and because I’m a New England author, I always tend to start and finish in my proverbial backyard. That said, there probably will be a Canada swing before I’m finished traveling for HORNS and I’ll be in Texas in 2011 as a Guest of Honor for the World Horror Convention. With a little luck, it won’t be three years between HORNS and the next book, so a visit to both the South and the Midwest are likely in the near future.

You were working on a novel called The Surrealist’s Glass. What happened to that?

The Surrealist’s Glass and HORNS are very different novels (the biggest difference being that HORNS is good, and The Surrealist’s Glass wasn’t). Yet they had similar underlying concepts. In The Surrealist’s Glass, my hero wound up in possession of an unlikely lens; when he looked through it, he could see people’s secrets. In this way, they served a similar function to Ig’s horns. And several scenes in HORNS appeared in a cruder earlier form in Glass.

So The Surrealist’s Glass will never be published?

In one sense, no. In another sense, Glass was a confused, corrupt, first draft of HORNS; the best elements of Glass made it into print after all.

I’d add that years and years ago I wrote an epic fantasy novel called THE FEAR TREE… and that also involved someone with a power to divine people’s most closely guarded secrets. I’ve been playing with the concept for a decade, but only finally got it right with HORNS. And if that sounds strange, all I can say is I think it’s pretty typical; writers tend to revisit the same themes, tropes, places, and concerns, again and again, until they figure out how to use them in a satisfying way. So, for example, many of the ideas in Locke & Key existed first in a pair of unpublished novels: The Briars and The Evil Kites of Dr. Lourdes (yes – that was the actual name). It just took a while for all the elements to gel.

How much of your writing gets left on the cutting room floor?

I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it, I’ll get depressed. I probably write twenty pages for every one that gets published. Seriously. I spill a lot of ink and have laid waste to acres of trees.

I will say that at this point, my first draft scripts for Locke & Key aren’t usually all that different from the final draft scripts. But I’ve been writing about those characters for a while now, so it’s easy to fall into the right rhythms.

How many drafts did Horns take?

Not counting Surrealist’s Glass? The usual: 5. Three big rewrites, two little ones.

The signed traycased edition of Horns through PS Publishing offers “a little extra something” from you, Joe. Any hints?

PS Publishing will be including a chapter from The Surrealist’s Glass, and a chapter from an earlier draft of HORNS, featuring a character who was dropped from the book. There will also be a brief introduction to the bonus materials, titled “Fucking Up.”

Did you have any concerns about having a “sophomore slump”?

Yes. That’s what “Fucking Up” is about, and is really the reason why it took so long to get something new done.

No special website for Horns?

No, but there’ll be some fun online doodads to promote the book. Stay tuned.

Is there another novel floating around that you have nearly completed?

Yes, but I don’t talk about works-in-progress; the one time I broke that rule was The Surrealist’s Glass. Which I think says it all right there.

What influences molded your version of the devil? Movies? Stories? The Bible? And how does yours differ?

Actually, I was probably less influenced by historical depictions of the devil, and more by a famous fictional depiction of a man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach. I’ve done a lot of thinking about “The Metamorphosis” over the last few years; it was an influence on HORNS, and also on an earlier story, “You Will Hear The Locust Sing.”

Curiously, my thinking about the devil was also colored by a couple of Michael Chabon essays, to be found in Maps and Legends.

Any connections between Horns and Heart-Shaped Box?

At one point in the book, someone is listening to Jude’s Hammer on a boombox. That’s about it for explicit connections. Thematically, however, the books share many of the same concerns: the redemptive power of music, the way the present is always under the sway of the past, the secrets loved ones keep from one another.

Is it important to you to continue supporting small independent publishers such as PS? And how cool on a scale of 1-10 are Vinny Chong’s illustrations for their edition of Horns?

I care about the small presses because they’re operated by guys who routinely risk losing their shirts to publish certain books, not because they think they’ll make money off them, but because they love them and want everyone to read them. Also, I wouldn’t have a career without them: that simple.

That said, y’know, I think my big publishers are the shnizit as well. A guy couldn’t want for better editors than Jen Brehl and Jo Fletcher, or ask for more support than I’ve received from William Morrow and Orion. I’ve been lucky, throughout my career, to always find myself working with people I respect and like.

You can’t rate Vincent Chong’s work on a scale of 1 – 10. People have tried, but the needle hit 10 so hard it broke the gauge.

What else do you have coming out in 2010?

A whole bunch, I’m happy to say. There should be 9 – 10 issues of Locke & Key before the year is done – the rest of Crown of Shadows, and all of the new arc. I have a short story in Christopher Golden’s upcoming zombie anthology, The New Dead; my entry is titled “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead.” I’ve also got a story called “The Devil on the Staircase” in Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio’s anthology, Stories. “The Devil” was actually written before HORNS, and was the story that broke me out of my extended slump, so I have luvvy feelings for it. It takes a very different view of the red man with the pitchfork, however. Finally, I’ve got the back page essay in the fourth issue of Criminal: The Sinners – but you don’t want to start with issue 4, so you better go out and buy up all the back issues while you can.

I have a few other projects going at the moment, but that’s all I can talk about for now.

Thanks for the great questions, and here’s hoping you have some fun with HORNS.

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50 Responses to The Devil IS in the Details

  1. M&M-mostly mark says:

    Well, that sheds some light on the situation.

  2. Mike says:


  3. Vicki says:

    I wish *I* were working, even though the calls I’ve been seeing my former boss get are mostly the walking wounded or, as I’ve decided to term most of them, pains in the neck.
    The walking wounded are people who are injured but conscious and need to receive emergency medical treatment at the Emergency Department but don’t have a way there. They can’t drive themselves there and have no one on hand to do it for them.
    My least favorite thing about this group of people is that most of the men have made stupid comments to me-and there’s nothing I can do to retaliate other than think “Idiot. He’s an idiot. So just do your job and think about the ones who do make it worthwhile.”
    There are a lot of people who make me feel it’s worth it, even though most never actually say they’re grateful or thank me for what I do. I don’t do it to get that reaction, but I dislike the ones who act like the ambulance is a pick-up bar and badger me with requests to go out with them after they’re better–which, in my mind, they’ll never be if they’re doing that.
    Your talking about your profession reminded me of mine, and I felt like I had to get it out. I also like talking about my job. Explaining things like what ‘the walking wounded’ means makes me feel a tiny bit useful.

    As for that book, I’m uncertain about whether I’ll be able to read it. I know someone who was murdered. A person I once had shared a life with: a house, a child and even a cat. He didn’t like her, he just put up with her, so she was always rubbing against his leg and trying to convince him she was a likable kitty. She flat ignored me as she didn’t need to convince me to like her. Silly animal. : )
    I DO know I LOVED the movie ‘The Last House On The Left.’ The remake, not the original, which I didn’t know existed until I watched the interview of Wes Craven.
    So I may like ‘Horns’ anyway if the killers get killed in the end. I just don’t know how much the characterization and back story will make me think of my own situation.

  4. Patrick says:

    I cannot wait to read this book!

  5. Liquidnoose says:

    Having read HORNS a few weeks ago…it is a nasty tale for sure…and a great leap forward for Mr. Hill.

  6. Chris says:

    glad to hear that the kindle version is day and date with the hardcopy. also, saw a couple of my questions on there, very cool!

  7. Jenn E says:

    I’m so excited for this book!!

  8. The Fourth Craw says:


  9. Cail says:

    Thanks Joe! That was an excellent read. I wish I’d thought to ask about your writing process more. Thanks for answering my question.

  10. Betsy Boo says:

    Yay for the South…we’re gonna do it again!
    BTW, I have a dreadful pun for your book tour: “The Road to Hell…”.

  11. Barry Wood says:

    Thank you for the answers. As well, thanks to the small publishers who believed in you at the beginning such as Frank Smith and Peter Crowther. If not for them, we probably would never have heard of you, Joe.

  12. PoetGroupie says:

    Very much looking forward to this one Joe.

  13. M&M-mostly mark says:

    Its very noble of you to admit when you think something of yours isnt up to par. Mary and I appreciate all your hardwork.

  14. M&M-mostly mark says:

    Barry—VERY Good POint…A big heartfelt thanks to the small publishers.

  15. Vicki says:

    What! Why did Liquidnoose get to read it a few weeks ago? What’d he do, break into the ghost office (hehe)? Seriously, though; where did he FIND a copy?
    I’ll be racking my brains about that one. At least until the next call I get to go on. I really hope it’s not another walking wounded patient.

  16. LauraK says:

    Vickie, I’m guessing he had an Advance Reading Copy, or an ARC. Reviewers and bookstores and the like get them early, the lucky stiffs. 😀 (I was lucky enough to buy an ARC of HS-B on eBay….I wonder if I can get one of Horns…I know they’ve already been selling. :=/ )

    Joe- thanks for the Q & A… makes me even more excited for Horns. You’re aces.

  17. M&M-mostly mark says:

    They have been going for about an average of $30 here lately on ebay. I think my UK ARC may have finally came in today.

  18. Eric says:

    Killer concept as usual, Mr. Hill. As a writer who tends to get weird ideas myself, your work helps me realize there’s plenty of room in the world for celebrations of the bizarre.

  19. Cail says:

    Check out a little blurb I threw up on my Tumblr about this post.

  20. Betsy Boo says:

    This is one of the many things that interest me about the writing process:

    “…writers tend to revisit the same themes”…etc…”again and again, until they figure out how to use them in a satisfying way.”

    This is why when you read Irving you get bears and Tan deals with mother/daughter relationships. Atwood deals with feminist issues. I don’t mean to over simplify their work but these are recurring themes for these authors. Sometimes I get the feeling that writers are working through some pretty personal stuff, which I do appreciate since we’re all working through personal stuff. If true, it’s pretty courageous to do it so publicly.

    I just want to add that what I like about Joe’s work is that it is so original. He may have been influenced by other authors and stories but he puts an amazingly fresh spin on everything he writes.

  21. Tony says:

    I am puuuumped UP! Been looking forward to a new novel ever since I devoured Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts. Absolutely cannot wait.

  22. Looking forward to this. Also – apropos your upcoming CRIMINAL essay – I enjoyed your cameo in the first issue of Brubaker/Phillips current arc. It made me smile.

    (Of course, I hope you don’t end up the way your character did in that issue. Heh.)


  23. sari says:

    Sounds great, I can’t wait to read Horns!

  24. Chris Flemish says:

    Thanks for the insight.
    Can’t wait to read it and glad to see there are some apperances in my area this time.
    Keep up the good work.

  25. Jeremy says:

    Will this book be released on

  26. Nerak says:

    Thanks for the great answers, Joe!

  27. Dustan says:

    Can not wait for this book! I am very excited. 20th century ghosts and heart shaped box were fantastic. Locke and Key is one of the best comics I ever read, right up there with The Walking Dead. (in terms of looking forward to the next issue). I was wondering if you are going to be signing these books and sending them out like you did with the Locke and Key hardcovers. That would be really great! Keep up the amazing work.


  28. Grasshopper says:

    Enticing! I look forward to reading HORNS !!

  29. phil17larry33 says:

    I thought I had a good idea for a comic book until I read that storyline. Man oh man is that imaginative. Did you say five pages of writing for every one published? I don’t understand, how can you keep the story going with that kind of editing? I’m still sticking with my comic book story hopes but if what you’re doing is considered the ” norm” maybe it will be just a dream of mine in the end. Good luck with the book promotion it sounds Awesome! Totally bad ass idea. Where did you learn how to write if you don’t mind me asking? I’ll buy the book for sure.

  30. Tom Ratchel says:

    Thanks for sharing, Joe. I am SO looking forward to the new book. Sad that L.A. is not on your list of stops. I’d love to see you there. I caught you there a couple of years back at the Festival of Books in April ’08. A couple of more question’s for you if you’re up for it… Did the writing process for this book differ from HSB? What’s your daily writing schedule and output like? Congrats on what’s looking to be a fantastic year for you.

  31. M@ says:

    It would be cool if he came to Dallas for a book signing!

  32. Buzz-Kill Chris says:

    I have a semi-serious question. Are we going to be expecting any more horror novels from you? A few friends and myself discussed the details of your new novel and look back at 20th Century Ghosts along with Locke and Key, and are beginning to wonder if Heart Shaped Box was a one time deal. You seem to enjoy writing fantasy a lot. Even the description of “The Surrealist Glass” seems to be less horror and more dark fantasy. Your two cents?


  33. Betsy Boo says:

    Good question, Buzzy! I’m of the opinion that Joe is not a “horror” writer and I hope he doesn’t get pigeon-holed as such. You can see it when you read 20thCG…his fiction runs the gamut and I hope he won’t limit himself to (or allow others to limit him to) one particular genre. It bugs me that 20thCG was classified as horror when there were several main stream & fantasy stories in it as well. That made it hard to get non-horror readers to try him out. Having said that I hope he won’t abandon horror because he is very, very good at it.

    And if you’re answering any more questions Joe I had one I was wondering about too. You mentioned how you don’t discuss works in progress (which I totally understand) but I’ve been curious about how that works with L&K? I mean, is it hard not to be influenced by comments people (or critics) make in the midst of the story?

  34. phil17larry33 says:

    That Betsy Boo has got her shit together I’ll say that.

  35. Betsy Boo says:

    You are so kind phil…or larry? I think you’re pretty cool too! :)

  36. Wrote up a little preview for the blog largely based on this Q&A.

    I can hardly wait to get started on Horns when Amazon finally send it my way. Can’t come soon enough.

  37. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this post–that was really interesting. I’m so glad that Kafka is influencing your writing. “When I say something it immediately and finally loses its importance.” He is the best! :)

  38. Alex says:

    I had the wonderful opportunity to pick up an Advance Reader copy from my local bookstore (a perk to working there as well), and I have to say, Horns is everything you guys could have hoped for. Joe has proved, once again, that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

  39. Salvatore says:

    Dear Mr. Hill,

    I just finished reading Horns and I was wondering if you had any time to share where you pulled your research for your particular take on this horned character. The worldview behind the book was so intriguing that I wanted to know if you drew on any philosophers in particular. I also wanted to know where your inspiration for the THotM (I hope that abbreviation is not too vague, but I do not want to spoil anything) came from. I could not see any way to leave a message with my questions for you other than this comments section and I understand completely if you do not have the time to respond. If you do have a minute I would really and truly like to read anything that inspired this truly amazing and incredible book.

    Thank you for taking us to Hell.


  40. Salvatore says:

    Also I meant any sources beyond those mentioned in the FAQ above… I believe there was mention of the Romantic school of thought in a sermon by Ig at one point. I wanted to know where those ideas came from.

  41. ParkerNC says:

    I just bought my pre-order copies of Horns from River Run, and now I am really excited. Joe, you are my absolute favorite, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this new novel. I also picked up another copy of Ghosts (I think I’ve given at least 4 copies of it away, and I keep buying more…).

    Anyway, keep rock’n. Keep write’n…


  42. Tammy Fergus says:

    Hi. I just noticed that your site looks like it has a few code errors at the very top of your website’s page. I’m not sure if everybody is getting this same bugginess when browsing your blog? I am employing a totally different browser than most people, referred to as Opera, so that is what might be causing it? I just wanted to make sure you know. Thanks for posting some great postings and I’ll try to return back with a completely different browser to check things out!

  43. Saw your Blog bookmarked on Reddit. Nice Blog.

  44. Vicki says:

    What’s the difference between horror and dark fantasy?
    I thought Horns would be classified as horror. I LIKE horror novels, parts of my life have been a true horror story. I think no scary book, no matter what subjects it explores, could compare to the true life story of watching someone you once loved and had a child with die in a blast of flames. And then have to be the one who tells your 15-year-old daughter about it.
    I once wrote a short story about a guy who gets brutally murdered and whose ghost comes back and kills everyone who participated in his murder.
    My editor thought I was terrible for writing it. He didn’t have to use his mouth to convey the idea to me. He didn’t want to publish it b/c, according to him, “there’s no market for that unique idea.”
    Since he said that, I’ve seen two movies with that exact premise and now Horns has a similar idea.
    I think the guy was lying to me. He didn’t like the idea himself and couldn’t even admit that’s what it was. So he tried to make it look like I was the one who came up with an unsalable idea.
    I’m glad I never threw away the story.

  45. ari says:

    joe…. He is absolutely fantastic! I Lub Him~! Lub Him~!!>.<)/

  46. Martine says:

    Vikie are you trully an ambulance driver who dislikes concious wounded people? If so, Id consider a job change. I will accept that most of us are not at our best when we are in trouble, and as expensive as an ambulance ride is, no one will call one if not in dire need. I have never yet encountered a paramedic with your attitude; Someone is hurt, and you are concerned if their comments are up to snuff????? So, Im imagining your job must be different. Paramedics are some of the kindest, most competent and caring folk I have run into. In fact the few times Ive needed medical help, the people that actually help your ailment, and calm you down are the paramedics. Then the doctors just look you over and send you home. Im hoping no one reads your comment and decides that they are not the dedicated medical professionals that they are. I hope you are a cab driver.

  47. Martine says:

    Ok. What is Dark Fantasy? How is it not Horror? Im not that knowledgeable, but I thought that Dark Fantasy is exactly what Horror equates to.

  48. Susan M. Sargies says:

    I was just wondering if your character’s names have anything to do with the novel or movie “The Exorcist”. I see Merrin-Father Merrin,Ragan- Ragan Mc Neil and you mention locusts- The insect controlled by Pazuzu the “demon” (at least in the movies).

  49. Contessa Schwenke says:

    She already made the ultimate career move, she married Cruise, didnt’ she?

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