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The Truth About NOS4A2 And Locke & Key's Stephen King References - Exclusive

Joe Hill came up with his pen name to carve a place for himself in the horror genre without the name recognition that comes from his father's fame. It's a lot of pressure to grow up in the shadow of Stephen King, but now that Hill is immensely successful on his own merit, the acclaimed author is happy to play in King's sandbox, and vice versa. The father-son duo frequently give each other's work shoutouts in their projects, connecting their horror inscapes and providing a ton of Easter eggs for hardcore fans to discover. Between NOS4A2's Charlie Manx, It's Pennywise, and every character in between, Hill and King's respective works are all rich with homages to their influences — and each other.

Hill's hugely popular TV shows NOS4A2 and Locke & Key both have significant references to King's body of work that neither buried in the attic. With a Charlie Manx reference in Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, a ton of It Easter eggs popping up on NOS4A2, and Locke & Key's significant Carrie moment, it couldn't be a coincidence. Hill revealed it all to Looper during an exclusive interview, dishing on how involved he and King are in creating these subtle shoutouts to each other's works, and if they ever talk about the references before they air on screen.

Honoring creative influences

Hill recalled that in his latest collection of stories, Full Throttle, he penned a missive about what influenced his writing. "The most recent book was a collection of stories called Full Throttle. And in the introduction and in the story notes, I talk a lot about influence because the longer I've done this, the more aware I am that most of the stories I'm writing are in conversation with stories that I love." 

He went on to share that his most recent novel, 2016's The Fireman, took a great deal of inspiration from one of King's famous works: "The Fireman was, in a lot of ways, a rewrite of The Stand — if you soak The Stand in gasoline and throw a match at it." The Stand is a 1978 King novel, for which King drew inspiration from Lord of the Rings. There's always a lot of talk about coming up with "original" ideas in the writing world, but most writers, including Hill and King, realize that every single idea is inspired by one that came before it.

This rang true with Doctor Sleep and NOS4A2: Hill and King realized there was overlap between certain elements of their respective works.

"In the case of the overlap between Doctor Sleep and NOS4A2, I had been working on NOS4A2 for a year or two, and my dad had been working on Doctor Sleep, and we got [to] discussing them," Hill revealed. "And almost at the same moment, we realized we had similar bad guys in each book. The True Knot and Doctor Sleep were spiritual vampires, soul vampires, and Charlie Manx is cut from the same cloth."

He further explained, "So [there are] two things you can do about that when you discover that kind of overlap. One is you can run from it, which I think is an act of cowardice. Or you can embrace it and address it head-on, which I think is the better move." Hill added with a laugh, "And so I stuck The True Knot in NOS4A2, and he stuck Charlie Manx in Doctor Sleep." 

Hill and King definitely made the right call, as discovering references and crossovers in the horror genre is one of the greatest pleasures for fans.

The symphony of horror

Continuing on the subject of inspiration, Hill poetically revealed that the world he's crafted inside his mind — his unique creative essence — has been built from parts of everything he's read and loved in the past. Naturally, this results in literary, cinematic, and musical works popping up as references in Hill's projects.

"NOS4A2 has the imaginary worlds called inscapes, and very powerful people can enter their own... People with intense supernatural powers can enter an inscape. And I sometimes think my own inscape is constructed out of all the books I've read and all the movies I fell in love with, and all the stories that I've written have come out of that place," he shared. "Inevitably you see: here's a little flash of It, here's a look of Steven Spielberg, here's the influence of Tom Savini. And rather than try to disguise it, I'd rather be open about it. Because I just think that's more interesting," 

Embracing their influences is the best thing a writer can do, and it shows — whether the pages are a novel or a script. Hill summed it up best in saying, "You can't escape your influences, so you might as well own them."

He compared the process to a symphony, adding, "Ultimately, it's like in music: Every musician has always had to make every song out of the same set of chords. There [are] just only so many chords. You can wind up with a thing like [...] Justin Townes Earle has a song out called 'I Ain't Got No Money,' which is great. But if you listen close, you can hear that it's actually a cover of 'Come Together' by the Beatles. But then if you listen to 'Come Together' by the Beatles, you can see that, actually, John Lennon was rewriting Chuck Berry. So there you go. It's like three songs that live together like Russian nesting dolls." 

In addition to being a King of horror, Hill also wears the crown for metaphors. He concluded the sentiment, noting, "NOS4A2 has echoes of It all through it, but It has echoes of all these other horror stories, that it's very much a horror story about horror stories."

NOS4A2 airs new episodes of season 2 on Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. The season finale, entitled "Bats," will premiere on Sunday, August 23. All ten episodes of season 1 and the first nine episodes of season 2 are available to stream now.