Joe Hilley is one of the most significant Alabama writers working today.
Fast-moving, lively, vivid and engaging — Hilley writes mysteries like they were meant to be written.
Lee Peacock, The Monroe Journal
Nine years ago Joe walked away from the practice of law to pursue the dream and calling of his life--to write fulltime.
Some said it wasn’t much of a change, from defending criminals to making up legal thrillers. And they may be right. But the living of it has been quite an adventure and a walk of faith — not only for Joe but for his entire family. When he walked out the door of the law firm and went home to write he didn’t have a publishing contract. In fact, all he had was an idea for a character and the bare outline of a story. With that, he went home to write. And liquidate assets.
“We’ve been married more than 20 years. So,
together we had accumulated some financial
assets, but not enough to produce a livable
income,” Joe explains.
That meant their investments would have to be
liquidated. And that’s what they did. “We
liquidated and we borrowed some. And then we
liquidated some more.”
When the financial assets were gone, they turned
to their furniture.“ One day the money started to
run out. My wife smiled and said, ‘Let’s sell the
furniture.’” And that’s what they did. And the
Had he merely written a hard-edged novel with
earthy language, he would have been picked up
by a traditional publisher. If he had written a softer novel with a more explicit message, he would have found a Christian publisher years ago. But Joe wanted to write a novel with a hard edge
without an explicit language. And he wanted any
message the book might have to come from the
experience of reading the book, not from telling
the reader the point.
Writing a story like that was exhilarating.
a publisher proved a challenge. Then Joe found
Jeff Dunn, an editor with RiverOak Publishing at the time. “Jeff was looking for well-written fiction with a realistic edge that didn’t beat the reader over the head with the message. I was sure I had the book he wanted.”
RiverOak soon purchased Joe’s first novel, Sober Justice, and struck a deal for a follow-up book. In September 2004, Sober Justice introduced readers to Mike Connolly, a down-and-out, 50-something attorney, battling alcoholism and a disintegrating life. It also introduced the world to a new type of Christian fiction. One that wasn’t afraid to tackle spiritual issues,and didn’t soft-sell the story or water down the writing.“I want to write like Ernest Hemingway, tell a
story like Mark Twain, and produce books that
grab the reader by the collar. To do that, you have to keep the story razor-sharp.” His wife, Joy, sees to that. ”She’s my first and best editor. She keeps the story from going too far.”
Apparently Joe hit the mark. Sober Justice and
the sequel Double Take both sold out their first
printings in their first month on the market.
Double Take continues the story of Mike
Connolly. Still sober, but struggling, Connolly
defends a former police detective accused of
conspiring to murder an heir to a shipbuilding
fortune. The story takes readers on a steamy tour of the Gulf South as Connolly faces corruption in high and low places.
Electric Beach, the third in the series, was
released in May 2006. It takes Mike Connolly to places in town and in himself where he's never been – including places he doesn’t want to go.
Night Rain was released in April 2007, to the
delight of many fans. And, the fifth book in the
series, The Deposition, became available in
These novels have been a vehicle for addressing such topics as judicial and political corruption, trafficking in women, and the scourge of meth labs on rural America.
Joe’s work has expanded to non-fiction. He ghost-authored Reign Down, a call to national repentance, which was released in April 2008. His profile Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader debuted at #23 on the New York Times Best-Seller List in October 2008. He recently co-authored a biography of a Civil Rights era woman (details will follow as soon as the publishing contract is finalized) and is working with several other people to tell their life stories.
Joe’s newest adventure with Jeff includes electronic publishing. What the Red Moon Knows was released on Kindle in October 2009.
Several more novels are in the works. Some are on paper, others still in his head. At various speaking engagements, Joe continues to encourage others to pursue their dreams with passion.
Joe and Joy live in lower Alabama with their teenage daughter and son.
Where to find Joe Hilley online
This member has not published any books.