Hill is the second child of authors Stephen and Tabitha King. He grew up in Bangor, Maine. His younger brother Owen is also a writer. Hill has three sons.
Hill chose to use an abbreviated form of his given name (a reference to executed labor leader Joe Hill, for whom he was named) in 1997, out of a desire to succeed based solely on his own merits instead of as the son of Stephen King. After achieving a degree of independent success, Hill publicly confirmed his identity in 2007 after an article the previous year in Variety broke his cover (although online speculation about Hill's family background had been appearing since 2005).
Joe Hill is a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. He has also received the William L. Crawford award for best new fantasy writer in 2006, the A. E. Coppard Long Fiction Prize in 1999 for "Better Than Home" and the 2006 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella for "Voluntary Committal". His stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, such as Subterranean Magazine, Postscripts and The High Plains Literary Review, and in many anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (ed. Stephen Jones) and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (ed. Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant).
Hill's first book, the limited edition collection 20th Century Ghosts published in 2005 by PS Publishing), showcases fourteen of his short stories and won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, together with the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and Best Short Story for "Best New Horror". In October 2007, Hill's mainstream US and UK publishers reprinted 20th Century Ghosts, without the extras published in the 2005 slipcased versions, but including one new story.
Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins on February 13, 2007 and by Victor Gollancz Ltd in UK in March 2007. Simultaneous to these two editions, a limited edition of Heart-Shaped Box was also released by Subterranean Press; it sold out several months prior to publication. The novel reached number 8 on the New York Times bestseller list on April 1, 2007.
On September 23, 2007, at the thirty-first Fantasycon, the British Fantasy Society awarded Hill the first ever Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award. Hill's first professional sale was in 1997.
Among unpublished works is one partly completed with his father, "But Only Darkness Loves Me", which is held with the Stephen King papers at the Special Collections Unit of the Raymond H Fogler Library at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine.
Hill is also the author of Locke & Key, a new comic book series published by IDW Publishing. The first issue, released on February 20, 2008, sold out of its initial publication run in one day. A forthcoming collection of the series in limited form from Subterranean Press sold out within 24 hours of being announced.
His only screen appearance so far was aged 10 in the film Creepshow (1982) (dir. George Romero), which co-starred and was co-written by his father.