Age and any other physical details
Joe: Oh, look at you, trying to figure me out by asking me for "personal" arbitrary details so you can judge my progress with reaching goal posts in a field of your design. Respectfully, no thank you. My body, like all bodies, will eventually be a rotting dead thing. I am good with my hands.
Caroline Kepnes: Joe would be "cagey" about his age. He's a Scorpio. While I was writing the first book I decided that we share the same birthday. He wouldn't like the idea of bonding with anyone about astrology as he is not, by nature, someone who plays well with others. He has heightened senses and an overdeveloped, toxic sense of self-worth. He has brown eyes. Brown hair.
Can you tell us anything about his parents or siblings
Joe: Well, well, well. Are you a licensed clinical psychologist? Is this a date? Are you thinking of me or the fun you'll have dissecting me with your friends after you gather your anecdotal nuggets? Nuggets which, by the way, are not the chicken au naturel, but chunks of meat we grind up and reshape to be all the more digestible to the person asking.
Caroline Kepnes: He had a rough childhood and there was not much stability in his home. His Jewish mother and his Catholic father had better things to do than deal with this child. Early on, he turned to books and learned to focus on the world in his mind. There is no sibling, no one out there to corroborate what did or did not happen in their home during his childhood.
What are Joe's Main Traits?
Joe: Okay, fine. Reader. Romantic. Hopelessly, hopefully devoted to you. Selfless. Working class hero in a classist society. Great listener. Independent thinker. Sensitive, not as in "sensitive for a man" (though that is true) but simply, wholly sensitive. Invisible vigilante justice advocate. (You're welcome.) Did I mention I'm good with my hands?
Caroline Kepnes: With every book, I get to know him more and I hope this book makes readers feel even more uncomfortably close to him. He's good at picking himself up when he gets knocked down. This time around, I focused on his attention excess disorder. His tunnel vision is dangerous to him and others in so many ways. His sincere, earnest desire to secure a solid, loving relationship is the foundation of his life story. He doesn't see himself as controlling, but oh is he ever.
His hidden talent is …
Joe: Ah, adorable, but I have no need for a self-aggrandizing reveal. Lucky for me, I'm not a narcissist who craves the opportunity to humblebrag about a skill I mastered to seem quirky and well-rounded. I didn't learn to juggle knives so I could tell you that I know how to juggle knives and if I did, I wouldn't tell you. If we don't hide things, things won't be buried and forgotten and in the future, archaeologists will be bored with nothing to excavate.
Caroline Kepnes: He twists the facts and he's his own defense attorney winning every trial against reason in his mind. I am always excited to deepen his mastery of the mental gymnasium in his mind. The reader sees it, but not the characters in his orbit, well, not usually. In this book, he is very inventive when it comes to human obstacles.
The strangest thing that Joe owns is…
Joe: Define "strange". I am not a materialist by nature. It's braver to leave your possessions behind than it is to cling to them, mistaking them for proving something about your identity, the weight of your soul. That said, I own a ton of books I've actually read.
Caroline Kepnes: I gotta go with the Rachael Ray knives. I got a set for my thirtieth birthday. I first mentioned them in Hidden Bodies. Joe inherits the knives from a former tenant with a penchant for pastels. I used them in You Love Me and I loved the idea of Joe making them his own, thinking of sweet Rachael Ray as his willing accomplice.
He is most proud of…
Joe: I read a lot. I don't get caught up in the antisocial networking that is the tragic downfall of so many lives. I risk my own life in order to make this world a safer, better place. And in spite of everything I've been through, growing up without a model of a good relationship, being cheated on, manipulated...I still have an open heart.
Caroline Kepnes: He is most proud of his capacity for love. See, if people would just do the right thing, which also always happens to be whatever he wants at that moment, everyone would be fine. He is proud to be resilient, loyal and indefatigable. He just keeps going, like the Energizer Bunny...with a knife. And a bottle of bleach.
He relaxes by…
Joe: Such a sad question. I'm true to myself, so I don't need to play online Jenga or meditate. If you follow your moral compass and feed your mind with good books, well, again, I don't need to "relax". I'm fine, thank you. But I'm a little worried about you.
Caroline Kepnes: Joe is a tense fucker and I created him to explore my fascination with the modern lifestyle, the tension of living in a world where the Internet is open 24/7, where people don't go away the way they used to. Joe only fully relaxes in the cocoon-like cage of love, and that is part of his problem, to say the least.
He can’t live without…
Joe: Not "you" as in you, but that's the best way to feel, right? Like you've found the one who can't live without you, and vice versa. Also, books. Music. Fuel for the soul. And laughter. I would probably be dead right now if I didn't have a good sense of humor.
Caroline Kepnes: Joe knows that guilt is a toxic emotion. So he is always lifting himself up. He needs his fictional heroes, his songs. He can't live without love and you don't get to live if you stand in the way of his love because obviously, if you do that, you are attempting to kill him and true love itself.
He can’t stand when
Joe: I can't stand it when people do selfish, cruel things. And I don't stand by. I can't help it. I have to help people try to become the best versions of themselves. Also, you know when people avoid eye contact because you're new and alone and they're not? Gross.
Caroline Kepnes: He can't stand unearned privilege. He doesn't like it when people are phony, puffed up, manipulative. He can't stand it when women shoot themselves in the foot. And like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, the man cannot stand to be ignored or betrayed.
His biggest weakness is…
Joe: I want to be your fantasy. Maybe you could be mine...I have a lyrical soul. I'm vulnerable. I don't hear music. I feel it. You too, right? I am open even when I am closed, like a book that you glance at a few months after you read it. It's still in there, in you, in me. Women see me. They know it right away, that I am vulnerable. In my experience, sadly, many women have been wronged by so many men that they are incapable of trust. They take advantage of me, my pure heart. And how can I not try and help them learn to love again?
Caroline Kepnes: He expects other people to be as "noble" and "honest" as he is. I put these words in quotes because of the rigid system in his head that favors him and categorizes him as the victim turned savior, the self-sacrificing center of the universe, the only one who gets it. And all he needs is a woman to validate all of this. In this way, his biggest weakness is being, at times, embarrassingly human.
His favourite food is …
Joe: love. lowercase. bold. italicized. invigorating. Or a really good slice of pizza. I see you're still searching for something from my childhood, now using food as a way in. So here: Frozen On-Cor Veal Parmesan, the way my mother used to make it, by peeling off the plastic and sticking it in the oven. Fun fact: The veal was not made with love. It was packaged in a factory and frozen months ago.
Caroline Kepnes: Joe is not a foodie. He's passive about food, and pleasure is derived from positive associations. He savored truffle fries in Hidden Bodies because there he was, with a potential love interest and her warm family providing nourishment on the patio of Chateau Marmont. In You Love Me he loves it when Mary Kaye steals his French Fries, and so he is sure to order something on the menu that comes with fries.
His fridge usually contains…
Joe: Seriously? It's just food. I grew up in a house with a mostly empty fridge. The fact that I am able to stock my fridge and provide for myself is enough for me. That said, I enjoy going to grocery stores. I like to see what people buy. Also, I like ketchup. You?
Caroline Kepnes: He's financially comfortable in You Love Me so there is steak in his fridge, salmon too. The salmon, in particular, is there because the salmon in Mary Kaye's house is in the freezer, frostbitten. Tsk tsk. And oh man, in this book he makes a few runs for donut holes for a new person in his life.
His go-to feel-good read?
Joe: Oh come on. Just one? Every book that pulls me out of this world is a feel good read. It felt good to let Debbie Macomber sweep me away to Cedar Cove. What a feel-good miracle that Anne Petry can bring me back in time. My only feel bad read is Shel Silverstein. But we don't need to get into that and it's not Shel's fault.
Caroline Kepnes: Every You book is full of books and I love thinking about his take on any book I read. Joe likes finding the light in the dark. In this book, he encourages a library patron to try Amina Akhtar's Fashion Victim. Joe considers that a feel-good read, the story of a woman murdering her co-workers. And as for the Shel Silverstein...you'll know more about that in the first chapter.
His favourite, current show is …
Joe: Well, I'm amused by Johnny Bates. I also enjoy rooting for Logan in Succession. Terrifying thing, to have your ungrateful spawn ganging up on you like that, right? It's a fact of life. Inevitably, the child comes after the father, but if you stay away from your offspring, they're less likely to blame you for the chip on their shoulder.
Caroline Kepnes: Johnny Bates is a show you will learn about in You Love Me. Joe also has a lot to say about Friends. And yes, Joe is a father in this book, but it's complicated. He's not watching toddler cartoons. In one of my favorite parts of this book he also works very hard to produce a show called You...but it's not the one you and I watch on Netflix.