From Basiliere to Bates, Haverhill is a city of bridges.
But the bridge that appears most often in “NOS4A2,” a new horror series on AMC that is set in Haverhill, doesn’t actually exist.
Known as the Shorter Way Bridge, it sprang from the imagination of Joe Hill, who is the son of Stephen King and wrote the novel that AMC adapted to create the show.
“This is a supernatural bridge,” Hill said. “Instead of crossing a river, it crosses the distance between lost and found.”
So whenever Vic McQueen, the main character in “NOS4A2,” needs to find a lost credit card or child, she crosses the Shorter Way Bridge and it leads her where she needs to go.
Hill, who lives in southern New Hampshire, said that he based the Shorter Way Bridge on a covered bridge that once crossed the Penobscot River in his native Bangor, Maine.
“When we were little, we used to dare each other to ride across it,” Hill said. “It was demo’ed in, I want to say, ’84 or ’85.”
He also confirmed that AMC’s 10-part series was shot entirely in Rhode Island, including the interior scenes, which were filmed on a newly constructed set. The season finale of the show, which has just been renewed for a second season, airs this Sunday night.
Some locals have wondered if a bridge that appears in the first few seconds of a trailer for “NOS4A2” might be the actual Rocks Village Bridge, but Hill didn’t think so.
“I’m going to undermine you and say, they found a look-alike in Rhode Island,” he said. “I think it’s happier for all of us to pretend it’s the bridge in Haverhill.”
That trailer for “NOS4A2” caught the attention of Haverhill native Ben Consoli. He’s been “hoping to see more Haverhill icons” in the show, but has appreciated the things it gets right.
“I thought it was funny — you heard somebody say ‘Market Basket’ in the opening dialogue, and they say ‘Haverhill’ right,” Consoli said. “They don’t say ‘Haver-hill.’”
Consoli makes commercials and promotional films at his Haverhill-based video production company, BC Media, and also hosts a podcast, “Go Creative Show,” in which he interviews people who are involved in television and film.
In 2015, he interviewed Martin Ahlgren, director of photography on “NOS4A2,” at a time when Ahlgren was working on “House of Cards” for Netflix.
By its third season, “House of Cards” already had “a defined look, but he brought it to a really dark place,” Consoli said of Ahlgren.
“He was able to make it — not evil — but he did a great job of making high drama tense, with lots of shadow, so I’m not surprised he was on a show like ‘NOS4A2,’” Consoli said. “He excels at making things feel a little off, a little dark.”
Consoli said that he wasn’t sure he liked the way “NOS4A2” represents Haverhill as “this small town everybody was trying to get out of.”
Hill agrees that the show’s presentation of Haverhill is a bit more “grim” than in his novel, but he loves what AMC has done with his story and describes it as “authentic New England.”
“You’re getting a view of a New England that exists, but is it exactly Haverhill?” he said. “It’s good enough for TV.”
But Hill said that the authenticity of AMC’s script gets a boost from the fact that showrunner Jami O’Brien hails from Billerica, and “in the writer’s room, there are several New England voices who grew up here.”
“We also have an executive producer named Tom Brady,” Hill said. “He has to deal with the fact that his name is Tom Brady every day of his life. Not only can he throw touchdown passes, but he can write a hell of a TV show.”
Hill said that most of his fiction is set in New England, because that is what he knows best.
“I feel like if I write about a place like Haverhill, I know how the people sound, I know what it’s like to raise kids in an old New England town,” he said. “I have some sense of what the rhythms of life are like in a place like Haverhill. If I can write convincingly about that, I think the reader is more willing to go along with me when I introduce a vampire or ghost.”
Hill’s firsthand experience of Haverhill includes a few appearances at the public library and at several Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festivals organized by best-selling Haverhill author Christopher Golden.
“Chris wrote the introduction to my first stories,” Hill said. “That was liftoff for my career. That’s where things got started.”
Golden also helped Hill with his pronunciation of the city’s name, during one of his visits to the Haverhill Public Library.
“I used to mispronounce Haverhill, ’cause I’m sort of a mush mouth,” Hill said. “It grated on Chris. He said we were going to have a deal. Every time you mispronounce it, I’m going to hit you on the shoulder.”
Golden first met Hill in 2004 when they did a book signing together in Cambridge, for an anthology of short fiction to which they each had contributed a story. Golden didn’t know Hill was Stephen King’s son until after he had written the introduction for Hill’s story collection “20th Century Ghosts.”
“I think his short stories are fantastic,” Golden said. “My favorite work of his is probably his more recent book, ‘Strange Weather,’ a quartet of novellas.”
Golden, who has written more than 100 novels of his own, thinks the key to all good writing is balancing great characters with vivid action, and he said that Hill does both exceedingly well.
“I think that’s the reason why he’s the most successful writer of our generation, for sure,” Golden said.
He thinks the Rhode Island locations in AMC’s version of Hill’s book also succeed in giving an impression of Haverhill.
“It feels right, and that’s just as important as its being right,” Golden said.
Having read the book and seen the early episodes of “NOS4A2,” Golden was looking forward to seeing how the network would depict Christmasland, an imaginary setting at the conclusion of Hill’s story.
“Christmasland itself is so creepy,” he said. “So far, they’re batting 1,000, pulling off atmosphere and characters, and I think the young woman playing Vic is fantastic.”
He also thought it was ironic that, while “NOS4A2” depicted Haverhill by using locations in Rhode Island, Hulu was in Haverhill one day this June to shoot episodes of “Castle Rock,” which is based on the work of Stephen King and is set in Maine.
Hill wasn’t aware that the filming by Hulu was taking place and hasn’t seen the “Castle Rock” TV show.
“My dad at this point is a media empire, it’s hard to keep up with all of it,” he said. “Hulu did a tremendous job with ‘11.22.63,’” a novel by King about the Kennedy assassination.
But even without having seen any of “Castle Rock,” Hill could see how Haverhill would work as a setting for his father’s stories.
“I do think that Haverhill has a kind of classical, Sleepy Hollow look to it,” Hill said. “It combines modern Massachusetts with the industrial past of Massachusetts, then with some stuff in between, like the corner store that’s been lingering there since 1973. I like where history is a palimpsest, and you can see versions of history from before bleeding into the present.”
“NOS4A2” is the first television show based on Hill’s writings to be aired, and he has another one coming out in the fall on Netflix, based on his comic book series, “Locke & Key.”
The show will be set in a town called Matheson, Massachusetts, which was changed from the name Lovecraft in the comic book and is actually based on the very real town of Nahant.
“I love Nahant,” Hill said. “Almost everything in the comic book, every geographical feature, is in Nahant.”