Despite being a Bram Stoker Award-Winning author, Craig DiLouie is not a vampire. While I was disappointed to learn this, it was still fantastic to be able to interview DiLouie about his multiple non-fiction writing jobs, his life as a professional fiction author, and his latest book, One of Us.
Nicholas Yanes: When you were growing up, what stories did you love to experience? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Craig DiLouie: I grew up on disaster movies in the 1970s and great science fiction films like Rollerball, Soylent Green, and The Planet of the Apes. I loved the idea of everything going to hell, and you’ve got these ordinary people forced to survive under extraordinary circumstances. Rekindling that excitement—creating a local and personal story set against the backdrop of catastrophe with its new rules, challenges, and ethical paradoxes—stayed with me throughout my writing career.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career as a writer? Was there a specific moment in which this goal solidified for you?
DiLouie: I cut my teeth as a reader on every single thing Robert E. Howard wrote. His pulpy adventure and horror stories were my first reading love, and inspired me to become a writer.
Yanes: Your background includes being an educator and a journalist. How have these two careers impacted you as a writer?
DiLouie: I’ve worked in advertising, magazine publishing, marketing, and as a freelance journalist and educator specializing in the lighting industry. Being a nonfiction writer taught me to write every day as a craft and with real discipline, not necessarily as an art to be pulled out whenever the muse struck. It gave me an appreciation for the engineering side of story—character arc, story structure, emotional arcs, and so on.
Otherwise, I’d have to say my background helped me out when my zombie novels got big back around 2010. Back then, it was a pretty new idea that a writer would become a marketing expert and treat their work as a business. It gave me an edge for a while, but now it’s common for self-published authors to conduct their trade in a fairly sophisticated way as a business.
Yanes: You have written several historical thrillers. What era of history would you love to explore next?
DiLouie: My Crash Dive series chronicled the adventures of a young naval officer in the submarines fighting the Japanese Empire in World War 2. They were a lot of fun to write (and as fun to read) because they’re simple adventure stories with a huge amount of technical and historical sustenance to make them come alive. I recently finished the series, and now I’m looking at doing another following the crew of a Sherman tank from Africa to Berlin.
Yanes: You recently published One of Us. What was the origin of this story?
DiLouie: Published by Orbit in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook, and available in any physical or online bookstore, One of Us is a Southern Gothic dark fantasy about a disease that produced a generation of monsters now growing up scorned and abused in ramshackle orphanages. When a “normal” kid is murdered, a plague kid is blamed, which might be the spark of revolt. Claire North (84K) described it as The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird, which I think is spot on. I’m amazed at the positive reviews it’s been getting from publications like The Washington Post, The Guardian, SciFi Now, and Starburst.
The idea behind the book was to tell a misunderstood monster novel as a Southern Gothic, a venerable American literary tradition that includes works by authors such as Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy, and Harper Lee. Southern Gothic is gritty, dark, and violent, and deals with subjects such as the taboo, grotesque, and prejudice. The book is a real gut punch.
Yanes: One of Us is set in the US South. What appeals to you about this region?
DiLouie: As a Southern Gothic, it was only natural to set the story in the American South, but what I liked about that was how local everything felt. The story takes place in a small town and a nearby “Home” for the plague children, a small stage on which worlds will clash. Otherwise, I loved the earthy flavor the location gave the book, from the ruins and swamps to echoes of the Civil War and slavery to venerale witticisms passed down for generations.
Yanes: Dog is the protagonist of One of Us and he has a deeply compelling story arc. How did you approach writing him? Was he based on anyone you know? Did you have a specific end goal for him?
DiLouie: Dog is the most likeable character. He’s one of the plague kids, monstrous in appearance but with a good heart. He believes the world is fair and if he plays by the rules, he’ll get what’s been promised him by “normal” society. Unfortunately, he will learn the world ain’t fair.
Yanes: What are your long-term goals for the world you’ve built in One of Us?
DiLouie: One of Us is a complete story written as a standalone novel, though if sales exceed the publisher’s expectations, and they become amenable to a sequel, I would be more than happy to revisit that world. The first book provides the background for and the catharsis of the uprising; the next book would chronicle the war.
Yanes: When people finish reading One of Us, what do you hope they take away from the story?
DiLouie: My hope with One of Us is that readers will viscerally share the experience of the monster characters and thereby feel something powerful that sparks reflection on the themes, which are prejudice and whether monsters are born or made.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
DiLouie: I’m currently wrapping up revisions for a novel about a brother and sister forced to fight as child soldiers on opposite sides of a second American Civil War. As with One of Us, I hope it will be received as similarly powerful and provocative. Readers can learn more and stay tuned on upcoming releases at my website at www.CraigDiLouie.com.
Thank you for having me as a guest on your site!