Today I am interviewing Craig DiLouie, author of the new dark fantasy novel, One of Us.
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DJ: Hi Craig! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
Craig DiLouie: I’m very happy to be here!
DJ: For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Craig: I’m what’s called a hybrid author, meaning I publish through traditional publishers, usually big standalone novels, while also self-publishing, typically pulpy series of dime novels. I’m prolific as to genre, playing with dark fantasy, horror, apocalyptic, and military historical fiction. What I think my signature is for these very different works is putting ordinary people you care about in extraordinary situations, and putting fantastic elements–whether it be monsters, what have you–in a very realistic, gritty world. Otherwise, I was born in America, live in Canada, and I’m a proud dad of two wunderkinds.
DJ: What is One of Us about?
Craig: One of Us is a dark fantasy novel about about a disease that results in a generation of monsters who are now growing up in poverty-stricken and abusive orphanages in the rural South. As they come of age, they must find a way to fit in–or fight for what’s theirs. Author Claire North called it “The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird,” which I think nails it.
DJ: What were some of your influences for One of Us?
Craig: I wanted to write a novel about prejudice in all its forms–societal, institutional, and individual–while taking it to its extreme. What if humanity produced a generation of frightening monsters who had the hearts and minds of children? What if these children achieved extraordinary powers as they grew up–would we admire or fear them even more? If Spider-Man half looked like a real spider, would he still be a hero? If Superman had horns and a tail?
My goal wasn’t to preach or offer a single solution but instead entice readers to experience the topic in their gut and reflect on what they felt. In its basic concept, the story is reminiscent of The Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men. Otherwise, the story screamed for a Southern Gothic treatment, with influences ranging from Carson McCullers to Cormac McCarthy. Violent and over the top, the Southern Gothic lit tradition often features a society in decay, taboo, the grotesque, prejudice, and larger than life characters. In my view, combining monster fantasy and Southern Gothic wasn’t a mashup but a natural fit.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Craig: One of Us is set in a small town and a nearby “Home,” or orphanage where the monster children are raised and now becoming teenagers. There’s an ensemble cast of monster and “normal” characters. On the monster side, the story focuses on Dog, who believes the “normals” will treat him fairly if he follows the path laid out for him; Brain, who believes violent revolution is the only response to their oppression; Amy, who doesn’t have an outward signs of being a plague child and is hiding in plain sight; and Goof, who is sent to a government facility after his powers are discovered. On the “normal” side, we have several teenagers who sympathize with the monsters, the town sheriff who also sympathizes but protects what he sees as the natural order, and a Home teacher who despises the children because he sees himself in them.
All have moments of compassion and big, glaring flaws that hold them back or put them in conflict with others. For the reader, a certain magic occurs as he or she may find themselves identifying more strongly with the monsters and less with the “normals,” some of whom are monstrous in behavior. As the plague generation rises up to claim its birthright, another shift in reader sympathy may occur, this time toward the “normals.” I’m hoping readers will reflect on whether appearance or action defines a person, and whether violence–both the real kind and the kind softly applied through institutions–is ever justifiable.
DJ: What is the world and setting of One of Us like?
Craig: One of Us takes place in rural Georgia in the summer of 1984, fifteen years after the first plague children were born during the Vietnam War. America is depressed spiritually and economically by war, Watergate, and the plague. Because the plague was a sexually transmitted disease, there’s a great deal of suspicion and shame about sex in this world.
The story takes place at the Home, a crumbling old plantation house surrounded by hickory trees draped in Spanish moss; the nearby small town of Huntsville and its high school, where the “normal” kids learn about the monster kids in health class; and local farms where the monster kids work under the guise of education.
For me, the rural South was an ideal setting, particularly as this is a dark fantasy with a strong Southern Gothic flavor. The locals’ speech, their use of witticisms passed down for generations, the history of the Civil War and segregation, the oppressive heat and wilderness, and venerable tropes such as plantation houses, cotton fields, etc. offered a wonderful palette to build this world with.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing One of Us?
Craig: I really loved bringing something fresh to Southern Gothic and something new to fantasy by bringing them together. I particularly enjoyed playing with Southern Gothic tropes. It’s a gritty, violence, over-the-top, laced-with-taboo literary tradition that takes on an even sharper edge with a modern take.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Craig: I hope readers will be talking about the gut punch they felt reading it, whether the story’s conflict could have been resolved without violence, and the topic of prejudice in general.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from One of Us that you can share with us?
Craig: The Orbit UK edition of One of Us includes a wonderful teaser I’d love to share here. For me, it really encapsulates what One of Us is about.
The teacher crossed his arms. “Go ahead, Amy. No need to holler, though. Why do you hate them?”
“They’re monsters. I hate them because they’re monsters.”
Mr. Benson turned and hacked at the blackboard with a piece of chalk: MONSTRUM, a VIOLATION OF NATURE. From MONEO, which means TO WARN. In this case, a warning God is angry. Punishment for taboo.
“Teratogenesis is nature out of whack,” he said. “It rewrote the body. Changed the rules. Monsters, maybe. But does a monster have to be evil?”
DJ: Now that One of Us is released, what is next for you?
Craig: I’m currently working on a second novel for Orbit about a brother and sister forced to fight as child soldiers on opposite sides of a second American civil war.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B001JS1SCQ/
Author Newsletter: http://forms.aweber.com/form/58/1923720558.htm
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Craig: Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog!
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A remarkable novel set in 1984 where a group of teenagers begin to discover powerful secrets about themselves, described as “The Girl With All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird” (Claire North)
They call it the plague
A generation of children born with extreme genetic mutations.
They call it a home
But it’s a place of neglect and forced labour.
They call him a Freak
But Dog is just a boy who wants to be treated as normal.
They call them dangerous
They might be right.
About the Author:
Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.
In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.
These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.
At this site, you can find all of Craig’s major works, interviews, and hundreds of interesting blog posts. Be sure to sign up for Craig’s mailing list here so you can stay tuned on new releases.