Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I’m pleased to be bringing to you all an exclusive interview with Craig DiLouie author of the recently released One of Us.
I have read and reviewed One of Us and I found it to be a thought-provoking and important read.
Welcome Craig and thank you for offering to appear on my blog.
Thanks for having me!
1 – Would you please tell us about One of Us?
Published by Orbit, One of Us is a dark fantasy in which a disease produced a generation of monsters that are now living among us, trying to find their place in the world.
Thematically, the novel is about prejudice, a universal human trait, and what makes a monster a monster. The monsters in the story are very human, and some of the “normal” people in the story are very monstrous. My main goal was to entertain readers by placing them in a gritty world in which monsters are real, while making them experience the themes in a visceral way through empathy with the characters. The idea wasn’t to preach but instead invite the reader to reflect on the themes.
2 – What was your favourite part of writing One of Us?
I really loved placing monsters in a Southern Gothic story. The Southern Gothic tradition is fairly monstrous in itself—rich with the grotesque and taboo, violent, dark, and often dealing with prejudice and a society in decay. The characters are often very familiar but larger than life in their how big a footprint their raw humanity leaves on the small patch of earth they trod.
By adding monsters to the traditional Southern Gothic, we end up with this earthy, gritty, wonderful stew of small town tropes and human monsters trying to deal with each other through their respective worldviews. The language was wonderful to work with, particularly researching common old witticisms passed down by generations. The result is what author Claire North (84K) described as “The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird,” which in my mind nails it.
3 – What was your inspiration for the story in One of Us?
I love the idea of the misunderstood monster and wanted to tell a story that played with the reader’s sympathies. What if you had monsters that were like us except they were monstrous in appearance—and rejected and abused for it—but what if they became monstrous themselves when they decide to push back? The bigger theme of prejudice revealed itself from that idea, and once I fit it with Southern Gothic, I knew I had the novel’s foundation.
4 – After reading One of Us I feel that it is safe to say that you certainly created a variety of individual characters, who was your favourite and why?
The novel has an ensemble cast showing us a cross-section of perspectives on life in Huntsville, Georgia in 1984, and these characters are really the bedrock of this story. One of Us is different for me as a writer in that I didn’t particularly connect with one character over another, I really loved writing them all. Dog for his innocent belief if he works hard he will get a fair shake, Brain as a tragic Luciferian figure doomed to take part in the violence he believes is the only answer, Amy for her slow transformation to accept who she is, the sheriff for his conflict between what’s popular and what’s right, Goof for his humor, Bowie for his pure menace, and more. I’ve been gratified to hear how many readers connect with the monsters.
5 – One of Us resonated with me on a level that, as a reader made me realise that what I was reading went from being a book to entertain me to being a book to experience and one that held an important message. Was this a conscious decision on your part to elicit that response from the reader?
Theme is important to One of Us, but again my primary goal was to tell a good story about a strange world with characters the reader would really invest in. That being said, I didn’t shy away from being provocative in theme or content that revealed theme. I liked the idea of showing somebody being slapped until they smash the other person with a baseball bat, and have the reader empathize with both people. The novel asks questions like: Is what we look like who we are? Is a monster what we look like or how we act? If we’re told we’re evil enough, and we commit evil, whose fault is it? When is violence justified? Can a system be violent through laws and social norms? Is silence in the face of oppression consent?
One of Us doesn’t preach nor claim to have the answers. My goal was purely to make the reader viscerally experience these themes, and the questions are there if the reader wants to recognize and reflect on them on his or her own.
6 – When did you decide to become a writer?
I started writing when I was nine, but it wasn’t until I read Robert E. Howard in my teen years that a vague interest became a lifelong passion. One thing led to another over a very long time, a career that might best be described as somebody falling up a flight a stairs. Partnering with a top-quality publisher like Orbit was a dream come true for me. It’s really been amazing and humbling.
7 – Why do you write/What inspired you to become a writer?
I love the idea of “active dreaming,” creating people, a world, and a plot from imagination. For me, writing is part art, part craft, and part just something I have to do. With publication, readers provide feedback, creating a closed loop. It’s an amazing process.
To me, writing is magic, reading even more so. We take it for granted, but it’s absolutely crazy to me that somebody can type words on a piece of paper, a total stranger can read those words, and then that reader will physically and psychologically experience joy, love, arousal, terror, hunger, wonder, new ideas and places, and actually for a time be somebody totally different than themselves through empathy. The philosopher Nietzsche once said a single sentence can change your world. That makes fiction extremely powerful.
8 – What do you find to be the most rewarding part of writing?
Writing a novel is like getting on a rollercoaster. It’s a slow, long, agonizing way up, but then gravity takes over. I like the rush when the novel really comes together and strains at the leash to be completed.
9 – When writing are you a plotter or a pantser?
I plot my novels, though in my view nobody is purely a plotter. With plotting, often you’re working off an outline that may be as simple as four plot points or a single character arc. The rest is discovery as you go, more of that magic.
10 – What does the future hold for you? Can you share any details about what you’re next book will be about?
I’m currently in editing for another novel for Orbit, which is about a brother and sister forced to fight as child soldiers on opposite sides of a second American civil war. I’m really excited about it, and I hope it will be regarded as thought-provoking as One of Us.
Bonus question time!
11 – If you could change one thing about the state of the world, what would it be and why? – you’re answer can be serious, fun or both.
I’d want humanity to grow up as a species and take real responsibility for itself.
Well, that concludes the interview, many thanks for taking the time to visit my blog, it’s been a pleasure having you on The Tattooed Book Geek and I wish you all the best both with One of Us and your future work. Do you have any last words for the readers of this interview?
Thank you for having me on your log! I’m glad One of Us got you. To your audience, I’d like to say: Thank you for reading!
One of Us.
They call him Dog.
Enoch is a teenage boy growing up in a rundown orphanage in Georgia during the 1980s. Abandoned from the moment they were born, Enoch and his friends are different. People in the nearby town whisper that the children from the orphanage are monsters.
The orphanage is not a happy home. Brutal teachers, farm labor, and communal living in a crumbling plantation house are Enoch’s standard day to day. But he dreams of growing up to live among the normals as a respected man. He believes in a world less cruel, one where he can be loved.
One night, Enoch and his friends share a campfire with a group of normal kids. As mutual fears subside, friendships form, and living together doesn’t seem so out of reach.
But then a body is found, and it may be the spark that ignites revolution.
Purchase One of Us.
About Craig DiLouie.
Craig DiLouie is an acclaimed American-Canadian author of literary dark fantasy and other fiction. Formerly a magazine editor and advertising executive, he also works as a journalist and educator covering the North American lighting industry. Craig is a member of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, International Thriller Writers and Horror Writers Association. He currently lives in Calgary, Canada with his two wonderful children.
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