An Interview With Craig Dilouie, Author of “One of Us”

Today I am thrilled to be sharing an interview with author Craig Dilouie. I recently reviewed his latest novel One of Us which releases today and found myself instantly drawn to its alternate but familiar setting,  and powerful themes. You can read my thoughts here.  I want to extend a special thank you to Craig for his time and the opportunity to discuss his work!

one of us
Links: Goodreads Amazon. Com Amazon.UK BookDepository

Q&A

My experience with One of Us is one that I still struggle to properly convey. It was an equally rewarding and challenging read that explored very relevant and heavy hitting themes that continue to resonate with me. Can you share with us a bit about your inspiration or original goals for this story?

First, let me say thank you for reading One of Us and having me as a guest on your blog. I’m very happy that the novel got you.

I believe good fiction entertains but also viscerally engages readers with powerful themes. For me, a big idea always starts with an intriguing question. For me, the question was: What if monsters lived among us, but were monstrous only in how they looked? How would we treat them, and what would that say about us? The result is a misunderstood monster novel that turned into a much more ambitious examination of prejudice and what makes a monster a monster.

An early inspiration was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; author Claire North called my novel To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Girl with All the Gifts, which I thought was wonderful. I became fascinated with using the venerable Southern Gothic literary tradition to treat the subject of monsters. Southern Gothic is dark and over the top, and deals with subjects such as the taboo, grotesque, prejudice, and a society in decay. The result is a novel of monstrous humans and human monsters.

I felt that the younger cast of characters really intensified many of the scenes and helped solidify the overall effectiveness of the storyline. And I have to admit, they felt incredibly relatable. Was there additional research that went into creating a younger set of characters and protagonists?

Making the monsters budding teenagers allowed me to show them coming of age, where they begin developing mysterious powers while beginning to gain a more adult understanding of the world and their place in it. It triggers more sympathy in the reader, who sees these kids just being kids, their goofing around and tenderness and friendships, while subjected to institutionalized abuse. And it emphasizes they didn’t just appear, they were born of “normal” parents. They came from us. They’re family.

Having them interact with “normal” teenagers in the town allowed connections based on innocence and hope for the future. I hope this makes sense, but I didn’t write them as teenagers so much as individual characters with a more innocent, enthusiastic teenager’s point of view. In the end, I hope their perspectives mingle with those of the adults in the novel to provide a satisfying and realistic look at life in this small town during the age of monsters.

On a final note, I’m noticing some reviewers found the novel too dark for a YA read. Which is true, as it’s not a YA novel! I hope people won’t let their teenaged kids read it without reading it themselves first, as it explores some adult themes.

As someone who grew up in the Southeastern region of the US during the 80s, I have to admit that the setting was eerily familiar and incredibly immersive. Did you draw upon personal experiences and your own childhood to help create this alternate reality?

I’m very happy to hear the world of One of Us struck you as authentic. As I was writing about monsters living in the real world, I wanted that world to be as lived-in and authentic as possible to both ground the monsters and make them subtly all the more fantastic through the contrast. In my view, if a fantasy novel’s world suspends the reader’s disbelief, the reader is much more apt to suspend disbelief with its fantastical elements.

Otherwise, as with the teenagers in your last question, I wrote the town as an Anytown and then decorated it with a rich palette made possible by setting it in the rural South, from the heat to the cotton to the wonderful witticisms you know have been passed down for generations. The idea was to immerse the reader using these elements, not put them too far forward where they would call excessive attention to themselves. As a guy who grew up in New Jersey, lived in New York City for a number of years, and then moved to Canada in 2003, this required quite a bit of research to make it truly immersive. I obsessed on details such as local fauna and flora, and read a huge number of Southern Gothic novels to capture their perfect earthy flavor.

One of Us contains several graphic and darker scenes. Do you find these harder to write or is there a specific process you implement when tackling difficult scenes?

One of Us pulls no punches, and some of these punches are aimed at the gut, where I wanted the reader to experience the novel’s themes on a purely emotional level. Because I was dealing with the idea of monstrosity and what that means, and this is a Southern Gothic, there are taboo subjects, and there’s violence and other dark stuff.

None of it was hard for me to write except for an attempted rape scene. This is a very sensitive subject, and it had to be handled in a way it completely served the story without any gratuitous aspect. As a result, it’s described as a series of impressions rather than the actual act. There is also a town loser who convinces himself he’s in love with a woman far younger than him, which some may find disturbing, something else I had to handle with care. Even though these can be upsetting subjects, I felt I’d rather lose readers sensitive to them rather than cut them out. The story needed their monstrosity, and for me as a writer, the story comes first.

I found myself developing a strong connection with Enoch almost immediately. I have to admit that while each character appealed to me, he resonated with me the most. Was he influenced or modeled after yourself or anyone close to you?

As a writer, I tend not to base characters on myself or people I know. I’d rather create them based on a unique combination of need, want, challenge, and conflict, and let them grow and become flesh based on that. Enoch represents hope in the novel. He has a childlike hope and belief that the world is essentially fair, and that he has a future in it if he plays along. He’s simple, kind, and loyal. Unfortunately, he’s wrong. The world isn’t fair.

Normally when I read narratives that are alternating perspectives, I tend to favor one over the other. That was not the case here. I found each character to be equally fascinating. Did you favor writing any specific perspective or character over the others and if so why?

I’m very happy to hear you say that. Characterization is at the heart of One of Us, and there is an ensemble cast in this small Southern town, some of them monsters, some intentionally Southern Gothic tropes. I didn’t particularly favor any one perspective over another, as each character is such a powerfully unique individual that writing scenes from each’s perspective was always fresh and fun. I wrote each character with love, even the despicable ones, to make them come across as people both ordinary and yet larger than life.

I guess if pressed, my favorites were Brain, Goof, and Amy. Brain is a genius trapped in a monstrous body, and he believes the genetic mutations that produced the plague children are a repeat of an ancient germ that long ago produced the creatures of mythology. He is a tragic figure, choosing violence to free his kind while becoming trapped by its horrible cost. Goof is just plain funny, and his interactions with Shackleton, his government handler committed to exploiting his special abilities, were a lot of fun to write. Amy is interesting because she’s such a typical teenager while also being something else hiding in plain sight.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing One of Us?

You know, it’s funny, almost every novel I’ve ever written, I could pin an answer to this question in an instant. For One of Us, I can’t really say it was that challenging. It was a unique experience for me in that it flowed right out of me without any speed bumps. I was writing with abandon, with a fierce joy, and for a while I was in that world with these characters. The challenge came later when Bradley Englert, my wonderful editor at Orbit, wanted me to take the novel to another level on par with Orbit’s Girl with All the Gifts, a challenge I happily accepted and worked hard to meet. I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

If you had the opportunity, would change anything within the story?

Nothing. No, that’s not entirely true. I think it’s hard if not impossible for an author to look through a novel he or she has written and not want to change little things here and there. It’s a symptom of growing as a writer. If you’re always practicing your craft, you’re never as good a writer as you will be a year from now. Which is a good thing!

Can you tell us what we can expect next?

I recently signed a deal with Orbit for a novel tentatively titled Our War, which tells the story of 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 couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to work with Bradley and Orbit again.

Last but not least (I always ask), do you drink tea and if so do you have a favorite blend?

I’m a hardcore coffee drinker and even with that, I’m no connoisseur. I’ve always wanted to get into tea and tried several times, but I’ve never gotten beyond being a tea tourist. Your question is triggering my tea envy. Maybe I’ll try again.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I enjoyed our conversation.

craig dilouieAbout the Author

Craig DiLouie is an American-Canadian author of speculative fiction including One of Us, which was published by Orbit on July 17 and is now available in bookstores and through online booksellers.

Follow Craig Dilouie: Website  Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads

 


Again, I want to thank the author for his time and Orbit publishing for my copy of One of Us. This opportunity has been a welcomed and rewarding experience. I look forward to learning more about the upcoming project!

Happy Reading,

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Book Extract: No Fourth River by Christine Clayfield

Today I am pleased to share an extract from Christine Clayfield’s ‘No Fourth River‘ as part the blog tour hosted by Bookollective.


The Book

no_fourth_river

No Fourth River
By Christine Clayfield
Publisher: RASC Publishing
ISBN: 9781999840914
Pages: 217
Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir

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Electroshock therapy, child abuse and modern-day slavery… just another day in Christine’s life.

Take a heart-wrenching yet inspiring ride through one woman’s incredible journey that is so compelling that you are simultaneously trying to look away and unable to stop yourself from reading on.

Christine’s father is a wealthy, tyrannical man renowned in the diamond business. At the age of just five, little Christine is cast aside into a boarding school where she is ridiculed for two embarrassing problems. She grows up in a never-ending circle of traumatic experiences both in her boarding school and at home. It culminates into a falling out between father and child that was never fully mended, leading her into a world of promiscuity and alcohol, eventually landing her in a violent marriage.

Driven to the limits of despair and heartache, she creates a plan to escape her world of misery. Will her plan work?

A story that asks: How do you find the strength, when you suffer almost unbearable abuse and are broken beyond repair, to pick up the pieces of a shattered life?

Purchase a copy: Amazon.com Amazon.UK


Extract: Growing Up, Down

We were all survivors, programmed from the very start of life to tiptoe around the pillar of fury that was my father. He was the kind of man who would strip his children of all self-esteem, then blame us when we could not perform. He delighted in mental harassment and physical beatings.

He was a chain-smoking, whisky-swilling king of the diamond trade. A tyrant to his children.

My brothers and I learned all about the dark, solitary places of our house—either to hide in or as a forced punishment. At five, I remember hearing noises from behind the cellar door one morning, so I investigated, only to find my brother Oliver huddled in the corner on the cold stone floor, throwing rocks at the wall. My father had sent him there the night before, without supper.

“Oliver, you okay?” I screeched, taking note of his wide, round eyes. They were full of fear and something else…shame.

It was dirty in the cellar and the stone was so cold that the air coming up from the bottom felt like a wave of freezing mist. He was trapped down there, alone in a frozen ocean of stone, framed by the light coming from my open door.

“Shh, dad might hear,” he called up to me.

“He’s not home.” I sniffled at the weakness and helplessness of my words. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t. It was against the rules.

“What happened?” At least I could give him some company.

“I’m not allowed to grow my hair. Dad told me to cut it, and I told him I wanted to keep it long.” A slight hint of anger lined his voice.

I would not understand that feeling until I was much older.

“Oh. You look cold.”

“I am cold.”

“Should I bring you a blanket?” I noticed there wasn’t so much as a towel on the floor where he sat.

“Better not. I’ll be fine. You go upstairs and play.” He turned his face into the darkness of the cellar. I obeyed and gently shut the door on my brother and walked to the lounge, where my other brothers were. Oliver was not allowed out of the cellar for four days over a long weekend.

Mum brought him a plate of food, once a day. There was no washroom, and he would do his nature calls in a plastic pot with a lid on that mum had to clean every day.


About the Author

christine

Born in 1959, the successful UK business woman and author Christine Clayfield has achieved recognition as a Bestselling Author for one of her Internet marketing books. She has written 6 books: 1 novel (her own life story) and 5 business books.

Christine is an author, wife, mother and business woman.

You can connect with Christine:
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Christine’s past holds much pain and abuse, but it did not stop her from being the woman she is today by changing her life and building the future she wanted. She wants to empower and inspire the world with the release of “No Fourth River”, a novel, based on a true story: her own life.

Life was certainly no easy ride for her. To say she had a hard life as a child and a young adult, is an understatement. ‘No Fourth River’, is her way to let the world know that despite the pain of your past, YOU have the ability to change your future. YOU can make it happen if you just believe. It all starts with YOU.

Christine loves writing books and helping others to achieve business success! She has helped countless people to get to grips with making money online and publishing books.

For more information:
www.christineclayfield.com
www.NoFourthRiver.com


I want to extend a special thank you to Aimee with Bookollective and the author for allowing me to particpate and providing the extract today!

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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Book Extract: That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina

Today I am pleased to share something different with an extract of Valeria Vescina’s ‘That Summer in Puglia’ as the final stop on the blog tour hosted by Bookollective.


The Book

that_summer_in_pugliaThat Summer in Puglia
By Valeria Vescina
Publisher: Eyewear Publishing
ISBN: 9781912477999
Pages: 303

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Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down. Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief. Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts? THAT SUMMER IN PUGLIA is a tale of love, loss, the perils of self-deception and the power of compassion. Puglia offers an ideal setting: its layers of history are integral to the story, itself an excavation of a man’s past; Tommaso’s increasingly vivid memories of its sensuous colours, aromas and tastes, and of how it felt to love and be loved, eventually transform the discomforting tone with which he at first tries to keep Will and painful truths at a distance. This remarkable debut combines a gripping plot and perceptive insights into human nature with delicate lyricism.

Purchase A Copy: Amazon  Amazon.UK  Book Depository


Extract From Chapter 4 of That Summer in Puglia

‘I wish I hadn’t fallen in love with you.  You’re going to break my heart, I know it already.’  

‘I’ll never do that.’  We kissed again. Her perfume, flowery and faint, almost made me light-headed.  ‘My God, you’re so beautiful,’ I said.

‘I hope I’m not your God.’  

We both laughed.  

Anna might have said it in jest, but that sentence – ‘I hope I’m not your God’ – has rung in my ears again and again.  Anna’s love felt like an unparalleled blessing. For her and with her I would have perfected any aspect of myself, though she made me feel loved in my entirety; for a time, she could have said the same.  If there’s a God, love between human beings can bring us as close to Him as we’ll ever get.  Cynics scoff at the mention of loves like ours, but their arguments sow misery: too many people settle for second-best in the belief they’re being ‘realistic’, and before long become cynics in turn.  Countless human beings will never experience the kind of love I’m describing, and there it was, being served to Anna and me on a plate. So young. Too young.

How, you might ask, can I have the arrogance of asserting that it wasn’t the elation of ‘first love’, or of the early phase of love, that made ours feel so extraordinary?  

The stubborn rationalist I once was – before falling in love with Anna – would almost certainly have answered by listing some facts: the generous dose of interests we shared; presumably a sprinkling of unconscious mutual needs; a fortunate correspondence and complementarity of qualities…  It wouldn’t be untrue. But it would deny the magic – the most important, yet most elusive, of all facts. How tragically reductive that would be. All I can do is to leave you with my certainty of how it felt to be loved by, and to love, Anna – and with a thought: the man who concluded that ‘The Heart knows reasons whereof Reason knows nothing’ wasn’t a hopeless romantic but a stern mathematician.  

In the days which followed the evening in Villanova, we spent every spare moment together, at and outside school.  We dived into our pasts and resurfaced with fragments of memory which the other greeted like priceless finds – stories about our childhoods, our families, friends, old schools, trips…  We shared hidden moments – the hilarious, the painful and the most embarrassing ones – without inhibitions. It’s difficult to remember examples of them now, to fish them out of what feels like a torrent.  But I do recall telling Anna of my maternal grandfather.

He and my grandmother died when I was thirteen.  During my childhood, at our customary Sunday lunch with them, he sometimes offered me two one-hundred-lire coins, provided I managed to keep them under my armpits for the whole meal – an old-fashioned method for teaching table manners.  At age five I was unable to keep my elbows stuck to my ribcage and the coins dropped within seconds onto the floor; at age seven they slid inexorably down my arms until their high-pitched ding on the ceramic tiles chimed my fiasco. Dad’s regular protestations against this practice – a surreptitious cruelty to which I was a willing party, lured by those elusive coins – provoked periods of grudging silences between him and my grandparents.  I must have been eight when at another of Grandpa’s attempts my father’s exasperation spilt over.

‘Isn’t it bad enough that you… already did this to Emma?’  

My grandfather stiffened in his chair.  ‘Did what?’

‘Drummed that pernicious sense of your family’s bygone ‘rightful place in the world’ into her head, and – now I understand – even into her movements.  You want to do the same to my son? Never.’ He poured himself a glass of wine, and took a swig.  

Grandma clutched Grandpa’s arm.  He pulled his glasses closer, the better to glare at Dad.  

Mum looked from him to her parents, and back again.  ‘How can you be so disrespectful?’ Her voice was shaky.  ‘To my father, to me…’

‘Darling, I have huge respect for you.  More than that. You’re the love of my life.  But the whole attitude behind such things – ’ he pointed to the coins on the tablecloth – ‘hasn’t done you any good, has it?’  

‘Ha!’  My mother crossed her arms.  

I watched, uneasy.  I had never witnessed a flare-up between my parents.  Dad’s humour, or Mum’s fondness for him, normally defused their little disagreements.  

‘It’s painful to watch how hard you have to work to overcome your snootiness – whether towards other guests at a party, or towards the grocer, the…’ Dad said.  ‘Being able to enjoy conversations with perfectly nice people shouldn’t require such effort. And that’s progress, compared to when we first met.’

‘You – ’ Mum stammered.  ‘Blowing things out of proportion like this.  Father was only encouraging good manners in Tommaso.  You should be grateful.’

Grandpa nodded, his eyebrows a scowl, his cheeks hollow.  

Dad sighed, and said nothing.  

But my grandfather never subjected me to the exercise of the coins again.   

So you see?  Episodes and feelings of which I had never spoken – presumably considering them unworthy of anyone’s interest or maybe fearful of others’ judgment – tumbled out of my lips and were met with understanding, warmth and humour.  To the example I have given you, I believe Anna quipped she had never thought of coins as torture instruments. I can still see her, shaking her head in sympathy as you have done, while I recounted this and other incidents, or laughing with me when I told her of happier ones.  I, in turn, couldn’t get enough of the glimpses of the life she had led until then, of the slivers of time that had gone into who she was.

‘I wish I had known you years ago,’ I kept saying.  

‘I wish I had known you, too.’  

I suppose that, through the sharing of details from our past and present, we were seeking to overcome that impossibility.  


About The Author

valeria

Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). THAT SUMMER IN PUGLIA (Eyewear Publishing, 2018) is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network . She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).

Follow Valeria Vescina: Website  Twitter


I want to extend a special thank you to Aimee with Bookollective and the author for allowing me to particpate and providing the extract today!

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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