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
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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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One of Us by Craig Dilouie

one of usOne of Us
By Craig Dilouie
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 9780316411318
Pages: 390 (per review copy)
Genre: Science Fiction

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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.


My Thoughts

One of Us offers readers an alternate reality that unfolds in Georgia, 1984. Most of the world is much like you may remember or have heard of, however, a sexually transmitted disease has caused mutations in many unborn children. These children have been cast out by society, deemed inhuman and sent at birth to live in homes where they are raised under harsh conditions and used as labor on local farms. They are monsters.

But Enoch, also known as Dog, dreams of a better life. One where the children will live in society among the normals and grow to earn respected jobs and possibly even love one day. When Enoch and his friends have a chance encounter with the local normal kids and a friendship begins to develop, this life feels even closer than he had hoped.

Then a body is discovered and a grisly accident occurs and the town is looking for someone to blame. What unfolds could very well be the events that begin a revolution. Will Enoch and his friends find their rightful place among mankind or will they claim it?

“Enoch was the name the teachers at the Home used. Brain said it was his slave name. Dog liked hearing it, though. He felt lucky to have one. His mama loved him enough to at least do that for him.”

One of Us is not a fun or easy ready. At times, I found myself taking small breaks to digest what was happening and to even recover from a few graphic moments. I am not quite sure what I had in mind when I picked it up, but I think it was something along the lines of a light, fast-paced science fiction story with a few memorable characters at best. What I received was a heavier, unexpected exploration of humanity that tackled themes of discrimination, hate, and intolerance in the most unlikely but ultimately rewarding manner.

Dilouie crafts a world and cast that perhaps rely on their own familiarities for their true success. Once we strip away the mutation, we are left with a setting and group of characters we can relate to with incredible ease. Enoch and his friends are just teenagers trying to find a small slice of happiness in a life that has dealt them a shit hand. It is 1984 and prejudices and bigotry are common problems in many towns, and here is no exception. The mutation is simply another example, albeit a very extreme one. The fact that One of Us utilizes children to deliver its theme cleverly amplifies it.

“Again, my goal for you kids this year is two things. One is to get used to the plague kids. Distinguishing between a book and its cover. The other is to learn how to avoid making more of them.”

A tale of caution, One of Us exposes us to the real horrors and challenges us to face actual monsters in the form of intolerance and hate. Dilouie offers something truly unexpected, a cleverly written, beautifully executed story with an unbelievable amount of heart masquerading as your typical science fiction but ultimately proving to be something much greater.

Contains graphic, violent & sexual content with a heavy theme of intolerance and hate.

*I would like to thank Orbit for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Serves well with earthy blends such as your favorite pu-erh.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Amazon UK

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

Vampire_Uprising

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising
By Raymond A. Villareal
Publisher: Mulholland Books
ISBN: 9780316561686
Pages: 432
Genre: Science Fiction/Paranormal

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A virus that turns people into something somehow more than human quickly sweeps the world, upending society as we know it.

This panoramic thriller begins with one small mystery. The body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, walks out of the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult the local police, it’s a bizarre medical mystery.

More bodies, dead of a mysterious disease that solidifies their blood, are brought to the morgue, and disappear. In a futile game of catch-up, the CDC, the FBI, and the US government must come to terms with what they’re too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

Impossibly strong, smart, poised, beautiful, and commanding, these vampires reject the term as derogatory, preferring the euphemistic “gloamings.” They quickly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society: sports, entertainment, and business. Soon people are begging to be ‘re-created,’ willing to accept the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. The stakes change yet again when a charismatic and wealthy businessman, recently turned, decides to do what none of his kind has done before: run for political office.

This sweeping yet deeply intimate fictional oral history–told from the perspectives of several players on all sides of the titular vampire uprising–is a genre-bending, shocking, immersive and subversive debut that is as addictive as the power it describes.


My Thoughts

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising appealed to me with the promise of science fiction encapsulating a tale of the paranormal. I have and probably will always hold an affection for vampires and their mythical abilities and immortality. So when a book promises exactly that merged with one of my favorites genres, it is sure to be my cup of tea. And I have to admit, it went down pretty smooth!

The skinny..

Hard to fully summarize, this is an interesting timeline that follows the evolution of a disease and the impact it has on society. When a young woman’s body is discovered and then disappears from a local town morgue, a CDC investigator soon realizes there is something mysterious happening. As more bodies begin to surface and then also disappear, the CDC, FBI, and Government find they have a new virus and epidemic on their hands that can only be described as vampirism. As infected individuals that are now known as Gloamings emerge, they soon begin a campaign to stake their claim within a society that is equally terrified and mesmerized by them. A battle for power and control is brewing.

What I appreciate..

  • As a debut novel, this is one of the most ambitious I have encountered. Villareal has left no stone unturned, brilliantly covering all potential facets of an uprising.
  • The writing is knowledgeable and thorough, providing evidence of the author’s dedication and labor to the craft that sets a significantly high standard.
  • World building is solid and very reminiscent of the present, crafting something frighteningly familiar and viable.
  • Alternating perspectives, cleverly inserted footnotes and mixed media carve a concise and clear timeline of events that offer the reader a complete and fully engaging experience.
  • The author successfully combines elements of the paranormal and science providing something innovative and new, daring to examine humanity from every imaginable angle. This is an all-encompassing story ranging from religious and political viewpoints to the effects of a virus on the lives of everyday people and society.

Challenges some may encounter..

  • Multiple points of view can detract from establishing a solid connection with specific characters.
  • The pacing fluctuated greatly between specific perspectives.
  • The Gloamings were a fascinating new race that warranted more spotlight than they are given within the story. I craved more development than what we are shown.
  • During the last 25% or so the timeline takes an odd shift and the waters finally become muddled.
  • An abrupt ending felt incomplete.

Ultimately, A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is a highly motivated read that offers something incredibly thorough and complex. The author leaves no avenue unexplored, covering every thinkable aspect (I know I have said this, but I cannot stress it enough). Fans of science fiction and the paranormal will easily devour its pages, but perhaps find themselves needing just a little more. If you do not mind alternating PoVs and the shifting pace, I highly recommend this one!

*I would like to thank Mulholland Books for this advanced copy. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Serves well with a nice Pu’erh or favorite caffeinated blend to settle in for a long, gripping read.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com

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*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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