I read One of Us by Craig DiLouie earlier in the year, and it just astounded me. Like a goddamn sledgehammer to the feels, page after page. After reading my wildly enthusiastic review, Craig was kind enough to offer up a bit of his time for an interview! And after much delay, here it is:
-First off, thanks so much for offering up some of your time to answer a few questions! One of Us was such an impactful read for me, and easily one of my favorites I’ve read so far this year!
I’m happy to be here! And very grateful you read One of Us and that it affected you in a deep way.
-One of Us is set in the American south (Georgia, specifically) in 1984. What was your thought process for choosing that era & location?
One of Us is about a town where people live in fear of the monstrous children living in a nearby orphanage. Their fear creates a system of prejudices that results in their fears coming to life as the children claim their innate powers and rise up. Author Claire North called it “To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Girl with All The Gifts,” which I think nails it.
I chose the American South as the setting because I wanted to tell a misunderstood monster story as a Southern Gothic. The misunderstood monster element is the children themselves, as they’re monstrous but otherwise just want to live safe and free like anybody else. Telling it as a Southern Gothic gave me access to its conventions, including the grotesque, prejudice, a society in decay, brooding atmosphere, deep sense of history, and taboo. This allowed the expression of theme—you are what you do, not what you look like—by contrasting human monsters with monstrous humans.
As for setting it in 1984, I did that for several reasons. First, I wanted to show that this is an alternate reality where one big thing changed. Second, I wanted the novel to be low tech. Finally, I hoped it conveyed a sense of nostalgia—not the on-the-nose nostalgia of STRANGER THINGS, but a general nostalgia for the past.
-Were there any specific books, films, or even albums that helped inspire the story, or set the tone in some way?
Among other influences, the biggest inspirations were The Island of Dr. Moreau, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (the original movie), and Southern Gothic literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird.
-One of Us doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any one genre. To me, it felt like a little bit of a lot of different things, with plenty of fantasy & horror at play. Do you give much thought to how people might choose to classify your work?
I call One of Us a Southern Gothic dark fantasy, which fairly nails it. In other words, Southern Gothic that borrows elements of fantasy, horror, and superhero myth to create something new. More generally, it’s a tragedy.
When writing for publication with a bigger publishing house, authors have to think about how their books are classified, as it’s so important to getting the publisher interested. In the end, the book wants to be what it is, however, if that makes sense, and the editor makes the final call about how the book is classified. In this case, the editor and I agreed on what to call it.
-One of Us functions beautifully as a standalone, but at the same time, it seems like there’s so many more stories that could be happening either concurrently, or set before or after the events in One of Us. Is revisiting this world something you’d ever consider?
One of Us is a standalone novel, with the reader deciding for themselves what happens after it ends. What happens next is less important than reflecting on how we got to the culmination of these tragic events, and whether they could have been avoided.
That being said, I’d love to revisit the dark, gritty world of One of Us, though it really depends on reader enthusiasm and publisher interest. If that interest comes, I actually have ideas to make it a trilogy.
-What can you tell us about Our War? I have to say, I think that’s one of the most striking covers I’ve ever seen!
I agree about the cover, and thank you! It blew my mind when Orbit showed it to me. The designer really knocked it out of the park on the first try. She also did the cover for the paperback of One of Us, which I think is mysterious and intriguing and overall conveys the atmosphere of the novel.
Our War is about a journalist and UN worker who uncover the use of child soldiers during a second American civil war. Among these children are a brother and sister forced to fight on opposite sides, who in the end must ultimately fight for each other. This is a second American civil war as it is not typically imagined but how I believe it would occur: not between states but between city and country, president and Congress. The war would look far more like Bosnia in the 90s than America in the 1860s. As with One of Us, its primary purpose is to entertain but touches on big ideas and themes, in this case the dangers of tribalism fracturing the idea of what America is and should be.
I’m really excited about the launch, which is August 2019. The book is coming out initially in hardcover, audiobook, and eBook. People can get it at any physical or online bookstore. They can also stay tuned at my website, www.CraigDiLouie.com. Besides updates on my work, there’s a lot of great stuff there, such as book and movie reviews.
-Thank you again for taking the time to do this, Craig!
Thank you for having me as a guest! And thanks again for reading One of Us.