I reluctantly put down my copy of One of Us by Craig Dilouie when I was finished. I just didn’t want that book to end. The story of “monster” children rejected by their families and society broke my heart and had me craving revolution. Ugh, it was so good. The icing on the novel cake was getting to interview the twisted mind that created Dog, Brain, and Goof… Mr. Craig DiLouie.
Check out my interview with the author here below.
Geeks Of Doom: When I was telling my husband about the book, he was the one who asked me if there was a connection to the old movie, Freaks, which is why I included, “Gooble Gobble Gooble Gobble…” in my review. Was he correct? If so, how did that inspire the novel? If not, what did?
Craig DiLouie: One of Us is a dark fantasy novel about a plague that produces a generation of monsters growing up rejected and abused in ramshackle, government-run orphanages throughout the Deep South. When a “normal” child is murdered, a plague kid is blamed, which might ignite a revolution. The story is richly flavored with Southern Gothic.
The title definitely evokes the cult classic Freaks, which in many ways is a good thing. But it wasn’t intentional, and I can’t even take credit for the happy coincidence. Originally, the title was The Plague Generation. My terrific editor at Orbit, Bradley Englert, wanted a title that was more visceral than descriptive, and he and his team suggested One of Us. I fell in love with it. It absolutely captures the spirit of the novel, which is a misunderstood monster story that also examines prejudice. If you’ve ever felt like or been treated like an outcast, it’s a powerful statement. My first mental connection was to the Peter Gabriel song with its angry tribalism, and then Rent, with its classic line, “To being an us for once, instead of a them.”
Geeks Of Doom: Describing Goof as a kid with an upside down face, freaked me the f*** out. Just… how? How did you come up with the descriptions of the kids?
Craig DiLouie: When I hear a reader say they were freaked out, shed tears, or felt like they were punched by my writing, it brings a huge ol’ smile to my face, so thank you for that! The plague kids in One of Us have random mutations, which Huntsville’s sheriff describes as each having “fallen out the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.” Inside, however, they’re just kids trying to get by, imagine a future for themselves, find their place in the world.
The trick was to describe their monstrosity, and make the reader uncomfortable without repulsing them, and making the kids unsympathetic. I had to strike a fine line between description and letting the reader’s imagination do the rest of the work, while also inviting the reader to get to know them as people, not monsters. Part of finessing it was relating how they looked to how they lived. Wallee, for example, has tentacles growing out of him that are just perfect for picking peaches from high-up branches. Goof’s upside-down face causes people to think he’s happy when he’s sad, and sad when he’s happy.
I really loved these monsters, I hated what they suffered, I rejoiced when they finally said enough, and I was sad when they had to go as far as they did in their uprising.
Geeks Of Doom: This should definitely be a movie. Are there any talks in the works?
Craig DiLouie: From your lips to God’s ears, Athena. Even saying the word “movie” is catnip to an author. Several of my works have been optioned for screen adaptation, notably my last major release, Suffer the Children. That novel was optioned by First Love Films, a great company, and they’re very serious about it. Still, getting a movie financed and produced is akin to a mighty wind sweeping through a junkyard and leaving a functioning, gassed-up airplane an author can fly away to their dreams. It’s crazy for an author, as in the book business, all you hear is no, no, no until you get a yes, while in the movie business, it’s sometimes the opposite. We haven’t had any bites yet for One of Us, but here’s hoping it’ll be optioned, and if it ever gets made into a movie, I’d be in heaven.
Geeks Of Doom: Clearly this novel is “to be continued…” What’s next for this revolution?
Craig DiLouie: One of Us was written as a standalone novel, but I’d love to do another book and have ideas for two to make it a trilogy. But it really depends on publisher interest, which is entirely dependent on sales. So here’s hoping. I’d imagined the next book focusing on the war between the “normals” and the plague kids, all of them by now having fully mastered their strange powers. A challenge, I think, would be covering such a big event, while keeping the action and setting keeping that very local feel that I think makes One of Us sing.
Geeks Of Doom: Is Brain God?
Craig DiLouie: That wasn’t my intent, but wouldn’t that be cool? And interestingly, I had the same reaction to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian — I always thought the Judge was God. As an author, it’s a real joy to hear readers talk about what they got out of the book. Other readers saw the plague as symbolic for AIDS, which also wasn’t intentional but very apt (instead, the sexually transmitted disease that causes the birth of monsters was to show that they didn’t just come from nowhere, they came from us, and regardless of how we feel about them, in a way they’re family). For me, intentionally making Brain God would have been pushing the story too far from its original premise, but I absolutely love that interpretation.
Geeks Of Doom: Are you working on any other projects? Spill.
Craig DiLouie: I am happy to spill that another novel I wrote was picked up by Orbit and will be released in 2019. Tentatively titled, Our War, it’s about a brother and sister forced to fight on opposite sides of a second American civil war. As with One of Us, I expect it will be very provocative. I hope your readers will stay tuned at my website, CraigDiLouie.com.
Geeks Of Doom: Who was your favorite “monster.” Why?
Craig DiLouie: Everybody likes Dog, and I do too, as he’s earnest and believes if he works hard and follows the rules, he’ll get a fair shake. Unfortunately for him, the world ain’t fair. Goof was a lot of fun to write because he’s this kid with an amazing power, and all he wants to do is be a kid and have fun.
Brain, however, is probably my favorite because the guy’s got mythic resonance. Here’s this super genius trapped in a monstrous body one teacher described as a “lion f***ed a gorilla,” and he has to hide his intelligence. He also has a perfect memory, including the searing memory of his mother rejecting him at his birth, which he only understood later when he learned language. He believes regardless of some “normals” reaching out, institutionally, the mutagenic will never get a fair shake. To him, the monsters are the re-emergence of the gods and monsters of ancient myth.
For Brain, the only answer to his oppression is violence. Unfortunately, once that violence starts, there’s no turning back even though he hates it, making him a tragic figure.
Geeks Of Doom: Which character do you wish you explored more?
Craig DiLouie: None, to be honest. One of Us was a rare novel for me in that I wrote it with a fierce joy without any of the usual speed bumps, and gave every character, from the human monsters to the monstrous humans, all the love and free will I could give as their creator. This was another area where having a fantastic editor made all the difference, as Bradley Englert challenged me to take the novel to another level, which fully engaged me to develop the characters even further before the final draft.
Geeks Of Doom: I would love to read a prequel set in the ’70s when this first started happening. I know that’s not a question, but you can comment on the possibilities if you like.
Craig DiLouie: What a great interview! I’d love to do the same. It’d be a huge hoot to explore the plague from the perspective of the parents, and see society change as a result. Again, from your lips to God’s ears, Athena! But as with a sequel, it depends on what the publisher wants. Here’s hoping there’s more opportunities to visit this troubled world and the plague generation.
Craig DiLouie was correct. This was a great interview. I am looking forward to reading his other novels, and the next great ones to come.
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