#NanoInterview: Craig DiLouie

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Craig! First off, tell us about the upcoming novel ONE OF US.

CD: Thanks for having me at your blog, David! ONE OF US is in final contract negotiations with Orbit, the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group. We’re already deep into production. They’re a fantastic company to work with. The book will be published in hardcover and then trade paperback, starting likely next year. I couldn’t be more excited.

ONE OF US is a novel about a disease that produces a generation of monsters that must find their place in society. As the plague generation grows up poor and oppressed at rundown orphanages in the rural South, its children begin to develop extraordinary abilities that allow them to rebel and claim their birthright. It delves into themes of prejudice, generational conflict, and what makes a monster a monster. Written in the Southern Gothic style, it features elements such as complex characters, rural decay, and the grotesque.

DD: We're coming up on the release of the fourth entry in your popular CRASH DIVE World War II series. Can you share the challenges and benefits of self-publishing the series?

CD: CRASH DIVE might be described as Horatio Hornblower on submarines in the Pacific during WW2. Each episode covers a patrol in this young and courageous naval officer’s war. The stories are short, simple, technically accurate, pulpy and action-packed. I’ve read over a dozen books about WW2-era submarines and how they work along with firsthand accounts of war patrols. CRASH DIVE is based on all of it, providing a story that is gritty, realistic, authentic and violent, all centered around a hero who isn’t perfect but is a quick learner and tries his best. My goal is to put the reader aboard a submarine and have them feel exactly what it was like during the war. The series has sold extremely well, and I love writing it as much as its fans love reading it.

The benefit of self-publishing is you completely control everything about your book’s production and pricing. The challenge is it’s really hard to get a standalone novel recognized. You can drop the price and pour money into its marketing, but the risk is much higher. That and here you are, having written 100,000 words, now selling it for $3. In my view, self-publishing is ideally suited to short books—around 40,000 to 45,000 words—produced quickly in a series. Pulpy stories centered around a likeable main character. That’s the CRASH DIVE series in a nutshell. I found my ideal self-pub eBook model in the past—the dime novels of the 1860s, which became the pulp magazines of the early 20th century. That model is working very well for me. I wouldn’t do self-publishing any other way at this point.

DD: Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what was the "soundtrack" for ONE OF US?

CD: My process is completely internal. I might catch a piece of music and listen to it when I’m writing, as it helps me daydream the novel and get in the mood. I need absolute quiet while I’m actually writing, though. I’d love to be that guy who listens to great music while writing, but I ain’t him.

DD: Do dreams or nightmares ever influence your writing?

CD: One night I had a strange dream about a town of trailers and shanties built in a circle around a single mansion, which became my short story, “The End of the Road.” Another dream fueled a pair of creatures in my zombie novel, THE KILLING FLOOR. Otherwise, I can’t think of any cases where dreaming influenced my writing. My most useful dreaming is daydreaming. When I’m deep into a book, I’m constantly daydreaming the book when I’m driving, in the shower, and so on. Sometimes, these daily mundane rituals become my most productive parts of the day.

DD: On the zombie front, is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in the genre?

CD: The zombie genre keeps mutating as authors innovate. I think this is a good idea with a very important caveat. First, I’m not a purist. Fast, slow, mutated, I don’t care what kind of zombies you have. However, once the rules for the zombies become established, they become progressively less exciting, and the author is forced to do one of two things. Either up the numbers of the horde or introduce a human element, such as a rival scavenger gang. If you look at THE WALKING DEAD as an example, the story never stayed focused on the zombies. In the first season, you had survivors against zombies, in the second, an internal power struggle, and in the third, the group against another group, and so on.

When I wrote THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR, I wanted the monster element to remain the primary antagonist, so I introduced mutated creatures spawned by the same organism that produced the zombies. This ticked off some purists, but I was happy in that the creatures introduced an unpredictable, almost hopeless element to the story, which kept it scary. Another thing some authors ran with for a while was to make one or more zombies intelligent and tell the story from their point of view. In THE RETREAT, the series I’m doing with Stephen Knight and Joe McKinney, we made the infected homicidally insane but otherwise able to function, which kept them unpredictable.

But none of these really matters compared to just telling a good story, which is my caveat. Zombies don’t tell the story for you. Your characters do. If the reader doesn’t care about your characters, they won’t care about your zombies. Authors should always focus on inviting us to care about their characters so we care what happens to them. They should tell a compelling story so that it reads like a story about people with zombies, not about zombies with people.

The good news is that if you like zombies, there is an incredible array of choices for you right now. The genre is packed with authors, titles and series. You’re almost guaranteed to find something you love.

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