I am pleased to be interviewing Mr. Craig DiLouie today! Craig is an accomplished fiction writer and has written 3 books about zombies: TOOTH AND NAIL, THE INFECTION, and THE KILLING FLOOR. He’s got a new book coming out in May called SUFFER THE CHILDREN, and I am personally very excited to read it.
C: Thanks for having me!
K: Let’s start off with something silly – What is your favourite zombie movie?
C: For sheer spectacle, I’d have to say WWZ. Finally, a big budget zombie movie. The set pieces in WWZ are some of the most exciting apocalyptic scenes I’ve ever seen. I read the book by Max Brooks and liked it, but I wasn’t overly attached to it, so I wasn’t disappointed the movie didn’t really follow the book. I honestly didn’t see how they could. Besides that, I’m not really a purist about anything. Just tell me a good story.
Other great zombie films include 28 DAYS LATER and DAWN OF THE DEAD (Romero version). I recently saw a great little sleeper film titled STATE OF EMERGENCY. Some of the best zombie movies are honestly the comedies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND.
Honestly, though, probably the best thing on a screen you can watch with zombies in it is THE WALKING DEAD. The second half of the third season flopped in my opinion, but the fourth season is getting back to what made the show great.
I review a lot of books, movies, TV shows and film shorts on my blog, if anybody would like to learn more:www.craigdilouie.com.
K: What got you into writing about zombies?
C: I would read zombie books and wonder what happened to the military. How could these scrappy survivors last in such a harsh world, while the military had failed? So I wrote a book I wanted to read: TOOTH AND NAIL (Start Publishing). The novel is about a company of soldiers deployed in New York City during the zombie apocalypse. I did a huge amount of research to make it as realistic as possible, make it feel like you’re “embedded” with the company. It’s an intense read. The novel took off in sales, and so I wrote THE INFECTION and its sequel, THE KILLING FLOOR (Permuted Press). These novels have the same grit, action and realism as TOOTH AND NAIL, but go much deeper into the characters and what they’re going through. My next novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN (Simon & Schuster, May 20, 2014), isn’t about zombies, but I do have a series of zombie novellas I’m producing with Joe McKinney and Stephen Knight (titled THE RETREAT), which will be available for eBook readers.
K: The concept of SUFFER THE CHILDREN is just wow. Where do you get your inspiration?
C: Thanks for that! Good horror is about pushing boundaries and facing your greatest fears. I wanted to write a vampire story that would be terrifying, realistic and original.
In SUFFER THE CHILDREN, all the children die. They come back three days later and ask for blood. If they get blood, they reanimate and become the children they were before they died. But then they die again and need more blood. This puts the parents into a situation where they have to continue to get blood to keep their children alive. The question becomes, how far would you go for your child? In SUFFER THE CHILDREN, the children are basically vampires, but they’re not the monsters. The monsters are the parents. They become monsters over time as blood becomes increasingly scarce and they find themselves doing whatever it takes to get more.
It’s the end of the world, one pint at a time, because of the most primal force in the world–the love we have for our children. The reader is put in the hot seat, facing the same moral decisions as the characters. What would you do? How far would you go?
K: What are some basic parts of a zombie narrative? In other words, what does a zombie story need to be a (good) zombie story?
C: I think the main thing is to tell a story about people with zombies, not about zombies with people. Meaning, make me care about the people in the story. Besides that, I believe good world building is essential. Writers should do their homework and make everything in the story grounded and realistic. The more realistic the world you build, the more fantastic the monsters that you choose to populate it.
K: I want to get a little bit academic here. I have noticed a subtle debate in a lot of spec fic, including horror– the debate of pro human versus anti human. That is, the condemning of humanity versus tributing humanity. Where do you stand on the debate, and which do you find easier to write?
C: I don’t really like to moralize in my fiction but rather try to present a story in which the full human pageant is on display during a horrible crisis. In an apocalyptic situation–the end of the world as we know it–I don’t think people would have the luxury of staying moral, while I also don’t think they would immediately become immoral just because there’s no threat of going to jail. The people in my stories are largely amoral–they want to be moral but they occasionally have to do bad things to survive, and they struggle with that emotionally. If I do my job right as the writer, the reader will sweat through those same decisions. I can say my zombie novels tend to end on a note of hope. While the characters are utterly brutalized throughout most of the novel, by the end, you understand that their actions, particularly their sacrifices, may make a critical difference not in whether they survive, but whether the species itself does.
K: Final question: if the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, what would you do?
C: I’d take a yoga class so I could become flexible enough to kiss my own ass goodbye.