My guest today is a very dear friend, Mr. Craig DiLouie. Craig and I go way back to the early days of Permuted Press, back when it was still being run out of Jacob Kier’s garage. Since that time I’ve watched him hone his craft and become one of the premier thriller writers of our generation. He’s tackled zombies with his books Tooth and Nail and The Infection. He’s done the straight up psychological thriller with Paranoia. He’s done military sci-fi comedy with The Great Planet Robbery, and his latest, Suffer the Children, nearly tore my heart out. And in between all that he’s even managed to write several works of non-fiction on lighting and electrical design. Talk about versatile!
But that’s Craig DiLouie. When you read him, you get the sense that he can pretty much do anything. I envy writers like him, so easy to read, so fertile of imagination. He makes it look easy.
But here’s the thing about Craig. He is totally sincere. You cannot be in his presence long without realizing this. He’s one of the good ones, and that’s the main reason I agreed to join with him and Stephen Knight (you can read my interview with Stephen Knight here) for an upcoming zombie novella project called THE RETREAT. (You can check out Craig’s intro to that project here.)
But for now, please enjoy this interview with my good friend, Craig DiLouie!
Joe McKinney: Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream. I’m glad you could swing by. You’re no stranger to zombie fiction. Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing? How do you approach the genre?
Craig DiLouie: Thanks for having me, Joe! I’m the author of the bestselling zombie novels TOOTH AND NAIL, THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR. These novels have garnered hundreds of positive reviews from authors like yourself, readers and magazines and websites such as FANGORIA, and they’ve been published in English, Spanish, French, German and Russian. My work differentiates itself from other novels in the field through its gritty realism, original concepts and extreme action.
My new apocalyptic horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, is coming out from Simon & Schuster in March 2014. Later this year, I’ll be working with you and Stephen Knight on a new self-published series of novellas. (Check out Craig’s official announcement of that project here.) I also blog about all things apocalyptic horror at www.craigdilouie.com.
JM: The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?
CD: It would depend on the type of zombie we’re talking about. The zombies in my stories run and infect through biting. In that type of situation, humanity would have a very hard time surviving. In that situation, the best way to prepare is to take a yoga class so you’re flexible enough to kiss your own ass goodbye.
As for me, I don’t have a bug-out bag or anything like that. My city just went through some major flooding that resulted in the evacuation of 10% of the population and jeopardized the reliability of power and water citywide, and I was faced with a lot of interesting decisions to ensure my family had everything it needed. While I haven’t gone all the way and prepared for apocalypse, I do believe it’s common sense to make sure you have everything your family would need to survive for a week on its own.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever? (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here. I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)
CD: My tastes as a reader and writer tend toward the epic. For me, the biggest turn-on about zombies isn’t the zombies, it’s the zeitgeist. It’s the apocalypse and how ordinary people respond to crisis and its impossible choices. It’s not the excitement of being the last man standing, it’s the horror of being forced to fight to survive when there might no longer be much to live for anymore.
As a reader and writer, I also prefer stories about people with zombies or some other apocalyptic threat, not the other way around. For me, character must come first. The reader must care about the survivors.
Some of my favorite stories are your zombie series, Joe, with its realistic depiction of how the police would deal with a zombie apocalypse; HATER by David Moody, with its mind-blowing twist, and RUN by Blake Crouch, which is sort of the American version of HATER; Adam Baker’s series, which offer brilliant thrillers; DUST by Joan Frances Turner; ONE by Conrad Williams; THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell; ON THE THIRD DAY by Rhys Thomas; and HANDLING THE UNDEAD by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Man, I can remember standing in a bookstore ten years ago and seeing DEAD CITY and Brian Keene’s work and that was about it. Now there are tons of great choices for readers and opportunities for good writers.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?
CD: I loved the movie WORLD WAR Z, not really caring how closely tied it was to the book. The movie has an epic feel and is filled with amazing set pieces. Pretty much the entire film would qualify as my favorite zombie kill scene.
JM: I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us. Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period. Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past. Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life. What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?
CD: I think the surge in interest in the zombie apocalypse has more to do with the apocalypse than zombies. In the 1950s, we had Martians, in the ’60s, dystopia, in the ’70s, environmental collapse, in the ’80s, nuclear war, in the ’90s, killer viruses, in the ’00s, zombies. Today, many people feel that things are getting worse and that there’s little they can do about it. Add in things like bird flu and global warming to the normal pressures of holding a job and paying the bills, and there’s a lot of angst in modern life. Reading zombie stories offers a dramatic release. By reading survival horror, people confront danger/death and survive it. By reading an apocalyptic story, they experience the catharsis of “throwing it all away” and the true horror of losing everything that matters to them. As for zombies, well, they’re just scary and fun. Not only has the world ended, but your former neighbors are hunting you. These are the levels of psychic engagement I look for as a reader and try to work into my stories as a writer—personal, in-your-face horror combined with the awe and titillation of the end of the world.
That was the one and only Craig DiLouie, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps the nicest guy you’re ever likely to meet. I had a great time hanging with him in New Orleans, and I’m looking forward to the next time our paths cross.
Now that you’ve heard what he has to say about zombies, go check out his books. Oh, and I strongly urge you to follow his blog. He has developed some of the best content on any author-driven website out there.