Keepers of the Crypt is on its 24th day and we are still going strong. We’ve had tons of great authors already and today we have another special guest joining us that knows a lot about zombies and survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve devoured his novels and enjoyed every thrilling second of them. Please welcome Craig DiLouie author of Tooth and Nail, The Infection and The Killing Floor and many more titles to the blog.
Welcome back to Fictitious Musings Craig!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me! It’s great to be here. For the most part, I’m a very contented, middle-aged, middle-class, happily married father of two, who also happens to enjoy writing stories in which ordinary people must face the end of the world—and try to survive it. My published works include in this vein include TOOTH AND NAIL, THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR. They distinguish themselves from other novels in the zombie apocalypse genre with their extreme realism, grit and violence; deep characterization; and the use of viral (living) zombies and even worse monsters.
TOOTH AND NAIL, which has been described as BLACKHAWK DOWN meets 28 DAYS LATER, tells the story of a unit of combat infantry deployed to New York City to maintain order during a plague of a disease that turns people rabid. Soon, the soldiers find themselves fighting for their lives against the people they swore to protect. This novel is available in paperback, audiobook and all eBook formats. It is currently being adapted into film.
THE INFECTION, which has been described as THE ROAD meets 28 DAYS LATER, tells the story of five ordinary people forced to work together to survive. They team up with the crew of a Bradley fighting vehicle and together fight their way toward sanctuary. This novel has the same grit, realism and violence as TOOTH AND NAIL but is much more character driven. THE KILLING FLOOR continues this story with a new story arc that brings the series to a dramatic finish. Both books are available in paperback, audiobook and eBook.
Your readers can learn more about these works—synopses, reviews, ordering information, covers and more—at my blog, www.craigdilouie.com, where I blog regularly about horror media such as books, movies and short films.
Zombies seem to be popping up everywhere these days. Why did you choose zombies for your post-apocalyptic novels?
Each generation has had its fascination for the end of the world. I believe it is programmed into us—an overriding concern for the survival of the species, not just our own continuing existence. The mechanisms vary—aliens, supernatural, nuclear war, pathogen, robot uprising, environmental collapse, zombies—but the net effect is the same: the end of the world as we know it. Some people are drawn to these visions because they find them exciting and liberating. They want clarity in their lives. They want to be tested and live simply. Others are drawn to their visions because they find them scary as hell. They wonder how they would protect their families in such an event. They fear not only for their own survival, but civilization’s and humanity’s.
As a writer of fantastic fiction, I enjoy putting a layer of the extraordinary on our ordinary world and imagining the consequences. With apocalyptic horror, there are endless stories to tell in which average people are tested to the edge of their endurance in a catastrophe that has the ultimate stakes. Drop in some real people facing the fantastic, and you’ve got the setup for a thriller. Make the fantastic pose a horrible threat to these people—the more horrible the better—and you’ve got horror, specifically survival horror. Make the fantastic pose the same horrible threat to everybody at once, and you’ve got the makings for the apocalypse. The result ideally is a story that is believable, that scares and excites the reader, and, with the stakes being the survival of the human race or at least civilization as we know it, is stirring to the spirit as well as the intellect.
Now all you need is the mechanism. For me, zombies are particularly fun to work with because they hone the survival threat (heighten the thriller aspect), present options for fighting (heavy action), they’re scary if done right (heighten the horror aspect) and pose the threat from creatures who used to be people the characters cared about (emotional trauma and potential for philosophical stakes). These stories often see their characters brutalized by events outside their control, but there is usually hope that if humanity can get past the zombie threat, everything will be okay again, and the species will survive.
Survival is a major factor for your characters, if you were in their shoes what do you feel your chances of survival would be? What would you do differently?
THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR were for me a meditation on survival. When one is forced to fight to survive minute to minute, is one truly living? If civilization has collapsed and everything and everybody we’ve ever loved is taken from us, is there anything worth living for? If we find a place that’s safe, will it be possible to live there and finally face everything we’ve lost, or will we want to return to the dangers of the open road? If we fight monsters for too long, do we risk becoming monsters ourselves? How much humanity can we afford to sacrifice for our own survival?
THE KILLING FLOOR goes even further, asking if we have a responsibility beyond our own survival. What do we owe other people in a situation like this? If you could save the species but had to sacrifice your life to do it, would you? Or would you use your survival skills to live longer than anybody else?
Each character in my stories answers these questions a little differently. The real question is: How would you?
Who do you consider to be your favorite author? What do you enjoy most about their novels?
That’s a good question, but I don’t really have a single favorite author. Just a few I particularly admire include John Skipp, David Moody, Jeff Long, Stephen King, Joe McKinney, Conrad Williams, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Wayne Simmons, Peter Clines, Jeff Carlson, Clive Barker and others. I publish a large number of reviews of apocalyptic horror and other fiction at my blog here and offer a list of terrific apocalyptic fiction in an Amazon list here.
Of all the novels you’ve written which one has been the most difficult to write?
The first one is always the hardest, but emotionally, I’d have to say my most recent novel, which I recently completed and gave to an agent, was the most difficult to write. It’s similar to PET SEMATARY in that the root of the evil in the story is familial love taken to an extreme where horrific sacrifices are made. It also required me to turn ordinary people—people I really started to care about and to whom I became quite attached—into killers in baby steps across the story arc, which required a great deal of care and craft.
What do you look for in a good zombie/post-apocalyptic novel?
Believability, vivid action, characters who act like real people, and those little surprises that make reading a zombie book a fresh experience. Give me people I care about behaving realistically in a realistic environment infested with zombies or any other horror threat, with the stakes being the end of the world, and I’m a happy reader.
What projects are you currently working on?
Over the past few years, I’ve been working my way up through small presses with the ultimate goal to get signed by a major publishing house. About a month or so ago, I submitted the manuscript for a new horror novel to my agent (the one I described earlier), who recently began pitching it to major publishers, and I’m happy to say we already have an offer. Unfortunately, I’m not able to say more about this project until a deal is signed. Meanwhile, I’m working on pre-development work for a possible film adaptation of my first zombie novel, TOOTH AND NAIL, while also starting a new novel, which will not be zombies, but will be in the apocalyptic horror vein.
What would you put in your post-apocalyptic survival kit?
While it’s fun to romanticize the lone survival expert with all the gear, I don’t believe it would be possible to survive on your own if some type of zombie apocalypse scenario were to occur. Most people do not have military training, tons of guns and ammo, and a safe house filled with gear and stockpiled supplies. Even the lone expert would not be guaranteed to survive for long on his own. Simply put, people need people. The basic psychology of people in crisis situations, in fact, is to form groups around strong leaders who are able to make difficult decisions. I would likely join one of these groups as it would offer the best chance for me to keep my family alive. After that, a kit wouldn’t do much to keep me and my family alive for very long. Survival would be more about developing skills the group would need to compete and survive long term, and having access to a location that offered good prospects for survival materials such as food, water, heat, etc.
Brains or Entrails? – Entrails, please.
Favorite Halloween candy – Anything with chocolate in it.
Favorite horror movie – My favorite zombie “movie” has to be the AMC TV show THE WALKING DEAD.
Most memorable Halloween memory? – When my overly ambitious mummy costume fell apart one year, my mom came through in the clutch and jury-rigged another costume for me, and my night went from horror to joy.
Trick or Treat? – I’m all about the treats.
About the Author
He is the author of four nonfiction books, four novels—Paranoia, The Great Planet Robbery, The Thin White Line and Tooth and Nail—and hundreds of articles published in magazines, books and websites.