Welcome to the end of another week, and another FIVE FOR FRIDAY interview! This week I welcome Craig DiLouie to the table to discuss the meaning of Horror in the modern milieu, the importance of being bored once in a while, and his latest book, EPISODE THIRTEEN. Click the CONTINUE READING button below to check it out!
Why don’t we start by going around the table and introducing ourselves? Tell us who you are, why you’re here today, and one interesting thing about yourself.
I’m Craig, and I’m a professional writer, notably novels, and notably in the horror, military/thriller, and other speculative fiction genres. I’m also a proud dad of two, so I guess one interesting thing about me is when my teen was nine, she was obsessed with Harry Potter and started writing her own story, “She Tamed a Dragon.” I told her if she finished it, I’d publish it, and she took me up on that. My mother edited it, some friends of mine did a spectacular cover and interior layout, and I got it published as a paperback that we sold primarily through local store Owl’s Nest. All profits went to Inn from the Cold, a local charity. It was a Calgary bestseller, and she had a wonderful and empowering experience.
EPISODE THIRTEEN is enjoying great success, going into a second printing almost immediately. Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about what inspired the novel, and why you think the themes are resonating with so many readers?
Thank you! EPISODE THIRTEEN is an epistolary, “found footage” book about a reality TV ghost-hunting team that goes into a haunted house and finds exactly what they were looking for, in ways they never expected.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a “house within a house” or otherwise being a portal to a darker reality, which works like RELIC, HIS HOUSE, ANGEL OF DARKNESS, and HOUSE OF LEAVES did really well. It plays on a base fear that behind the ordinary world, something very dark is lurking and watching. I also love the point at which science and weird stuff like the paranormal intersect, where scientists take it seriously and try to study it.
As my editor is a big fan of found footage horror, I pitched the idea as an epistolary novel, or a series of documents such as journals, video transcripts, text exchanges, and so on. This allowed me a terrific and engaging variety of media in the book, some like the journals that go deep into character and invite empathy, and others like the transcripts that give the reader that creepy, “this is real” voyeuristic feeling. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
As for themes, mainly this is a book about the human obsession with solving important mysteries, and what dark paths that obsession may lead. I think this resonates but not as much as the novel’s subjects, which are just fun: ghosts, the science of the paranormal, how reality TV shows work, and ghost hunting. There’s plenty there for a reader to connect with.
How has three years of Covid-19 affected your writing process? Has the pandemic reframed what “horror” means to you?
Honestly, I feel like a very different person now than when the pandemic started. The most visible effect was brain fog for the entirety of the 2020 lockdown as half my brain was always looking at my family and thinking everything is fine and the other half was staring out the window thinking everything is definitely not fine today and might get very worse tomorrow. I did not get much done! But then I kicked back into gear, and I went on a tear producing some really good work. Creativity always finds a way with motivation.
As for reframing what horror means, I wish I had an exciting answer for this, but honestly, not really, I don’t think it did for me. I’ve always had a thing for apocalyptic fiction, so nothing about the pandemic surprised me intellectually except maybe the heavy and frankly depressing politicization of basic, common-sense public health measures designed to keep the most people alive. For me, horror is horror, a basic emotion, so when I write a novel, I start with what scares me and then write what scares my characters, connecting this with topics and themes I think can be intertwined to make something fresh and exciting.
You grew up in a pretty rural area, if I’m not mistaken, before the internet and 200 TV channels. This is something I’ve been thinking about with regards to raising my own kid, and there may be a better way to phrase it, but how important is the prospect of boredom to the development of creativity?
There is certainly value for kids to be bored so that they develop their imagination and creativity, but I’m not sure it has as much anymore to do with geography as access to media. Kids today are growing up with instant access to an incredible and vast library of media, and with social media offering endless channel flipping, instant gratification, and unique social pressures. This is good—hell, I envy them!—but it also has some pretty big tradeoffs. As a parent myself of two, I can tell you parenting has special challenges today. It’s like kids have to learn how to swim, but they’re doing it in an ocean filled with sharks and storms instead of a safely monitored pool. I think the best thing parents of young children can do is play with their kids, set aside a lot of non-screen time, and encouraging their creativity in every way possible. Hopefully, that joy will come back to them when they’re older and turn into lifelong passions.
With a robust list of prose writing credits to your name, is there any other form of writing you’d like to tackle if the opportunity came up, like screenwriting or comics? If so, are there any dream projects you’d want to work on?
As a modest goal, I’d love to produce more short stories, as I have ideas and it’s a great art form, but every time I start writing one, I end up wishing I was writing a novel. That being said, I would like to do more of them. As for screenwriting and comics, sure, I’d love to do that too, certainly if an opportunity came my way, with an emphasis on opportunity. As a professional writer, I write for myself, but in the end, my work really belongs to the people who read it; I’m writing for them. When I was younger, my big dream was to be a dabbler, a jack of all trades creative who would move on from project to project, but life doesn’t work that way, or at least it didn’t for me. I had to hone my talent and craft over a period of years until I became the fiction writer I am today, which I accept and I’m happy with. But in my dreams, sure, I’d do it all if I had the chance!
Thanks for taking part in Five for Friday, Craig! Have a great weekend!
Craig DiLouie is an American-Canadian author of speculative fiction with an emphasis on horror, thrillers, and historical military fiction and with works published by large traditional publishers, small presses, and self-published. Notable works include Episode Thirteen (Hachette, 2023), The Children of Red Peak (Hachette, 2020), Our War (Hachette, 2019), One of Us (Hachette, 2018), and Suffer the Children (Simon & Schuster, 2014). His fiction has been nominated for awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, optioned for screen, and translated into multiple languages. Learn more at www.CraigDiLouie.com.
Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but now based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy (urban and epic), and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. His first novel, THE NIGHTSHADE CABAL, was published by Parliament House Press in 2020, and was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence ‘Best First Novel’ award. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but – consider this fair warning – it’s mostly wisecracks about McNuggets.
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