Following my recent review of Craig DiLouie’s new novel, OUR WAR, today I’m pleased to share an interview with the author, where he will talk a little about himself and his new book.
Hello Craig, and welcome back here at Space and Sorcery.
Thanks for having me back!
Let’s start with some details about you, as an individual and as a writer.
I’m a hardworking father of two wonderful children, a journalist and educator in the lighting industry, and an author of speculative—sci-fi, fantasy, horror—and thriller fiction. My partner, Chris Marrs, is a wonderful horror writer herself. I’m a very fortunate man!
How does your creative process work? How do you move from the single idea at the root of it all toward the completion of it all?
Typically, I start with a what-if, look for a fresh way to explore it, and connect it to a big idea or theme. After that, I spend a lot of time taking notes, doing research, and otherwise “dreaming” the book. At this time, I plan out the novel either around a four-act plot structure, character arcs, or both. When it all reaches a critical mass, I start typing.
That’s an interesting image! Critical mass… 🙂
The start of a novel is daunting. It’s like mountain climbing. All the planning you do is like setting up a base camp. You look up and see how far you have to go, but you start walking, one step at a time, one sentence at a time. After a few chapters, you look back and see how far you’ve come. At the top of the mountain, you’re only halfway there, but it’s all downhill from there, and you go faster and faster until you reach the end of the journey. Then it’s on to the long editing process.
It’s mentally challenging but a lot of fun, and I love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m very lucky to be able to produce fiction and see it published by a great imprint like Orbit.
Your latest novel Our War portrays the consequences of civil war on the younger members of society: what prompted you to choose this topic for the story?
The dangerous polarization in American politics started long before the Trump presidency, though Trump has put it into overdrive. The inspiration for the novel was I wondered what would happen if say a Trump-like president was impeached and simply refused to leave office, triggering a national armed protest by the Right that snowballed into a revolution.
During my research, I became convinced that such a civil war would not look like the 1860s, where we had coalitions of states opposed on the institution of slavery and the resulting balance of power. A modern civil war would possibly break out along cultural lines, specifically rural versus urban, which tend to vote and be very conservative and very liberal, respectively. A war would likely look far more like the Bosnian War in the 1990s, which became part of my research and inspiration.
A daunting comparison, indeed…
Our War tells the story of a besieged Indianapolis, focusing on a brother and sister who become child soldiers fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. Orphaned by the fighting, the politics mean far less to them than survival, though they come to embrace their respective causes until they find their ultimate cause in fighting for each other and themselves. Their inclusion shows that the worst of civil wars in other countries—the use of child soldiers, among other things—could happen here if we ever go down this path, while highlighting civil war’s true victims.
The other protagonists include a UNICEF worker, who must conquer her fears to do what’s right; a journalist, who learns to pick a side; and a militia sergeant, who begins to see the humanity in those he hates. The result is “our war,” a very human story about an inhuman war in which everybody fights, and nobody wins. A tale that is dark but also filled with love and hope.
It’s quite clear that world politics have taken an unpleasant turn of late, relying more on the demonization of one’s opponents and their ideas rather than on healthy debate: do you see this trend as an unavoidable “slippery slope” or the core theme in Our War can safely stay in the realm of speculative fiction?
While I was writing the novel, the political landscape in America continued to deteriorate until even staid media institutions like NPR were openly discussing the potential for a civil war. As a dystopian story, Our War does what dystopia does best, which is issue a warning. Show war’s true face and cost. While the various characters in the novel have strong political convictions across the spectrum, ultimately, the novel is not about that but about the consequences of political tribalization. Though dystopia is typically dark stuff, I think there’s a lot of optimism in Our War. It puts a face on some of our worst fears and hopefully energizes our will to resist this potential future.
And on the wings of that hope, the final question: next projects? Are you working on a new story and can you tell us a little about it?
Right now, I’m wrapping up a supernatural hororr novel for Orbit titled Mysterion. The novel is about a group of people who survived their childhood in an apocalyptic cult, who years later reunite to confront their past and the entity that appeared on the final night. Thematically, it touches faith, belonging, trauma, and memory. If you enjoyed IT or Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, you’ll love this one. The novel will likely be released in the fall of 2020. Stay tuned!
I certainly will! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Craig: I look forward to your next visit to showcase Mysterion 🙂