Q&A with Author Craig DiLouie
ashley | Last month I was blown away by Craig DiLouie‘s genre changing Suffer the Children, so when the opportunity came up to speak with Craig about his work, I was beyond thrilled. Below is our Q&A.
Q: What I love about Suffer the Children is that you took the gruesome attributes of vampires and blended it with the innocence and vulnerability of children. I actually felt very sympathetic to these children/creatures through the book, even as things escalated. What was your inspiration for this unique twist? Do you harbor any of your own sympathies to these creatures of the night?
A: In SUFFER THE CHILDREN, a disease strikes down the world’s children. While the world mourns, the children return from their graves and ask for blood. If they ingest human blood, they become the living, breathing children they once were, but only for a short time before dying again. Then they need more blood. And more. And more. While the children are essentially vampires, they’re not the monsters in the story. They’re just kids who want to live, love, play. The story’s monsters are the parents put in the impossible situation of finding more blood to keep their children–people they love more than themselves–alive just one more day. They become monsters in baby steps over the course of the novel, facing the same question as the reader: How far would you go for someone you love? As the blood supply thins, eventually, the only source of blood left will be each other. This is how the world ends, one pint at a time.
I wrote the novel because I wanted to explore what scared me most as a father. Most parents, I think, would put their arm in a shredder for their kids. But would they put somebody else’s arm in a shredder? That’s where love and sacrifice become horror. And while these parents do horrific things, even they’re sympathetic, because they’re doing it out of love. The result is a real mind bend, a read that will make you think as well as feel.
Another inspiration for the novel was John Ajvide Lindqvist‘s approach to horror fiction. This extraordinary author takes common tropes such as vampires and zombies and provides an entirely fresh perspective set in a very human story. Similarly, SUFFER THE CHILDREN isn’t a vampire story but rather a story about love and sacrifice. I honestly feel it’s the most authentic and disturbing thing I’ve ever written.
Q. The lengths that these parents will go to spend another hour, another day with their children is extreme, but in a way very understandable. I don’t have children, but for anyone who does, this concept must be that much more horrifying. As a parent, did you have difficulty writing this?
A: Absolutely. Just as parents who read this book will face their greatest fear, so did I while writing it. The degeneration of the parents from ordinary people harried by the demands of life and loving their children to people focused on blood and willing to kill for it was a harrowing journey. I really came to love these characters as living, breathing people, and I agonized over what I making them face. What they face in the book is fanciful in origin but very real. What they end up doing is horrifying but inevitable.
Q: Everything in Suffer the Children is caused by an illness called Herod’s Syndrome, but we don’t dive too deeply into the scientific side of what exactly Herod’s is. Was your idea for Herod’s loosely based on a pre-existing illness that you exaggerated to fit this story or was it something you came up with?
A: I wanted SUFFER THE CHILDREN to be like BLINDNESS, where a disease strikes, and it really doesn’t matter what its origin is. The disease is really a device that serves as the catalyst for everything that follows. However, I did explain it, or rather what scientists were able to figure out in the time they have, and based it on an existing disease. This was done for flavoring and to give the disease an identity. Over time, Herod’s syndrome becomes a character of sorts in the book.
Q: You’re primarily known for writing about zombies. Now that you’ve tackled zombies and vampires, both of which offer such different characteristics to work with, do you have a preference between the two?
A: What fascinates me is the idea of the apocalypse. Zombies and vampires are simply the catalyst. There is so much dramatic potential in any story dealing with the end of the world. Everything familiar becomes unfamiliar, social norms are sheared away, and people are truly tested and torn down to who they really are. When I write about zombies, my fiction poses less psychological horror and more outright terror at trying to survive against impossible odds, while wondering if it’s even worth it to continue surviving. These books would be considered thrillers more so than horror novels. SUFFER THE CHILDREN is more of a slow burn. Instead of instant tension and stakes, the tension and stakes rise over the course of the book to its horrifying ending. It’s more horror than thriller, and more psychological horror than survival horror.
Q: What can we expect next from you?
A: Right now, I’m in the process of selling an historical fantasy novel to an indie sci fi/fantasy publisher. My sci fi and fantasy fiction is very different from my horror; while it’s action packed similarly to my zombie fiction, it’s light and funny, and readers see an entirely different side of me. Meanwhile, I’m working on another apocalyptic horror novel about romantic love as the catalyst for the end of the world, and soon, I’ll be writing up the fourth episode in THE RETREAT, the violent, bloody zombie series I’m writing with the great Stephen Knight and Joe McKinney. After that, I have a lot of ideas. I’ll keep writing as long as people keep reading my work. My writing career has been an amazing, humbling, fantastic journey.
Q: It’s become a tradition with us CityGirls to honour our love of wine in the last question of these kinds of interviews. So, if we met you for a drink, what would be your drink of choice? (Let’s safely say that blood is not on the menu.)
A: If we’re getting together for a chat as friends, a pint of beer would do the trick, maybe a glass of red or white. But if we’re going out dancing, then tequila might end up on the menu.
A huge thank you to Craig for speaking with me. I will be counting down until his next novel comes out. In the mean time, you can read Suffer the Children now, you won’t regret it!