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5 Questions With... Daniel Kraus (SCOWLER)

by Daniel Kraus
 | May 06, 2013
Daniel Kraus is a Chicago-based writer, editor, and filmmaker. His debut novel, THE MONSTER VARIATIONS, was selected to New York Public Library's "100 Best Stuff for Teens." FANGORIA called his Bram Stoker-finalist, Odyssey Award-winning second novel, ROTTERS, "a new horror classic." Upcoming novels include the Junior Library Guild selection SCOWLER (2013) and TROLLHUNTERS (2014), co-written with Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Visit him online at

Your new novel, SCOWLER, reads like a bit of a modern allegory (albeit one cloaked in horror). Can you tell us about how you conceived of the story?

It has been a long, strange journey. I had a nightmare in eighth grade, wrote a three-page story about it, and then thought about that story for, oh, 20 years or so. Along the way the idea picked up other little notions, like burrs onto cotton. But it was always the goal to write about a family that was scared, really deep-down scared, and what kind of extremes it would take to turn that family into something scary enough to fight back.

SCOWLER is written in third-person, switching from one character’s point of view to another’s. What led you to tell Ry’s story in this way?

As you suggested in your first question, I wanted this to have a bit of a lyrical feel to it, like a Midwestern gothic. Grafting that kind of style into the voice of Iowan farmers would probably feel disingenuous. Plus, there's a key moment in the book where I knew I had to pivot away from the main point-of-view. So it wasn't a difficult decision.

Many of your books focus on the strange relationship between father and son. Does your own relationship with your father provide inspiration for the characters in your novels?

This is kind of a no-win question, isn't it? I guess I'll say yes? But within limits? I mean, my dad didn't bury my homework to teach me to rob graves and he certainly didn't chase me through the forest for two days in order to kill me.

Traces of real relationships are all over my writing, but that's just how novels work. The question is why do father-son relationships in general intrigue me, and I don't think that's so hard to figure out. Historically there's rites of violence and toughness that mark the passage to manhood and that's good stuff for fiction, always has been.

You’ve said that good-versus-bad stories bore you. Do you ever plan on writing a novel that strays from your norms of dark and dangerous?

I think it's safe to say that the next three things I'm working on stretch outside what people are expecting from me, and in pretty major ways.

That said, that core idea that we're all bad guys when seen through the right person's eyes is not going to change. I'd like to think nobody gets off scot-free in my books.

You are co-writing your upcoming book, TROLLHUNTERS, with Guillermo del Toro. What’s it like authoring a book with an Oscar-winning filmmaker?

Serious fun. TROLLHUNTERS is a dark book but it's lighter than what I've done so far—how could it not be?—and I really needed that after SCOWLER. It also has a major fantasy element, something I've not dabbled in before.

Sitting down and inventing a monster—an actual monstrous monster-type monster—turns out to be a lot of fun, you know?

© 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

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