The Gore Spotlight

An HMS Q&A With Devan Sagliani

Southern California Native, Devan Sagliani, author of Undead L.A., Zombie Attack Rise of The Horde, The Rising Dead, and A Thirst For Fire, recently fired off some answers for us at Horror Metal Sounds. This interview comes at an exciting time as Sagliani’s follow up to Rise of The Horde entitled Army of The Dead is out today, June 1st! See what he had to say in my exclusive interview with him from earlier this week and when you’re done with that, head over to pick up a free copy of Zombie Attack Rise of The Horde by signing up for a free BookBub account and heading to Amazon.

HMS: Devan, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, especially during the busy week of your latest book release! With the amount of books you have under your belt, it must be so exciting to be releasing yet another anticipated success. Tell us what we can expect from Zombie Attack Army of The Dead, the follow up to the successful Rise of The Horde.

DS: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. It is an exciting time for sure. I’ve been waiting to release this since the start of the year. First off, the sequel follows the familiar pattern of casting our heroes into a never ending series of struggles that keep them on the move. This time around Xander and his wife Felicity face cannibal biker tribes, merciless warlords, zombie clowns, bounty hunters, ninjas, and genetically engineered super zombies! There are quite a few surprises as well, as old characters return to cause havoc with new super villains and Moto and Xander deal with insurgent forces within the new military attempting to control the world with weapons of mass destruction. So fans of the first book will find this sequel even more action packed.

I also wanted to really show the kinds of struggles that teens face as they enter adulthood. Xander and Felicity deal with issues like controlling jealousy and anger, facing unpleasant responsibilities, having to work, and what their new roles will ultimately be as young adults growing up in the apocalypse.

Lastly the book explores the idea of how important family is, especially in tough times. The overarching themes of the series revolve around this idea of family and how we define it, exploring the importance of our relationships and how they bring meaning to our lives.

HMS: How do you feel writing a sequel differs from writing an inception novel, from a creative standpoint?

DS: Honestly it was a lot of fun. I got to take these characters I’d created and watch them start to grow into the people they were meant to be. When I was writing the Zombie Attack Rise of the Horde my focus was on introducing the characters and showing what they were capable of under extreme duress. I always knew where I wanted the story to end up, but there was plenty that was left undefined. In Zombie Attack Army of the Dead I got to play with my characters, to see their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly the sequel allowed me the chance to succinctly wrap up the story of Xander and Felicity from their point of view, to fill in all the missing pieces, so that readers would not be left with questions. I hope they find it as satisfying to read as it was for me to write. The sequel is longer than the original as well, in part because of the epilogue and the work I did to leave readers feeling like they weren’t left without answers.

HMS: How long did it take you to write your latest release? What were some of the inspirations behind it?

DS: The sequel was MUCH harder than the original. When I wrote Zombie Attack Rise of the Horde I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t have published books. I had written HVZ the movie but I hadn’t read much in the genre. In fact I hadn’t seen a single episode of The Walking Dead at the time because I was afraid it might unintentionally influence my writing in some way. I never intended on finding and agent or contacting a publisher. I simply put it on Amazon and began promoting it on social media. Everything else happened along the way.

When I was writing the Zombie Attack Army of the Dead I knew that there would be expectations from readers who trusted me and I didn’t want to let them down. That changed how I felt going in. I started worrying that I might not make something as popular, or that I might lose the tone of the series since I’d been busy writing adult horror fiction. So I sat and just plotted out the ideas that had been with me since book one. Since it’s a young adult series I like to tap into my inner young adult before I write. I thought of all the things I would love to see in the books I read and I began to incorporate them into the outline. I would say my inspiration came from listening to my inner fourteen year old and letting him play then crafting my work around what he contributed.

HMS: Tell us a little bit about your background with horror and post-apoc fiction. How did you get sucked into the genre, and what are some of your favorite horror books, movies, etc?

DS: I’ve always loved horror. In fact the first short story I ever wrote was about a guy on an island who gets stalked by a monster who disembowels him gruesomely in the end. I talk about that in my column Dark Dreams over on The Escapist. I was in fifth grade at the time. By the time I got to college I was obsessed with literary writing, in particular postmodern writers like Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and Brett Easton Ellis. When I first started really devoting myself to learning the craft of writing that was the kind of stuff I tried to emulate. People told me I sounded like Brett Easton Ellis and then later, as he grew in popularity, Chuck Palahniuk. I loved these gritty transgressive tales about the seedy underbelly of society. What I couldn’t see then was that I was headed back towards horror, towards what were essentially my roots. I began to find my own voice as I kept at it and developed my own unique style. It was around this time that I realized that I was more interested in telling stories than being seen as a great literary writer so to speak. Things really took off after that as I started trusting my instincts and treating writing like a job.

I love psychological horror. My all-time favorite scary movies include Jacobs Ladder and The Shining and Insidious and Let the Right One In and The Grudge. I’m more into movies that get under your skin like The Cell than gore porn like Final Destination series or Hostel. I’ve got to say the SAW series rides that fine line. Still at the end of the day I think Misery may be the scariest movie ever written, but that’s just because I’m a writer.

As far as books go I remember reading Salem’s Lot as a kid and being totally freaked out. I was heavy into vampires back then, long before they sparkled and talked about being in love all the time. Vampires in my day killed and ate people. They toyed with their victims. They gave outrageous speeches. Even if they wore frilly lace like Lestat or argued philosophy like Armand they were still terrifying. That’s what I miss and probably why I loved Colin Farrell’s performance in the 2011 remake of Fright Night. Now that is a terrifying monster!

I’m almost ashamed to admit it now but I actually lost sleep reading The Witching Hour by Anne Rice as a young adult. I just thought she did a great job spinning together not only a world but the history of magic and witches.

These days I’m reading a lot of horror writers. My favorites are Jonathan Maberry, Joe Hill, and Stephen King right now. I’m also reading a ton of zombie fiction. Shana Festa’s debut novel Time of Death Induction is one of the best new zombie books I’ve read so far. I’m not surprised she just signed with Permuted Press. They are taking over "zompoc" fiction in a big way right now.

HMS: So, you’ve got a screenplay to your name, how is writing a screenplay different from writing a novel? What are some of the struggles you face when writing a screenplay versus a novel, and what, if anything, is better about it?


DS: Screenwriting is vastly different than writing a novel in a lot of ways because you are so heavily invested in dialogue as your primary means to communicate not only plot but to flesh out characters and their intentions as well. It is the job of the screenwriter to artfully navigate this limitation and bring the characters to life. It is the job of the director to show the audience their vision of your work. When you’re writing a novel you are one hundred percent responsible for every last detail. It’s one of the things I enjoy about writing novels.

HMS: Do any of your future plans involve dabbling once more in the world of cinema?

DS: I am really enjoying the creative freedom that writing novels is providing me right now but you never know what the future holds. If I were to take the plunge back into Hollywood I’d want a far greater degree of control over my work than I’ve had in the past, especially if we were talking about one of my books. I know what I’d want them to look like so I’m not willing to settle for anything less. I’m working on an article right now about the death of cinema and the rise of episodic television. I’d much rather see my books turned into series like Game of Thrones than World War Z if I had the choice. Hannibal is one of my favorite shows on television and it’s on prime time. What they’ve done with the characters is nothing short of genius. I’d love to see my work transformed in the same way by creative people with real vision and guts.

"I’ve always loved horror."

HMS: Out of all the books you’ve written, including your latest release and also your previous ones, such as The Rising Dead and The Undead L.A. Series, what would you say is your personal favorite and why?

DS: How do you chose one work over another? Each has their own merits in my mind although they are so different. The Zombie Attack series is for teens and fans of Young Adult series like Hunger Games or Divergent. It’s something parents can feel comfortable letting their kids read without worrying about sex, gore, or bad language. It’s more playful in my opinion.

Undead L.A. 1 is almost the exact opposite. It’s an adult horror novel for zombie fans who want a fresh take on the apocalypse instead of your standard straight forward zompoc tale. It’s broken into six interconnecting tales with different narrators that show the diversity of this amazing city which allows Los Angeles itself to be the main character. The book is meant to work on several different levels. For fans of horror and gore there is plenty of blood and guts. There are also nods to crime fiction writers like Michael Connelly and Elmore Leonard, literary tropes and references embedded into the work, and tons of postmodern fodder if you know how to look for it. Critics loved the book but some fans had trouble with the way the narrative folds in on itself at points. The rest of the series is already plotted out. Fans are going to be shocked when they learn where it’s headed. They definitely won’t see it coming. I promise.

Finally The Rising Dead is an adult horror book that follows the traditional idea of what a zombie outbreak novel should look like – taking readers from the initial outbreak into a group of oddball survivors with vastly different personalities and world views then showing how they fight to survive. It’s set in Las Vegas and has a much more cinematic feel to it. A lot of people say it reminds them of the movie I wrote HVZ. I’d say it is much truer to the original idea that inspired that movie before it was changed countless times and that it is a wholly original idea and storyline unto itself.

HMS: What does the future of the writing world hold for Mr. Sagliani? What spoilers are you able to give us about your next project?

DS: Right now I’m working on a supernatural thriller involving ghosts, psychics, witches, and magic. It’s an idea I started working on over a decade ago but never really knew how to develop. I feel like after months of wrangling with the plot I am finally starting to understand how to bring what I see in my mind to life on the page. I just wish there were more hours in the day to write. I feel like I never get enough time. I have so many ideas I want to get down in writing.

I’m also plugging away on Undead L.A. 2 and 3 which are easier to pick up in between work and life because they are written in short story form.

HMS: And now, sir, the day has come. The dead are at your door. The item directly to your left is your only weapon against the zombies coming for you. What is it?!

DS: A spring loaded SWAT knife is to my left and my nunchucks and throwing stars are to the right. I won’t tell you where the sawed off shotgun is but it won’t be hard to reach. I grew up playing with weapons and am very comfortable with them. I don’t plan on running. I plan on clearing out my area, establishing my kingdom, then hunting down the rest and neutralizing them.

HMS: Perfect, now if you give the rest of us survivors your address, we will meet you at the start of the apocalypse for your immediate assistance, hehehe. Thanks Devan, again, for your time and best of luck with your latest release and all your future endeavors!

DS: Thank you Stevie!

HMS: Make sure you check out Devan’s new book that launches today by heading over to Amazon and picking up a copy of Zombie Attack Army of The Dead, then head out into the wild world wide web and check out these Devan Sagliani related links!

Amazon Authors Page
Goodreads Authors Page
ZA Facebook Page
Dark Dreams Column on The Escapist Magazine
Permuted Press Authors Page

Stevie Kopas, Managing Editor HMS

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