Name: Devan Sagliani
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in and around the Los Angeles area. I guess you could say I’m a Southern California type of person through and through, right down to my love of the Dodgers.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I graduated UCLA and got into film production for a while, then turned to writing full time. I’m the author of the Zombie Attack series, The Rising Dead, A Thirst For Fire, and the Undead L.A. series. I also wrote the original screenplay for the movie HVZ: Humans Versus Zombies and several other screenplays. I’ve been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Million Writers Award. My first book won Best Zombie/Horror E-book on Goodreads. I’m an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association. I write a bimonthly horror column for The Escapist at present and am working on new books.
I love all things beach related. If it were up to me I’d spend all day playing with my dog and surfing, and all night reading, watching movies and writing.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m currently working on Undead L.A. 2. I’m also promoting the charity I’m involved with, At Hell’s Gates, a horror anthology Shana Festa and I cofounded that helps veterans and their families. All of the proceeds go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. We are working on releasing our third volume in June. The books can be picked up on Amazon or Smashwords. You can learn more and get involved by visiting http://athellsgates.com.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was a kid I dreamed of writing for a living. Other kids wanted to be policemen and firemen and architects but I wanted to write novels. I wrote my first horror short story when I was in fifth grade. As I got older I began to explore different styles of writing. I used to carry a pad and a pen with me everywhere and spend hours writing and rewriting ideas, poems, and short stories. I never let the dream go that one day I would be able to do it for a living. I used to spend hours at home going over something I’d written and not notice the time had passed. Eventually I found my own voice and my writing got better.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I like to make the distinction and say that writers are born not made. It’s something you know in your soul, an obsession with words and getting things right that is unceasing. I was an advanced reader at an early age which fueled my desire for storytelling. I naturally felt like a writer since I spent so much time reading and writing. What I yearned to be was an author, a published and paid writer. I struggled for a long time after college writing a semi-autobiographical depiction of the underbelly of Los Angeles, a dark and cathartic process that locked me into an endless cycle of rewrites. I was unable to get the book published and turned to writing short fiction and publishing it online at various literary sites. It was during those years that I officially became a writer, honing my skills by working on my craft and treating it like a job.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a fictionalized version of my own life. I’d been living different adventures with the intention of using my experiences to create an authentic work of fiction. It wasn’t until I’d written and rewritten it several times, and ultimately decided not to publish it, that I realized it was as much writing practice as it was a form of therapy. Every now and then I take it out to rewrite it again but change my mind. For now it’s best to leave it as a time capsule from a difficult period of my life.
My first book I ever published was Zombie Attack, Rise of the Horde. I’d already written Humans Versus Zombies and so I was well immersed in the world of zombies, although I refused to watch the Walking Dead until I was done with my books. I didn’t want anything influencing me or seeping into my work. I was a big fan of young adult fiction, particularly the Harry Potter series, and noticed there wasn’t much about zombies in that genre. So I decided to write a young adult fiction novel. I tapped into my inner sixteen-year-old and came up with Zombie Attack, a wild ride through a post-apocalyptic Southern California where sixteen-year-old Xander Macnamara has to fight his way from one fallen air force base to another in search of his older brother. Along the way he encounters outlaw biker gangs, white supremacist militia, doomsday cults, cannibals, rock stars, and a shaman. He falls in love with a child celebrity turned reality television show catastrophe, rescues a comic book geek, and together they take on an endless and unrelenting series of flesh hungry monsters from the pits of hell. The story is about family, friendship, and what it means to be human in a world gone mad.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
People tend to tell me I’m very visual. I think that’s a carryover from writing scripts. I like to lay down plot first, develop my characters, then go back through the story again and add touches of poetry and philosophy and magic where I can without distracting the reader or derailing the story line.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Those can be tricky. With Zombie Attack I wanted to be as clear and deliberate as possible so readers would know exactly what they were signing up for. It doesn’t get more direct than Zombie Attack. Usually it’s just a process of writing down one idea after another until something feels right because it just fits and gives the story the right mood or tone. It’s either that or be generic and pick one from popular song lyrics.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
All of them. Is that too broad of an answer? I’ve gone through phases over the years, from Kurt Vonnegut to Charles Bukoswki to Don DeLillo to Thomas Pynchon to Tom Robbins to Brett Easton Ellis to Chuck Palahniuk to Salman Rushdie. I think all works of fiction that touch and move you end up influencing your life. That’s the power of great literature. I know something is amazing when it makes me change how I view the world around me and makes me jealous in a positive way. Two books that did that for me were Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie and Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. That book is amazing!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading the third book in the Breadwinner Trilogy by Stevie Kopias. She’s great! I’m fortune to read it before it releases. I also just finished reading a bunch of H.P. Lovecraft for a series I was writing on him for my Dark Dreams column I write for The Escapist. Before that I read IT by Stephen King and Mr. Mercedes by him as well. Come to think of it I’ve been reading a whole lot of Stephen King in the last few years. Not only is he a great writer but there is so much writers can learn from him. I’d be happy for a tenth of his success.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Absolutely! I’m glad you asked. I like Shana Festa, Tim Long, Stephen Kozeniewski, Stevie Kopias, Paul Mannering, Shawn P. Durnin, Joe McKinney, Tim Marquitz, Charles Phipps, Sharon Stevenson, and S.G. Lee all write zompoc or horror and have contributed work to At Hell’s Gates, which makes them amazing as far as I am concerned. They are some great emerging writers in the genre. I also enjoy the work of Jonathan Maberry, who isn’t really new but is just now starting to get more name brand recognition.
Outside of horror I read and loved Forest of Fortune by Jim Ruland last year. It was pretty unforgettable. That book got under my skin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan was amazing as well. I bought copies for friends when I finished. That’s a sign of a great book.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I co-founded At Hell’s Gates with Shana Festa. It’s a horror anthology series we put together that donates all its proceeds to help wounded soldiers and their families through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. I’ve been spending my time helping to promote our first two releases and put together the next one. It’s a wonderful project. Everyone working on it is donating their time and energy for free to help the cause, from authors to editors to formatters and beta readers. I’m very proud of all the people involved. To learn more about it or to donate to the cause you can visit http://www.athellsgates.com.
I’m also wrapping up my Undead L.A. series. I want to say my final words on zombies for the moment and try some new scary things, like serial killers.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t usually feel like I want to go back and change things in my work. If anything I might have split up Zombie Attack 2 into 2 and 3, since it is so long.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m a big fan of Salman Rushdie. His grasp of language is extraordinary. You can feel his obsession with it in every line. The man is simply a genius. I’m also fond of Don DeLillo.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not at present but I have taken trips I’ve been on and found ways to work them into my writing which is nice. A vacation trip to San Diego ended up in The Rising Dead. My trips to Sayulita Mexico played a big part in one of my stories in Undead L.A. 1 as well.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I used to design all my own covers since I originally self-published but once I signed on with a publisher they redid them. I didn’t get a great deal of say in it at that point. For Undead L.A. 1 Shawn King took my original design and just made it awesome. He was amazing to work with.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Sitting in the chair and writing it. All writers face self-doubt. There were points when I wondered if I was wasting my time writing a kids book about zombies from a teenagers perspective. I had to talk myself into it at times but I felt there was something great happening with the writing. The book eventually became an Amazon bestseller reaching #132 on overall Kindle so that intuition and dedication paid off.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Believe in yourself. I know rejection can be frustrating and disappointing but it can also be a gift in disguise. I’m grateful that I was forced to work harder on my writing and that I waited to put something out until it was ready. Be patient. Learn your craft. Don’t just jump on trends because you think you’ll sell more. Write what you love and readers will find you. Also it’s not a bad idea to beef up your social media skills. People tell me all the time that it’s not possible to sell books using Twitter and I laugh. Without Twitter I wouldn’t have made it anywhere. Last but not least be sure to ask lots of questions and have people look over the contracts before you sign a publishing deal. There is a lot of excitement going in but things can quickly change and not everyone keeps their word.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just thank you.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I used to love the Scholastic book fairs as a kid so I had lots to choose from, which makes it all that much harder to answer. I read all the Bernstein Bears and Clifford the Big Red Dog stuff along with anything I could get my hands on. I remember reading Gulliver’s Travels several times at a young age.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I love inappropriate humor, and poop jokes. I hate to see people or animals being treated badly or suffering. As a sensitive person and an artist I’ve always been in touch with my emotions so you never know what might set me off.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’ve always wanted to meet Buddha, but only if I could talk to him and ask him lots of questions. It wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. It would be too big of a tease.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
At the risk of sounding contrary and missing the point, I don’t plan on having one. When I die my wish is to be cremated and have the ashes spread into the Pacific Ocean. I doesn’t really matter what people say then but I hope they remember something funny I said or did or some act of kindness.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love to go surfing but I’ve had trouble making it into the break as much since I started writing full time. I still love spending time at the beach. It’s just a different way of life for beach folk. I don’t feel as happy if I don’t have sand between my toes and the smell of the ocean air in my nostrils.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a fiend for entertainment. I love stories. It’d be easier to tell you what I’m not watching. In the last few years I’ve watched everything from Dexter and Breaking Bad to Orange is the New Black and Sons of Anarchy and Witches of East End and Mad Men and House of Cards and Game of Thrones. And yes, I’ve finally caught up on The Walking Dead. Right now I’m watching the Following, Castle, Better Call Saul, and the Blacklist. I’m waiting patiently for the return of Hannibal and sitting through my wife’s binge watching of Orphan Black.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love Mexican food. You don’t understand how important it is until you go to Europe and don’t have it for a while. In Los Angeles we eat Mexican food on an almost daily basis. In fact I had carne asade last night for dinner while watching the Dodgers beat up the Giants. It doesn’t get more Los Angeles than that!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I have worked so many jobs I could probably write a book about my employment history alone. My last work was in film production which I left to take up marketing, publicity and sales. I’d probably just go back to that if I couldn’t get paid to write.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do. My website is http://devansagliani.com. You can also visit me on Twitter http://twitter.com/devansagliani and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ZombieAttackRiseOfTheHorde.