Sunday, November 10, 2013

Zombified Interview with author Devan Sagliani

Devan Sagliani is the agonizingly awesome author behind three zombilicious series. His newest book, Undead L.A. 1, is terrifying the living and undead alike. Devon took time away from spreading the zombie virus to let us tear into his brain...

Ang: When were you first bitten by the zombie affliction? Can you take us back to how the infection began? What’s the most difficult part about sharing this ghoulish love as an indie?
Devan: I've always been into horror and zombies but what sent me over the edge was zombie ants. I saw a clip of ants infected with a fungus that turns them into unwilling zombies online and it struck a nerve in me. The next thing I knew I had the beginnings of the storyline to the movie Humans Versus Zombies in my head. It was over a year later that I finished the first draft. It came out last year on Chiller TV and is available on DVD and Netflix now.
After the movie I switched gears and began working on Zombie Attack, a young adult novel set in Southern California after the zombie apocalypse. Then I added in my next book The Rising Dead, an adult horror novel set in Las Vegas. I published them myself on Amazon, got a lot of attention, and picked up a publishing deal from Permuted Press. Zombie Attack is out now in paperback, audiobook, and all digital formats. The Rising Dead will be available in paperback in November. I also just put out my own new series called Undead L.A. 1. The first book has been up over a month and doing well. Fans seem to be enjoying it, which is what it's all about.
Ang: If you had to dumb down the plot of your series so a zombie could understand, how would you explain it?

Devan: Zombie Attack = Humans fighting humans for survival while we close in for the tasty kill! We would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids!
The Rising Dead = What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless it's the zombie apocalypse. Gives a whole new meaning to the term All You Can Eat Buffet on the Las Vegas Strip.
Undead L.A. 1 = Eat the rich! And the celebrities! And the surfers! And the cops! In fact, eat anything that moves! The streets will stay blood red because it never rains in Southern California.
Ang: Describe the lucky survivors who engage with the festering horde of the dead.
Devan: In Zombie Attack it's a band of teenagers we're following around so it's through perspective that we experience the end of the world. Adults cause all sorts of trouble, fighting over resources and power. The world is an outlaw paradise in a constant struggle with the remaining institutional forces, law and order in the form of the remnants of the United States military.
In The Rising Dead it's an unlikely band of survivors who take us on a ride through the end of days. A web celebrity, a paranoid veteran who has been tortured by Special Forces and turned into an agent, a jock who finds religion via oxycotin, his pal a former baseball pitching star whose lost his edge and become a reluctant hero, a comic book loving zombie obsessed computer geek, and a spoiled princess used to shopping and getting her nails done. With so many different personalities at work, there is a lot of beautiful tension and just enough internal tension to keep things interesting.
In Undead L.A. 1 there are six stories being told. The book blurb explains them best.

When it comes to safely navigating 747's Edgar Reynolds is a consummate professional. It's his personal life that's in shambles after a string of affairs he couldn't be bothered to hide. None of that matters to him the morning he wakes up to discover he's smack dead in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Now what's important is that he survives long enough to hijack a plane from LAX and flee the end of the world.

Detective Gary Wendell isn't having the best day. A murder case in West Hollywood takes him from the Hollywood Hills to the Twin Towers in downtown L.A. The hunt for his killer stirs fresh life into Gary's secret obsession. If it's the end of the world, Gary’s going to exact his own justice on the monster who got away, the one who told him that murder isn't art if NO ONE IS WATCHING.

When Donny's dad took off he left him and his mom in a run down apartment in Hollywood scrambling to make ends meet. Still he managed to form a begrudging bond with his mom's new boyfriend, who took him under his wing. Just when things were starting to look up for them as a family, a virus hit L.A. taking away any last shred of hope or safety they had. Soon it's up to Donny, and his pack of teenage friends, to defend their gated apartment complex. Working together, they do their part to protect and provide for the remaining survivors at CAMP ZOMBIE.

Being invited to the Emmys as the date of her favorite television actor is a dream Kathleen could never imagine. She also never expected to return to the city of her college years one last time before dying of terminal cancer. When the doors burst open in the middle of the ceremony and infected homeless people begin eating her favorite celebrities, everything changes. Now she's caught between spending her final moments in mind-numbing terror fleeing for her life, or letting the filthy undead strip the last good memories away in TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A.

Pilar Garcia grew up working in her father's fish taco truck in Boyle Heights, but dreamed of becoming a world-class chef one day. After overcoming the cultural stereotypes and working her way through Culinary Arts school she created a food truck empire so successful that 3 of her best trucks snatch a spot at the coveted Los Angeles City Fall Street Food Fair in downtown. Unfortunately, that's the same day the virus is released into Skid Row, mere blocks away in LA CUCARACHA.

Guillermo and his half brother Caesar have always been survivors. Growing up in the gang neighborhoods of Venice Beach they've learned to take care of each other first and ask questions later. Yermo is starting to get a reputation as a serious surfer by the local guys he reveres, including the new legend of Dogtown and former professional surfer, Brody. He's not about to let like the end of the world keep him out of the water or off his streets. Together they form a group capable of not only dealing with the zombie menace but also fighting off the new arrivals intent on taking over Venice Beach – a vicious new supergang: One Blood. They're not heroes though, they're just the DOGTOWN LOCALS UNION
Ang: What was the most important aspect when writing your non-zombie characters? Realism (losers, assholes, and cowards) or fantasy (Rambo or the guy/gal who has a Rambo hiding inside them)?
Devan: I like to use a colorful mix of characters with fully fleshed out back stories and unique quirks, but I also like to make sure they possess qualities and habits that allow the reader to identify with them. There are no Rambo characters in my stories, just survivors, warriors, dreamers, cult leaders, bikers, gang members, outlaws, celebrities, school teachers, detectives, surfers, and everyday heroes doing their best to live another day.
Ang: Does your series begin just as the zombies start building their paradise or have zombies already gotten things rocking and rotting?
Devan: Zombie Attack begins by explaining that Z Day happened a few months back. The humans are still reeling from the blow, trying to regain some form of control and survive.
In The Rising Dead the virus hits while we watch. We get to see the man who created it and how it got out. We get to see it spread. We even get hint of why it might have happened. We are living the nightmare right along with the main characters.
My new novel Undead L.A. 1 explores the prelude to the virus in a major city, shows us the release of the first wave, and explores the final days in the sprawling metropolis for six full weeks afterward. It's told through the eyes of six different Angelinos, each bringing a unique perspective to the event, each adding new details that explain why it might have happened or what is coming next.
Zombie Attack is a young adult novel geared towards teens and up. It deals with young adult themes like coming of age, learning to cope with loss and death, and interdependence. The Rising Dead has a much more cinematic quality to it, like we're watching a movie but able to hear what each character is thinking. With my new book, Undead L.A 1, I wanted to break away from the idea of a linear narrative and explore the roots of each character. In this way I would be able to give my readers a more satisfying experience, allowing them the chance to really get to know the characters and invest in them. So far I've been getting very positive responses.
Ang: Zombies are people too. They come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and smarts. What types of the walking dead inhabit your series?
Devan: Okay so the zombies in Zombie Attack come medium speed. They work together with a hive mind like an insect intelligence and use their sheer numbers to knock over buildings. Once they get the scent of their kill they don't stop. Infection takes a while after being bitten but is certain.
In The Rising Dead the zombies are fairly fast but unable to work together. Infection comes on in a few minutes to a few hours after being bitten, depending on the immune system of the infected individual and the degree of the exposure. Bites victims generally turn in under an hour but being directly exposed to the engineered virus will cause near instantaneous transformation. Once infected the individual can feel the virus taking over but is unable to do anything about it. They watch horrified as their hunger drives them to attack others. Eventually the infection kills the part of them that we would call their ego or consciousness and they are effectively walking corpses capable of sustaining themselves only by consuming people.
In Undead L.A. 1 the virus is believed to be spread by a two stage system. First the general population is infected with a base virus that is benign and then a catalyst is introduced that kills and transforms them instantly into the killing machines. Once a zombie bites a healthy adult the virus is spread. There is no delay. Zombies do not work together in this nightmarish version of Los Angeles. They are all simply drawn to eat living things. When they are deprived they go into a sort of slow down mode but are capable of springing back to life to feed and moving with shocking speed. They can also be kept in a semi pacified state by controlling their feeding cycle, but only a handful of people have figured this out  and it doesn't always work. Those that try to keep zombies as pets in this world end up being infected and dying eventually when they let their guard down and get too familiar.
Ang: Will your infection spread to more books and series? How many blood and guts offerings do you predict in your future? How soon can our zombie and human readers expect to see your next festering contribution?
Devan: I'm happy to say that all my books are part of series. I am working on the sequel to Zombie Attack right now for Permuted Press, then I will be going back to Undead L.A. 1 and when I finish with that I will tear into the sequel to The Rising Dead. So it's full speed ahead zombie! Wish me luck.
Ang: What is your favorite way to kill a zombie? Shoot ‘em, hack ‘em, poke ‘em, burn ‘em, or something even more fiendish? ***Zombie readers please turn away to avoid having your putrefied feelings eviscerated.
Devan: Decapitation is definitely my preferred method of dispatching zombie. It's sustainable, quiet, and effective. I'm also a big fan of driving jagged metal pipes directly into their faces and detaching the brain stem. If I was at the prison on the last season of The Walking Dead I would have spent all day at the fence luring zoms to me then turning out the lights. I'd be happier a kid with a fresh roll of bubble wrap.
Ang: Do you have a favorite cinematic zombie? Example: My co-blogger Zombie Earl is quite fond of Zombie Roger from the original Dawn of the Dead.
Devan: Absolutely. My favorite is zombie Jenna Jameson from Zombie Stripper! She reads Nietzsche in between dance sets then becomes the hottest zombie of all time. I even played with the idea of adding a character like hers in The Rising Dead, a stripper named Honey, but in the end it just felt too forced so I let it go.
Ang: Who is your favorite character from The Walking Dead (comics or TV show)?
Devan: My favorite character hands down is Daryl Dixon. Who doesn't want to be Daryl with the crossbow out there just kicking ass? He is awesome. I think I'm more like Glen though, who is also a great character. I relate to their sacrifice and loyalty. Glen is my day to day and Daryl is my dark side I am always trying to keep in check who just wants to go vigilante and get shit done.
Ang: Finally, how prepared are you for the zombie apocalypse that we all know is just around the corner?
Devan: I am prepared to stand and fight. You won't find me running or cowering when the dead rise up. I am a fighter, a survivor. Just like my characters say in Dogtown Locals Union in Undead L.A. 1. I've been fighting my whole life, surviving my whole life.
Actually I think the biggest challenges will be the aftermath of our technology to deal with. What if the people who knew how to shut down a nuclear power plant are all dead? What do we do then? If you think about all the dangerous things in the world that are man made or the secrets we're not supposed to know about you start to realize how a catastrophic event could be just the start of something much worse, with survivors unwittingly opening a Pandora's box with every new discovery. Now that sounds like the synopsis to a new book!
Chew into Devan’s books at Amazon.
Chase down Devan at Facebook and Twitter.
Devan Sagliani was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from UCLA. He is the author of the Zombie Attack! series, The Rising Dead, A Thirst For Fire, and the UNDEAD L.A. series. Devan also wrote the original screenplay for the movie HVZ: Humans VersusZombies.

Devan's fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Million Writers Award. In 2012 his debut novel Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde won Best Zombie/Horror E-book on Goodreads. He is also an active member of the Horror Writer's Association. He currently lives in Venice Beach, California with his wife.

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