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By: Special Guest Interviewer Video Game Rack Fighter
Zombie movie buffs rejoice because today’s guest is none other than Devan Sagliani, author of the original screenplay for the movie HVZ: Humans Versus Zombies, a satirical thriller flick based on the live action role playing game of the same name. As if that weren’t enough, he also penned the Zombie Attack! series, The Undead L.A. series, The Rising Dead, A Thirst for Fire, and most recently Saint Death. Don’t forget to check out Escapist Magazine for his bimonthly horror column, Dark Dreams.
NOTE: BOLD=VGRF; ITALICS=Devan
Thanks for taking my call, Devan. Bookshelf Q. Battler would have called but he’s too busy arguing with his ex-girlfriend, which leads me to my first question:
Q. Is it possible for a group of zombie apocalypse survivors to make it when they’re at each others’ throats? I think we’ll work it out so don’t worry about us, but generally speaking, if you had to give a pep talk to a bunch of survivors to convince them to drop their petty differences and focus on staying alive, what would you say?
A. I’m more of a loner than a leader these days, but if it the role were forced on me I’d probably remind them that no one makes it in this world on their own, that we all work better as a team, and that if we stick together we can not only survive this nightmare but also create a better future for all of us in the process.
Q. You wrote a screenplay for a zombie movie. What was that experience like? Can you describe it for BQB’s 3.5 readers?
A. The movie was based off of the live action role playing game Humans Vs. Zombies, or HVZ. I’d had an idea for a zombie movie in mind when I got the call from a director I’d worked with before and the timing was just right. There is a downside to working in Hollywood, which is ultimately the lack of creative control you get as a writer. That’s why I decided to make the jump to writing novels, so I could make all the decisions and know they wouldn’t get changed at the last minute without my knowledge or consent. After all, when your name is on something you want to be able to be proud of how it turned out and not feel like anything was compromised.
Q. In Undead L.A., one might argue that the City of Los Angeles is almost a character itself. From a pilot hijacking a plane from LAX in order to flee the insanity to a detective on the trail of a case that begins in West Hollywood, you provide a great deal of detail about the city. How were you able to make L.A. leap off the page?
A. I think the best answer is simply that I love this city with all of my heart. I was born and raised here in Los Angeles and at this point I don’t want to live anywhere else. Los Angeles will always be my home. I feel like sometimes the city gets a bad rap from all the people who come here looking to create a better life for themselves in the entertainment industry or make it in Hollywood. I wanted to show off just how amazing and diverse this sprawling metropolis really is. I think too that people who have visited L.A. or lived here for a while before returning to where they are from can enjoy reading about the characters moving through the same streets they remember, seeing all the landmarks, and eating at places they ate at while they were here. I know I always enjoy that when I read Michael Connelly’s books.
Q. In Book Two of the Zombie Attack! series, your protagonist, Xander, is put in charge of a survivor colony. With the help of his wife, Felicity Jane, the couple deals with reconstruction efforts, constant zombie attacks, and a bloodthirsty group of cannibals. That last part brings a question to my mind – who’s more dangerous in a zombie apocalypse? Zombies, or the humans who take advantage of the chaos that zombies create?
A. In the Zombie Attack series the zombies themselves mostly just move the action along as Xander does his best to deal with a host of perilous issues that now exist in the post Z-Day world. Zombies are absolutely dangerous, no question about it, but many humans are far worse than the biters because of the deliberate evil they act on in the absence of established law and order. I feel confident that this is how things would devolve in the event of any major crisis or apocalypse. One group of people would work to uphold the common good while the rest would fight over what they could get and set up their own territories like warlords. Let’s just hope we never have to find out!
Q. At least 2 of BQB’s 3.5 readers are wannabe writers. What advice do you have for someone getting started in the writing game?
A. First I’d recommend that they read ON WRITING by Stephen King. That book changed my life and got me writing novels. Then I’d suggest that they give themselves time to grow and don’t be impatient to get stuff out there before it is ready. Take your time to learn your craft and develop your own voice. Last but not least I would tell them not to sign any publishing deals until they know exactly what they are getting themselves into. These days there are a lot of small press publishers who will promise the sun, the moon, and the stars to get new talent but can’t offer much more than the writer could do on their own with a Facebook and Twitter account.
Q. Thanks for your help, Devan. Before I hang up, do you have any last words of wisdom to help my friends and I survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
A. Make sure you can lock down one area for you and your loved ones, that it is secure from the living and the dead, and then stock it up with as much clean water as you can get your hands on. That’s going to be a huge issue during the zombie apocalypse. Then go for the canned goods next and nonperishables. Then it’s all about medicine, fuel, and weapons after that. Aim for the head and don’t stop until they are dead! Good luck!