Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your YA psychological horror novel, The Altered, through Solstice Books! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Maria DeVivo: Thank you so much! So, the general premise of The Altered is a viral outbreak happens. People are infected with the virus and, well, you know the deal… however, the twist here is that a cure is found, and those who were infected lunatics who killed other people are turned back to normal. Now, they have to be re-trained and figure out where their place is in a society that wants them punished. It’s told through the eyes of the 17-year-old main character, and I kinda describe it as “The Outsiders meets The Walking Dead.”
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in crafting a horror story that is geared towards a YA audience, and what have been some of your creative influences?
MDV: Well, I’m a middle school teacher, so I guess “teenager” is the language I speak and the life I live. In my head, I’m still 18, so, naturally, I gravitate to that age-range. As far as horror goes – it’s my life. Everything is pretty much horror-centric on a daily for me. I grew up on it. The first horror movie I saw was Creepshow when I was like 4, and I started reading King at 9. I’ve always been the gothy/spooky kid, so I draw a lot from my actual life.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Griffin’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MDV: Griffin’s story is important on many different levels.
1st off, it’s in his POV, and he gets changed, so walking in his “infected shoes” is a different spin on the whole ZA Narrative.
2nd is the spin. The cure. It adds a different element to the regular zombie fare. It’ll definitely give readers something they might not be used to reading about.
3rd is the “what happens next” element. I think with any ZA story, there is a certain degree of social commentary; however, I take it one step further in The Altered, because the reader has experienced the infection and alteration through Griffin’s eyes, and in a way you kinda feel bad for him. You know of the horrors he’s committed, but you root for him to find his way back into the world. The world now, our world, is race-based, gender-based, religion-based, class-based, political-based– there are so many categories that divide people up. I tear that all apart in this novel. The world has now become The Humans v. The Altered. Period. The End.
BD: What makes Solstice Books the perfect home for The Altered?
MDV: Solstice is a great home for The Altered, because they have such a wide variety of genres that The Altered really sticks out among the stable, so, hopefully, it will help encourage other horror authors to get on board. They have a pretty expansive fantasy division, but I’m hoping mine can help push them along in the horror community.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
MDV: I think every author dreams of seeing their work adapted for screen! So far, the feedback I’ve gotten is that The Altered would make a great Netflix show. And yes, I would absolutely be on board if given that chance. Now, of course, I’m a little biased, but yeah… why not? Honestly, though, I’m just glad people are reading it and enjoying it. It’s so cool to have all your brain vomit come together into a beautiful masterpiece. I already have the rest of The Altered trilogy completed (Yes, there’s more!), and I’ll be submitting again to Solstice pretty soon!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MDV: I have another trilogy that I’ve completed, but not sure what I want to do with it. It’s super dark and borderline sacrilegious, so I’m in the “sending out my feelers” phase. Like, honestly, I’m not sure if it will ever see the light of day because of the drastic implications of its very existence. Come June of this year, I’ll be starting a new novel. It’s right now in the development stage in my head. I’m starting to hear bits and pieces of character conversations in the shower, and jotting things down in those moments between wake and sleep. All I can say is WITCHES. And that makes me very giddy!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Altered and your other work?