I had the pleasure of meeting DEVON ORATZ at Las Vegas’ TOYCON 2019. He is the author of the superior vampire novel VAMPIRES WILL NEVER HURT YOU as well as a comic book writer. Here’s my chat with this creative mad scientist of horror!
Q: DO YOU LIKE SELLING AT COMIC CONS?
A: I don’t really “like” selling at comic cons for the same reason I don’t really like selling anywhere. I’m a writer, not a salesman! That said, I love BEING at Comic Cons. Generally speaking, the only thing I’ll take over one is a tabletop gaming convention. Few things beat being able to clock out of work, walk a few hundred yards, and sit right down at a table for a game of D&D (or something even better).
Q: WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
A: Three part answer. Part one, music, specifically lyrics. What music and which lyrics vary but buy practically any one of my books or games and you’ll see the insides are generously wallpapered with the song lyrics that inspired them. Part two, virtually all media I consume, especially interactive media–the thing is, I’m a converter/translator. So I watch a movie and I think “this would make a really good tabletop game”, read a novel and I think “this could make a good movie”, I play a video game and think “this could make for a good short story collection”, I play a tabletop game and think “this would make a good video game”, I play a video game and think “this would make a good tabletop game” and so on. Transforming (amalgamations of) things I like into other formats and media is the essence of my creative process. And at this point I can create fiction, scripts, comic books, video games (yes, video games, though the ones I make look a lot like early 2000s JRPGs graphically) and of course tabletop games, so I can “convert” or “translate” to a lot of different media. Finally, part three is the heavy one: pain. I’ve had an enormous amount of pain in my life, both physical and emotional, going back to when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (a progressive, incurable, degenerative autoimmune disorder) at 13 years old, and actually even further. It’s not hard for me, having the perspective of being me, to trace the connection between various tragedies, traumas, and suffering to specific creative periods I’ve had. For instance, I think that dealing with my Crohn’s diagnose and accepting that my life going forward would be jam-packed with pills, injections, and anti-septic corridors was the germinal seed for Psionics. My novel, Vampires Will Never Hurt You, was triggered by…let’s just call it a catastrophically bad breakup of a long term relationship. My instinctive reaction to painful or traumatic events in my life seems to be to bleed fiction, games, and art at people.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR A BEGINNER?
A: Read every single day no matter what and vary what you read, if you want to write comic books make sure you spend PLENTY of time reading things that are NOT comic books, write 2,000 words every day you can manage it (most authors just say “write 2,000 words every day” period but personally I have not been able to hold myself to that standard), listen to conversations around you all the time to get a feel for how people actually talk, do not blow six figures on a fancy college creative writing class like I did. Find a cheaper way to get good at taking criticism, even criticism that is not delivered nicely. Stephen King (or someone else I respect) said something to the effect of “you have five crappy novels you need to write out of your system before you can write the first word of your first decent one”. I believe this is absolutely true. Finally, the age of gatekeepers is over. As nice as it was, you are probably never going to have the validation of a publisher telling you “this is good enough to publish” and giving you a much needed pat on the back. Instead you’re almost certainly going to have to figure out the intricacies of self-publishing. The good news about the gatekeepers being gone is that if you want to be a published author, the only person stopping you is you. I would just implore you to get those five bad novels out of your system before trying to publish anything. Act as your own gatekeeper. There’s too much crap on the market already.
Q: WHAT MEDIUM DO YOU LIKE BETTER? COMICS OR PROSE WRITING?
A: To consume? It’s a very tough call but I’d have to go with the printed word, ultimately. I don’t think I read comics quite properly. My eye is always eager to jump to the next set of words so I feel like my gaze doesn’t linger on the art long enough to really appreciate it. To write for? Is it too much of a cop out to say I like them both equally, but for very different reasons? I like writing prose because it’s a format constrained by absolutely nothing but my imagination. When I’m designing a video game I have to worry about programming, engine capabilities, graphical and audio resources, and when writing for comics I need to think about the artist’s interpretation of my words, and so on. But prose is a direct line from my imagination to a story existing, and that is hard to beat. However, I like writing comics equally because the moments when you finally see what your artist has been up to can be pure magic. Seeing my comic book finished and printed for the first time was one of the most joyous moments in my life.
Q: WHATS YOUR NEXT PROJECT?
Well, I work in a lot of media as mentioned above so I have kind of a lot of them. In terms of fiction, Hope In The Mists
is the indirect sequel to Vampires Will Never Hurt You
, though it would technically be more accurate to say that Vampires
is a prequel, since the first half of Hope
was written back in 2009 (the first incarnation of Vampires
was called Gilead
and was finished in 2005). I will begin writing the second half of Hope In The Mists
has sold x amount of copies. X is not a very high number, but I’m nowhere near it yet. On the comics end, I wouldn’t use the word “clamor” yet, but more and more desire is being expressed for a second issue of the Psionics
comic book. I’ve even started plotting it in my mind a few times. But unfortunately that will be contingent on finding an artist who’s willing to work-for-hire very cheap or willing to take partial payment in royalties on the back-end. I don’t have anywhere near the all-out budget to throw at the project I did a few years ago sadly. I’ll be making all kinds of free content for Dungeons & Dragons
Fifth Edition (and other RPGs, including some of the ones I designed) and releasing it for free on my Ko-Fi
. Finally, I am working on a completely bonkers new RPG called Weird Times
: it’s about cops and robbers and rock stars and promoters and space trucking and witches and time travel and cyborgs and an alternate timeline with Abraham Lichcoln and a second civil war and …another alternate timeline where mythical Grecian monsters are freed from Pandora’s box by a laser-guided bomb during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and did I mention even our world as we know it isn’t, because a secret psychic war is going on in the shadows? Weird Times
. ‘s gonna be nucking futs, yo. If you want to support any or all of these creative endeavors (and all the other ones I didn’t have space to mention) please consider throwing me some beer money on Ko-fi and following me on Twitter.