Meet the Author: Maria DeVivo
Hello Bibliophiles, and welcome back to my segment Meet the Author!
It’s been some time since my last interview, but I’m happy to have a very special guest today in Maria DeVivo, dark fantasy, horror, and YA author.
We met through our mutual publisher Solstice Publishing, and if you’ve been following my blog then you may have seen my review of Maria’s book The Altered, which I absolutely loved!
I’ve been dying to get to know Maria better, and I was overjoyed when she agreed to do an interview. Thanks so much, Maria, and welcome to the fold! Let’s get this interview started!
Maria DeVivo writes horror and dark fantasy for both a YA and adult audience. Each of her series has been Amazon best-sellers and have won multiple awards since 2012. When not writing, she teaches Language Arts and Journalism to middle school students in Florida. A lover of all things dark and demented, the worlds she creates are fantastical and immersive. Get swept away in the lands of elves, zombies, angels, demons, and witches (but not all in the same place). Maria takes great pleasure in warping the comfort factor in her readers’ minds – just when you think you’ve reached a safe space in her stories, she snaps you back into her twisted reality.
Social Media Links
Hi Maria, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
You’re a lab assistant for a government facility. You discover that they have been trying to create a portal to another dimension. What do you do?
Maria: Because I’m the lab assistant, I’ve been paying close attention to the lead researcher’s comings and goings. I’ve memorized the pattern of his passcode on the keypads (he has full access to all sectors of the facility), so getting in after hours isn’t problem. Once I’m in, I waste no time in firing up the machine, punching in the coordinates and leaving this realm for some other-worldly adventures!
Jonny: How very resourceful of you! Got any room for a sidekick? I’d love some other-worldly adventures. Hopefully it’s something dark and mysterious like the Upside Down!
Maria and the Writing Process
I always find it interesting how authors lead multiple lives. What is your dayjob? Do you enjoy it?
Maria: I am a teacher by day. I teach English to 7th graders and Journalism to a mix of 7th and 8th graders. I’ve been doing it since 2000, and the flexibility of the job allows me the time to do my writing. I love teaching. There’s something so awesome about sharing knowledge with others. And the middle school level is extremely crazy! But I’m crazy too, so we’re a good fit together. 😊
Jonny: Wow, that’s amazing! I love that you found something that you love that also works with your writing. That’s the dream right there. I couldn’t agree more on sharing knowledge. There’s always something to share and receive in return, and I bet your students constantly surprise you.
How long have you been writing?
Maria: I’ve always been a writer. Since I could string words together and pick up a crayon, I’ve always had something creative to say/put down on paper. It wasn’t until 2010 that I committed myself to being serious about the business. The rest, for me, is history.
Jonny: Ditto! Since childhood I’ve always had this insane imagination that I had to act upon. I became serious about my writing back in 2012 when I moved to Kansas City, and life has never been the same. We have a lot in common!
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Maria: To date, I’ve written 12. Currently working on lucky 13. And I can’t pick a favorite – that would be wrong. Parents are supposed to love all their children equally, right!?
Jonny: Congratulations on that amazing feat, and I’m excited for your lucky number 13! Haha, fair point. It can be impossible to pick a favorite when you love each work in its own unique way.
What do you think makes a good story?
Maria: Characters. You can have the best plot, world built up, etc., but without strong, unique, identifiable, motivated characters you have nothing. Dialog is KEY. Strong dialog trumps exposition. So much can be done with dialog, and it truly grounds the audience in a sense of reality (whatever reality the author is creating) and makes them feel connected to the story.
Jonny: Couldn’t agree more! I’m an individual that loves a book with a strong plot focus, but I can’t deny that without great characters a reader can relate to, a plot doesn’t mean jack. Dialog is actually one of the funnest parts of writing for me. It can really move the story along, and a lot of the time characters’ personalities shine through dialog.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Maria: Always, and all of them. I am just so thankful someone would take the time and let my name come out their mouth (or their fingers, if we’re being literal). I always say – I would rather a fully detailed 1 star review over an “it was good” 5 star. You have to learn to take them with a grain of salt, but either way, reviews are learning tools on so many levels. I used to cringe and cry if I got less than a 4 on any of my books, but I’ve been in the game so long now that I can recognize I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Jonny: I love your positive take on book reviews. It can be so difficult to get a thorough review, but it’s definitely possible, especially if a new fan is moved from your writing. Now that’s the best feeling in the world!
Yep, no book is going to speak to everyone, and that’s okay. Some people can’t stand popular authors out there like King, Koontz, etc. I also like to take reviews with a grain of salt, but it did take me a while to develop a thicker skin.
Fun Facts About Maria
Pancakes or waffles?
Maria: Waffles. They are micro-suitcases for syrup and whipped cream.
Jonny: Haha, I love that! Micro suitcases is a genius way to describe them. Waffles always win out for me, but I love to rethink breakfast flavors in interesting ways. I just found some recipes for loaded potato and kimchi cheddar waffles, and I’m dying to try them out someday!
Are pineapples on pizza blasphemy or no?
Maria: Pineapple on NOTHING for me. I’m allergic. I’ll die. LOL. Is it blasphemy? Nah. If somebody wants to go and ruin a perfectly good slice like that, have at it.
Jonny: Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that! There’s something about the sharp acidity of pineapples that I don’t like with pizza (though I love them by themselves), but I’m adventurous enough to try pretty much any other variation of pizza at least once. BBQ chicken (with plenty of onions!) or spinach alfredo pizza are some faves of mine.
What are your favorite tv shows and movies?
Maria: I’m super into horror. The gorier, the better. I will watch anything that is jam-packed with ultraviolence. Foreign horror movies are much more brutal than American ones. TV shows don’t really satisfy that itch for me, so I love anything True Crime – serial killer stuff, cults, unsolved cases.
I do love me a good puzzle box show, a la “Lost” and “Severance,” and I’m definitely down with “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon.”
Jonny: Me too! I’ve watched hundreds of horror movies, and I can appreciate pretty much any kind. The most recent one that unsettled me was The Terrifier. The scary faces he make are so chilling! I’m a huge fan of true crime, though I tend to listen to podcasts with an occasional show.
Oh yes, those are all great recommendations. I loved all of those!
What kind of music touches your soul?
Maria: I’m eclectic. I love heavy metal, 90s gangsta rap, 80s pop, soundtrack scores, 70s classic rock… My Apple playlist goes from Electric Hellfire Club, to Billie Eilish, to Fleetwood Mac, to Tupac, to Slipknot, to music from the video game God of War. So weird, right?
Jonny: Stop stealing my answers! :p I too am eclectic. I tend to veer towards ambient music these days as a soundtrack to my life or something nostalgic from the 80’s or 90’s, but it’s always great to find a new band or artist that you didn’t originally think would work for you.
I actually looked up Electric Hellfire Club since I’ve never heard of them, and it’s pretty cool! Nice jams!
If you could take a vacation anywhere, where would you go?
Maria: Bora Bora. I promised my friend that if I ever get a movie deal, I will take her there.
Jonny: Gosh, the views of Bora Bora seem so majestic and life-changing. I can see why you’d like to go there. I wanna go too now! My upcoming interests in travel are Minneapolis, Salem (during October of course), and Canada. Any one of those I’d love to venture around and explore.
Maria and Her Works
Tell us about your new book.
Maria: My latest book is Witch of the Silver Locust. It’s the 3rd book in my Dawn of the Blood Witch saga. This one is different from any other book I’ve written because the action is in three different parts, so like there are three different shorter stories that make up the entirety of the novel. It’s also told from the male perspective, which is the first time I’ve gone back to that POV since I wrote The Altered series.
Jonny: Congrats on your new book! That’s an interesting setup. Once I’m done with your Altered series, I’ll have to give this series a try. All the best of luck with this one!
How did you come up with the title for this book?
Maria: So, The Dawn of the Blood Witch saga is my very ambitious series about witches who are trying to open up the portal to a hell-dimension and unleash the ancient ones back unto the world in what they refer to as New Eden.
The title started with book 1: Witch of the Black Circle. It’s based off the 1980s Satanic panic era and the actual satanic murder of a kid named Gary Lauers in Northport, Long Island in 1984. The group of kids who killed him called themselves The Knights of the Black Circle. The Ricky Kasso story always fascinated me because it happened close to where I lived growing up.
When it came time for me to write book 2, I had the idea of going way back to the Salem Witch Trials, and Witch of the Red Thorn just popped into my head. It kinda took off from there. Each book is titled with a color and an object that is related to the overall story (I’m a sucker for consistency and order). The cool thing about the series is that each book is technically a stand-alone. They can be read in any order, yet they are all connected in a shared universe. There are three books on the table now, book 4 is currently in the works, and the other 6 are bubbling in my head.
Jonny: Holy moly, this sounds like quite the dark magical adventure! I love that you’re building this interconnected universe, and it’s great that people don’t have to read in any specific order. I’m currently trying to build my own fictional universe of sorts, so extra brownie points for pulling it off with your sanity intact! It’s a ton of hard work!
What kind of research went into writing your book?
Maria: The research for this one was extra intense because Parts 2 and 3 take place in quasi-recent times. Part 1 is the ancient Viking-era, so I had to research some, but I had a lot of liberties with constructing that part of the world. But the backdrops for both 2 and 3 are very specific moments in time – very public events. And I really needed to have all my ducks in a row with locations and names and particular references.
Jonny: Oh wow, that sounds like a headache just waiting to happen! Well I’m glad you were able to figure it out and tie those different times together. I’ve never actually tried to do that before, but I can definitely relate to an abundance of research. I can obsess quite a bit when I want to get something right.
What other projects do you have in store for the world to see in the future? Anything you can share with us?
Maria: The world of witches will be my life for the next three years, but that doesn’t mean I’m not eyeing future projects! I have a graphic novel concept floating around, and I would love to return to the world I built in my zombie trilogy, The Altered.
Jonny: That’s wonderful! I love a witch theme (diehard Charmed fan here), and graphic novels are a favorite of mine too. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
All right, Maria. It looks like our time here is running out. Before we go, do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
Maria: My linktree is the way to go! It has everything there: linktr.ee/mariadevivo
Jonny: Awesome! Thanks again for sharing all of your great insights with us today, and I wish you all the luck on all of your future endeavors!
That’s a Wrap!
Alrighty bookworms, that wraps up my interview with Maria DeVivo. I had a great time chatting it up with her, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Maria and her work, she can be reached at the social media links provided at the beginning of this post.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
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I like DeVivo’s attitude toward book reviews. Witch of the Silver Locust sounds good!
Totally agree! Thanks, it comes out really soon actually. If it’s anything like her Altered series, I’m going to love that one too. 🙂