Published June 15, 2017

Welcome back to a new blog series from the Virginia Center for the Book, in which we highlight the work of one Virginia writer each week. This week’s spotlight is on Alan Orloff, also known by his pseudonym Zak Allen, author of First Time Killer and Running from the Past. Orloff also has written a number of short stories and a recipe for “killer tofu” in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. He was also recently anthologized in the recent mystery collection, 50 Shades of Cabernet.

How did you get your start as a writer?

I was late to the game. As a kid, and then as a teen, and then as a young adult, and then as a slightly-older adult… well, I never had the desire to write fiction. Finally (finally!), I figured it was now or never. That was about twelve years ago, and I never looked back. I took workshops, wrote a lot, joined a critique group, kept writing and improving my craft, and now I can call myself a writer!

Describe your work in three sentences or less.

Most of my published work to date has been in the crime fiction arena, but I’ve been working on some YA novels, too. Both are rewarding!

How does living in Virginia influence your writing?

The vast majority of my novels and stories take place in the Commonwealth! There’s such a variety of possible settings within the state, and I enjoy taking a drive through the countryside (or to the beach, or to the mountains) to conduct some research (a great excuse, huh?). My latest novel, Running from the Past, opens in Sandbridge, then transitions to the Charlottesville area before finishing up near Leesburg. Also, while many of the DC-area writers write about politics and the inner workings of our Nation’s Capital, I prefer to write about the nefarious goings-on in the Northern VA suburbs. There’s a lot of drama behind the closed doors in suburbia!

What’s your favorite part of your most recent book?

As I wrote the book, it was fun to revisit places where my family had gone on vacation (Sandbridge and Charlottesville)—it brought back a lot of good memories. In one scene, my main character jogs the same streets I did!

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing a YA thriller, and I have stories in a couple of upcoming anthologies. And then it’s on to the next novel…

To learn more about Alan Orloff, visit his website at

Through this series, we hope to showcase the depth and breadth of our state-wide literary community while also encouraging readers in the Commonwealth and elsewhere to challenge themselves to read more books by Virginia writers. If you have an author you’d like to suggest for this series, please email with details. Our focus is on writers with books that have been published in the past two years (self-published is welcome as long as the writer’s most recent book is held in at least one public library in the state).

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