Dana Fredsti is a writer and an actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. She has appeared in Army of Darkness and her love of zombies has resulted in Plague Town, a zombie novel that was released earlier this month. We recently had a chance to ask her some questions, and learned more about the inspiration for the novel, working on Army of Darkness, and who she'd want on her zombie survival team.
Dana and Titan Books are also giving readers a chance to participate in the Plague Town Pandemic Tour, where the winner will receive a signed copy of the book and will have a character named after them in the next novel in the series:
"Plague Town Pandemic Tour: Stop 6 - A zombie virus of guest articles, Q&As and excerpts from new urban fantasy novel, Plague Town, will be infecting websites, blogs and social media accounts across the globe to offer readers the chance to win a signed copy of Plague Town and have a character named after them in the next novel in the series! Daily Dead is the 6th stop on the ‘Plague Town Pandemic Tour’.
Collect the 6th word hidden in CAPS at the end of this article along with a sequence of eight others on blogs and websites outlined in the link below; tweet the sentence you’ve discovered to @TitanBooks and @zhadi1 with #PlagueTown before April 23rd."
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. It's always nice to talk to a fellow zombie fanatic and I'm interested to hear more about your upcoming novel, Plague Town. Can you tell me what inspired you to write this particular story?
Dana Fredsti: Thank you for having me as your guest! I was originally asked by Lori Perkins w/Ravenous Romance if I wanted to write a trilogy of books. She pitched it as “Buffy, but with zombies. And different.” Being a Buffy fan and a zombieholic, I jumped on the chance. As far as the actual story, I started with a main character (Ashley), thought about what elements worked in Buffy and how they would translate to my book while being “different,” had a very basic idea of what I wanted the first book to be about, and started writing. I’m a total pantser (i.e. I write by the seat of my pants as opposed to outlining ‘cause outlining makes me hyperventilate) so I get my inspiration as I write. One random sentence can lead to a totally new subplot. Researching also gives me inspiration (even though research USED to make me hyperventilate so maybe there’s hope for outlining) in the same way; one little factoid can just set off a bunch of great ideas.
I understand that this book is a revised and updated version of Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter: A Plague on All Houses. Why did you decide to revisit the material as opposed to creating a brand new story with the same character?
Dana Fredsti: As I worked on the first book, Lori shopped it around to other publishers (it was coming out as an ebook with Ravenous Romance to start) and eventually sold it to Titan Books. So the decision to revise the old material was made by Steve Saffel (my Dark Editorial Overlord and I can’t say enough nice things about him) and Titan Books (I also can’t say enough nice things about the people I’ve dealt with at Titan so far) because they liked the concept and thought it was worth revisiting. I worked closely with Steve and we made some changes (picture my original manuscript dripping with bloody red edits) to further broaden the potential readership and just make it a better book overall. It’s been expanded, the heroine is older, there’s more zombie gore and action, and the pace is definitely a lot faster. Without editing, I tend to ramble on a bit. I know, I know, who would have thunk it? At any rate, I think we’ve ended up with a book that will appeal to to those who like kick-ass heroines and urban fantasies, as well as the die-hard zombiephiles. I like to read both genres so I figured there are others who swing both ways!
You mention that this book is a mix of Buffy and The Walking Dead. Do you have a target age range in mind for this book or do you think anyone of any age can pick it up and find something to like?
Dana Fredsti: I think it has a fairly broad appeal in terms of the age-range of readership, although it’s not geared to the YA audience due to some of the adult content. That being said, I would have loved it when I was in my teens. And yeah, I think it has a lot to offer in terms of versatility. Humor, horror, gore, romance, cats, guns, swords, and zombies!
How do zombies and the virus compare to other zombie films? Are they slow moving or do they run? How does one become a zombie in your universe?
Dana Fredsti: Well, I can’t say too much about the specific cause of the outbreak that takes place in Redwood Grove (the setting of Plague Town) because it would be a big fat spoiler, but one of the ways to catch the plague is the old standby of transmitted by bite/hot blood or other infectious bodily fluids. The zombies in Plague Town are your basic shamblers, classic Romero slow moving ghouls. Most of them, at any rate. Again, no spoilers allowed. I will say I have plans to do a wee bit more tinkering with my walking dead in Plague Nation. And so far, at least, it hasn’t been done in any other zombie book. That being said, they keep coming out faster than I can read them so by the time I finish Plague Town (which better be soon or my DEO will be after me) I could be wrong about that.
You have a background in theatrical sword training. Can you tell me a bit more about that? How did you get into it? Is it something you still do professionally?
Dana Fredsti: Swordfighting is one of my passions. I first fell in love with it when I saw Richard Lester's Three Musketeers with Michael York as D'artagnan and Christopher Lee (sigh...) as Rochefort. William Hobbs did the fight choreography and I was just captivated by the energy and creativity of those fights. I wanted to live in that world and I wanted to sword fight! So when I overheard a guy at my first Renaissance Faire (I was standing in line for a turkey leg) talking about how his partner bailed on their fight, I didn't even think before piping up, "I'll do it!" I was young and kinda hot back then, so he didn't hesitate to take me up on this. The man in question was Chris Villa, a member of SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) and I ended up training with him for several years. I worked with a group called The Duellists for a while, and then with Brian Thomas (also the onset armourer on Army of Darkness) in a comedic sword fighting act called Rose and Rapier. I went on to study with Dan Speaker and Jan Bryant at the Academy of Theatrical Combat for many years. I don't do it professionally any more, but my boyfriend David Fitzgerald (also a writer) is really into fencing and we've been keeping our hand (and sword arms) in practice.
You appeared in Army of Darkness, so I definitely need to ask about that. What was your experience like working on the set? What specifically were you involved with in terms of training/scenes?
Dana Fredsti: I started working on Army of Darkness as the onset armourer's assistant. It was a lot of fun, doing things like distressing (as in making look used/old/rotted, not as in upsetting it) the plastic armor for the soldiers and the Deadites; repairing broken straps and various bits and bobs; and suiting up the extras. when it came time for the Deadite action, I got myself fitted up with a cool latex Deadite "onesie" (getting out of that thing to pee was a pain in the butt). I was one of the sword captains, which involved training the rest of the extras and doing my own choreography. As far as scenes, I spent hours on set doing fights in the background of the main action, even having one fight spotlighted during filming. Scenes included the Death Coaster sequence, the fight for the Necronomicon, the charge into the castle, the breaking down of the castle door... and many more. Those are the ones that spring to mind about now. When Ash is fighting Evil Sheila, I am in the background killing the same soldier over and over again. ☺ Oh yeah, and the scene where Henry the Red and Arthur's men come charging in to face one another before doing the "yeah, we're cool" handshakes across the corpses of the fallen, I am one of those corpses, just praying one of those big honkin' soldier extras doesn't step on me.
As you are a zombie fan, I have some specific zombie questions for you. What is your favorite zombie movie?
Dana Fredsti: The one that’s nearest and dearest to my heart is the original Dawn of the Dead. It was my first movie date and it made a huge impression on me. My current favorite is The Dead, which is one of the creepiest ones featuring slow zombies totally devoid of humanity that are scary because they are everywhere. They don’t growl, moan, or make any noise. Plus it’s beautifully shot, which is not true of every zombie movies. Shaun of the Dead is my favorite zombie comedy. Oh, you just wanted ONE favorite. Hah. Ain’t gonna happen…
Have you read The Walking Dead comic book series? If so, how do you compare it to the TV show?
Dana Fredsti: I started reading it when the first graphic novel came out (I like graphic novels better than individual comic books) and loved it. I think the casting is great, with most of the characters pretty much dead on the way I pictured them. Dale, for instance, could have stepped right out of the pages of the book. Same with Carl. Dale’s death aside, I’m enjoying the way the show’s writers are mixing it up, not following the storyline in the books so exactly that there are no surprises for those of us who’ve read them. I did get bored with the “little girl lost” subplot, but loved the confrontation in the bar and subsequent scenes in the town, loved Shane’s death, and wowza, that Season Two finale was everything I’d hoped the series would be. And, well, gotta say I am a huge fan of Daryl, zombie ear necklaces notwithstanding!
Do you play video games? Have you had a chance to check out Dead Island?
Dana Fredsti: I do play video games, but haven’t lately. I got hooked on Doom for a while and loved House of the Dead. I like the first person shooter games a lot. I’ve seen the ads for Dead Island and at first I was just SO disappointed it wasn’t an actual movie ‘cause it looked so cool. And yeah, next time I get a chance to play a video game it’s definitely first on my list.
If you were survived a zombie outbreak, what 3 people would you want to be on your zombie survival team?
Dana Fredsti: Oh jeez... this is a toughie . Okay first of all, I'm assuming my family and friends living in other cities/countries are okay. That way I don't have to worry about including them to make sure they survive. That being said, my boyfriend 'cause he would help take care of our cats, knows how to use edged weapons and would not argue when I wanted to hole up in a winery; my sister because she is a crack shot and also appreciates good wine; and Daryl from Walking Dead because we would always have food. Unless he tried to shoot my cats and hang 'em up with his squirrels. Then I'd have to kill him too.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Dana Fredsti: I hope anyone who takes the chance on Plague Town enjoys it... and I would love to hear from you!
CODE WORD 6: ARE
For full details of the tour and terms and conditions visit: http://titanbooks.com/plaguetown