Last week, PYN interviewed Dana Fredsti, author of the zombie thrillers Plague Town and the recently released Plague Nation. Here’s what she had to say:
Dana: Do you mean, why am I obsessed with them?
PYN: Are you obsessed with them?
Dana: I kind of am. I have to say that I saw my first zombie movie in the 7th grade when I watched the original Night of the Living Dead in black and white on late night TV with one of my best friends. We were terrified. And Dawn of the Dead (the original not the remake) was my first date movie.
But there is something about the concept that your friends, your family, can look like the person you love but they’re not and they want to eat you. Being eaten alive seems the most horrific way to die ever. It beats burning to death. It beats drowning. It doesn’t beat being buried alive but it’s close. It’s horrible. You’re basically being ripped to pieces by your loved ones.
I’ve also always been a very morbid person. When I was a little kid I was fascinated by quicksand, volcanoes, earthquakes, black widow spiders, poisonous critters, and crocodiles, so there was something about zombies that spoke to the morbid child in me.
PYN: There’s lots of swordplay in your books; how much of that comes from experience?
Dana: A lot of it. I’ve done theatrical combat and martial arts since I was 18 and I love sword fighting. I love watching it; I love doing it. It’s a lot of fun and it’s one of the few athletic things that I’m really good at. And it makes sense that if you’re going to fight zombies, an edged weapon would be a really good thing to have. So I thought it would be a good skill to give my heroine.
PYN: You worked on Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. What was that like?
Dana: That was a very fun experience. I will say that when we made the movie, we had no idea that it was going to be a huge cult hit. For me it was a job when I desperately needed one. My fiancé at the time was the onset armorer, so my first job was as his assistant. I learned how to distress armor, to make it look like it’s old and used.
Aside from distressing armor, I put armor on the actors. But after that was done, my other job was as a sword fighting Deadite. Dan Speaker of the Academy of Theatrical Combat did the sword choreography for the movie, along with his wife, Jan Bryant, and I was one of their sword fighting captains, which meant that I taught the extras how to sword fight, I choreographed fights, and I got to do a lot of the battle sequences. And that was both a lot of fun and a lot of very, very hard work.
PYN: So tell us about your most recent book.
Dana: My most recent book is Plague Nation. It’s a sequel to Plague Town and it follows the adventures of Ashley Parker, who is a wildcard, which means that she is a part of a very small segment of the population that when bitten or infected by a zombie, does not die or become a zombie. She’s immune, and from surviving the bite, her senses and agility are enhanced. It’s kind of like being bionic but not quite that buff.
At the start of Plague Town there’s a zombie outbreak in a very small area, Redwood Grove. Ashley and her fellow wildcards have to fight to contain the outbreak. In Plague Nation, as the title implies, they did manage to contain it to Redwood Grove, but due to circumstances outside of their control, the zombie virus has spread to other parts of the United States.
PYN: You’ve written some paranormal romance as well, haven’t you?
Dana: I’ve written several romances under the name Inara LaVey. Fixation is my paranormal romance, and it involves shapeshifting jaguar shamans and a goddess that wants to destroy the world.
PYN: Can you see yourself going back to paranormal romance?
Dana: Yes, I love it. And frankly the Ashley books have ingredients of paranormal romance in them. Anyway, Fixation is probably my favorite. It’s definitely got an erotic element. It has sex scenes but it’s also a really good, cracking paranormal story, I think. Fixation is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.
PYN: So what’s next?
Dana: I’m working on Plague World, which is the third Ashley Parker book. And after that, there’ve been rumblings about more Ashley books. But I feel obligated to wrap up the existing story threads from Plague Nation. The plan at the end of the third book is while I’ll tie up those threads, there’s not going to necessarily be a totally happy ending for the world. So there will be room for another book. Other than that, I’ve got another paranormal series that I’m anxious to write. I’d like to do the sequel to my first murder mystery, Murder for Hire, and I’ve got a whole file full of story ideas I’d like to work on.
PYN: What interested you in the paranormal?
Dana: I’ve always been into it. My first crush was Roddy McDowall as Cornelius in Planet of the Apes. Yes, I had a crush on a gay man playing a chimpanzee. My second huge crush was Christopher Lee. I first saw him in The Three Musketeers: six-foot-five, a guy with an eye patch, wielding a sword. He also played Dracula and I thought he was the most sexy thing in the world. I still kind of do. He rocked it as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movies.
But I’ve always loved horror and vampires and ghosts and werewolves. It’s really been fun the last ten years or so with all of these different series and books coming out with just scads of paranormal critters.
PYN: So are you a plotter or a pantser?
Dana: I’m a total pantser! My editor, who I call my dark, editorial overlord, wants me to be a plotter. He wants me to outline. (And by the way, he liked that title so much he put it on his business cards). So I’m trying to do more outlining and to put more thought into it. I’m also trying to spend five minutes before I sit down to write, writing down what I plan to write that day. I do find that it helps increase my word count. But on the other hand, some of my best story ideas come when I’m writing – I’ll have some weird random sentence or character quirk that suddenly sprouts all these other ideas.
Follow Dana online here: