From Deadites To Zombies: Our Interview With Dana Fredsti

I recently had a chance to read Dana Fredsti's Plague Town, which I really enjoyed. Dana's resume is pretty great: as an actress with a background in stage combat, she was an assistant armorer on Sam Raimi's Army Of Darkness, and as a writer, she's written some sexy books like What Women Really Want In Bed and Secret Seductions. She's got a vast knowledge of pop culture and zombies, and all this really informs her latest work, Plague Town. Dana was kind enough to answer a few questions for us here at Culture Brats.

Hi Dana, I read the book and really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview!
Hi there, and thanks for having me as your guest. I'm delighted you enjoyed my book! You know just what to say right off the bat. :-)

I did some digging on your Goodreads author page and noticed that you have a previous title, Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter (A Plague On All Houses) that looks really similar to Plague Town, but is listed as a "zombie romance." What led you to essentially rewrite the story as a more straight-up horror story?
Well, the Ravenous Romance eBook originally had more horror/gore in it, but it was deemed too icky for romance audiences so it was taken out in the final edit before being released. All the "interludes" from either the zombies' or victims' point of view were removed. When the series sold to Titan, I took out some of the more overt romance novel tropes and added more horrific elements back in. We wanted Plague Town to appeal to fans of both paranormal romance and hardcore zombie/horror readers so... hopefully it worked!

It's easy to understand why vampires are so very popular: there's a built-in danger and sex appeal in the very foundation of the myth. Why do you think zombie stories hold so much appeal?
Well, I've liked zombies since I first saw Dawn Of The Dead (the original) on the big screen the day it was released back in the... well, let's just say back in the mists of time. :-) I think part of their appeal has to do with the whole "wouldn't it be fun to be able to raid a shopping mall?" scenario that comes with any post-apocalyptic disaster, having the world at your fingertips. Then you have the zombies, which are a great universal monstrous stand-in for just about any fear or issue a person has. I've heard them compared to Communism, consumerism, loss of identity, et cetera. For me, there's no ickier or scarier way to die than getting eaten alive, be it by mammal, shark, reptile, or flesh-eating ghoul. And zombies have no personality or humanity. They're basically a force of nature and their only goal is to eat you. You can run, but they'll keep chasing you. I personally find that very scary. And I like being scared so there you have it, at least from my point of view!

Dana Fredsti on the set of Army Of Darkness
Your resume says that you were an assistant armorer and a Deadite on Sam Raimi's Army Of Darkness. I've always heard great things about Raimi as a director - what was it like to work with him before he blew up and became this huge monster director? And is distressing costumes and making rotting zombies and swinging a sword at them as fun as it looks?
My most vivid memory of Sam Raimi, and the one that pretty much describes what he was like to work with, is the fact that at the end of every filming day (or night), he would make his way around the set and thank everyone for their work that day: stars, extras, film crew, pretty much anyone he came across. I have no negative memories of him at all. I actually distressed armor and it was fun. I didn't make any of the Deadites, but I did help make their armor look old, rotted, rusted and generally nasty. :-) And since I was a sword-fighting Deadite, I swung my sword at King Arthur's studly soldiers. It's even more fun that it looks.

Do you still do any stage combat work?
Once in a great while. My boyfriend and I still work out with swords, although not as often as either of us would like. I'm too busy writing to do much in the way of acting or shows, but given the chance I would not say no. I loves it, I does, my precioussss...

Your novel is just flooded with pop culture references: from the opening quote from Big Trouble In Little China to a brilliant description of a Syfy monster movie. Any new favorite things on your DVR or bookshelf or out in theaters that you're really loving at the moment?
Hmmm... I've watched The Dead way too many times for my boyfriend's sanity. If you haven't seen it, get it! And I go through so many books on my walks to the Muni station, it's hard to keep track, but I did just read Jonathan Maberry's fourth Joe Ledger book (awesome). I love the Dresden Files books, Ilona Andrews's Magic series, and have just a huge number of books on my Kindle to work my way through. Oh, I read a book called Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation by Justin Gustainis that I just love. I want to go see Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers. I saw Hunger Games and loved it. And my brain just froze as it always does when asked that sort of question.

For many of our interviews we do something called The CB3, three pop culture related questions that are just fun for our interviewees and our readers so here goes: Thriller or Purple Rain?
Thriller. Now if you'd said "When Doves Cry," Prince would have won the day.

Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or Sixteen Candles?
Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Breakfast Club makes me want to put my fist through someone's door and I've only seen Sixteen Candles once and don't remember much about it.

Which kick-ass woman would you want on your zombie squad: Zoe Washburne (Firefly), Princess Leia (Star Wars), Sarah Connor (Terminator) or Ellen Ripley (Alien)?
Ooh, this is a good question and a tough one. Can I rank in order of preference? Okay then! :-)
  1. Ripley
  2. Zoe Washburne
  3. Sarah Connor
  4. Princess Leia
Please note that Zoe and Sarah are neck and neck.

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