Sword-fighter, actor, writer, director, producer; these are just some of the things Dana Fredsti has done in a very busy life. Today she took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her newest book, Plague Nation (the sequel to Plague Town).
Steve Pattee: Plague Nation, the sequel to Plague Town, is your second Ashley Parker novel from Titan Books. Can you tell us a little about it?
Dana Fredsti: As the title implies, the zombie outbreak, while contained in Redwood Grove, manages to sneak its way into the rest of the country. Which means Canada and Central/South America are probably kinda screwed too. Readers can expect the same sense of humor that ran through Plague Town, although I will warn that things take a darker turn in places. I should also warn that the ending of Plague Nation is a kind of Empire Strikes Back "What? Han is in carbonite?!" ending. Yes, the wild cards do complete the mission assigned to them in Plague Nation, but there was no way to end the book with a "everything's happy, yay!" ending this time around.
SP: I have read that the Ashley Parker series will be a trilogy (with the closer being Plague World)? Is that still the case? If so, will that third novel be the end for her?
DF: As of now, the plan is to make Plague World the final novel in the series, but if there are more stories to tell, it's possible we'll see more of Ashley. I do promise readers who have complained about the cliffhanger ending in Plague Nation that Plague World will wrap up the existing storylines without cliffhangers.
SP: What's the relationship between Ashley Parker and Ashley Drake from your Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter (A Plague of All Houses)?
DF: Same character, but Ms. Parker is 10 years older than Ms. Drake. I originally wrote Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter for Ravenous Romance (which is why there is a fairy explicit sex scene in it), but then Titan bought the series and I did revisions accordingly. And while I did change some dialogue and descriptions to reflect Ashley's additional decade, I also deliberately kept some of the immaturity in the dialogue and internal monologue as she's recently divorced (married young to a former professor at Big Red, the college she is now attending) and trying to fit in with a crowd substantially younger than she is. And when I think of what I was like at 29, I wasn't all that mature anyway.
SP: Did you have a favorite scene or scenes you wrote in either Plague Town or Plague Nation?
DF: In Plague Town, I love the picnic scene with Ashley and Matt, and the "let's go get the cats" chapters with Lil. I also love the scenes with Jake. In Plague Nation, I realy had a blast writing the flashback scenes showing the history between Nathan and Simone, and I also had fun with all of the interludes. I'm not sure why it's so much fun unleashing zombies on places I've visited in my life, but it is. Don't judge me!
SP: Zombies are riding a huge wave of popularity right now. What do you think it is about your Parker novels that stand out from the others flooding the market?
DF: The strong vein of humor running through the books, balanced by the horror of the situation, and a very severe case of Pop Cultural Tourette's.
SP: You also write erotic romance under the pseudonym Inara LaVey. Do you have a preference between horror and erotica as far as writing?
DF: I like not having to put sex scenes in unless I want to, which makes horror appealing. I love writing the erotic romance because there's such a wide variety of sub-genres to play with, but there really are times when I don't WANNA write another sex scene. I try to only put them in where they actually fit within the story, but it gets challenging to not be repetitive.
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SP: You are a swordfighter, actor, writer and more. Which of these talents have given you the weirdest stories? Do you care to share any?
DF: Um… I think pretty much everything I've done has provided me with some esoteric life experiences, be they weird or exciting or embarrassing. For instance, I've worked with big cats and nearly had my chest reduced (and it didn't need it!) by a cranky black Asian leopard due to a miscalculation by the person holding the swinging gate between the two halves of its enclosure shut. I was going into latch the gate, my co-worker was holding a pole against the gate to keep it shut, and the leopard charged the gate, knocking it open far enough to reach a paw through. My reaction? I slapped its paw, said "No! BAD leopard!" and nearly fainted when he withdrew his paw and I managed to get the latch engaged. I'm sure that's when I first started seeing gray in my hair. Not sure if that qualifies as a talent, working with animals, but it's one of the scarier and more interesting things I've experienced. I have lots of on-set stories re: film and stage work, and sword-fighting but I do a better job of telling them when talking over a bottle of wine. [smiles]
SP: You have Plague World on the plate. Are you working on anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
DF: Right now, the promo for Plague Nation and writing Plague World pretty much take up all the space on my creative space. But I do want to give a shout out to Fixation, one of my Inara LaVey books that I think would appeal to fans of the Ashley books as it falls under the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance (SPICY romance) banner. The heroine is a telepath and volunteers at a big cat sanctuary, and I used some of my own experiences and background by way of research. It has a couple of fairly horrific scenes for those who like scary stuff, and it also has sexy shapeshifters of the big cat sort. Jaguars, to be specific. And it has a strong vein of humor running through it as well. A lot of love went into writing it because of the connection with EFBC/FCC (exotic feline breeding facility/feline conservation center), and the many years I spent volunteering there. Check out the website at www.cathouse-fcc.org and if you're in Southern California, go visit!!! You will not regret it.
SP: Who would win in a fight; Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) or Ashley Parker?
DF: See, I don't think they'd fight. I think they'd totally join forces and kick both vampire and zombie butt together. Ashley isn't a crazy cleavagey-slutbomb crazy slayer like Faith. And here's another thing to consider - if there are zombies involved, who is to say that Buffy is immune to the virus? So… she might be dead before any potential cage match could occur!
We'd like to thank Dana Fredsti for taking the time to talk with us today. You can visit her official site or follow her on Twitter and be sure to check out the piece she did for HorrorTalk on women in the horror genre!
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