EXCLUSIVE: Interview With ARMY OF DARKNESS' Dana Fredsti; Author Of PLAGUE NATION
Dana Fredsti is a US-based author of Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon and co-author of What Women Really Want in Bed. She blogs frequently and has made numerous podcast and radio appearances. She has also appeared in various zombie/horror movies projects, and worked on Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness as an armourer's assistant, sword-fighting captain, and sword-fighting Deadite. In the latest instalment of the Ashley Parker series of novels, she continues to explore the ramifications of a zombie plague and the shadowy paramilitary organization attempting to deal with them. I was lucky enough to talk to Dana recently about the release and a whole lot more...
Dana Fredsti talks to us about her time as an armourer's assistant and sword fighting Deadite in Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, her latest novel Plague Nation, and why she's such a huge fan of the zombie genre. Check it out!
Firstly, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Let's see...I have pretty much been a nerd since a very early age. My sister Lisa introduced me to the Trouble With Tribbles episode of Star Trek and I fell in love with everything about the show. Then one day my dad dropped Lisa and me off at ComicCon for the day back...oh, in the '70s. Back when ComicCon was so small you could buy tickets at the door and the Star Trek Blooper Reel was the big event. When I was in my twenties, I taught theatrical combat workshops and performed during the halftime of the costume contest. 'm really glad I experienced the convention before it hit the Big Time. Other items of possible interest: I am involved in animal rescue/exotic feline preservation; I love to swordfight, be it theatrical or sparring with my boyfriend (a fencer), and I do most of my reading while walking. I have not walked into anything or anyone, or tripped while doing this in many years…. My idea of multitasking. Um… i like chocolate and wine, and bad movies. Bad movies with Billy Drago get extra points.
In the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, what would YOU do?
Ideally, find a good winery with caves as they tend to be REALLY seriously secure when everything is shut up. Most like, though, hole up in my house (pretty well fortified due to its location and enclosed backyard) with my cats, my boyfriend, whatever friends/family members wanted to join me, and revel in the copious amounts of wine, water, toilet paper, and pet supplies we've stocked. And upon reading that list, I should probably do more about stocking up on people food too.
What should we expect from Plague Nation?
More of the same humor and horror as in Plague Town, but on a larger scale. Things also definitely take a darker turn in this book. Not saying more 'cause I hate spoilers.
What were some of your influences when you approached this novel?
George Romero, Joss Whedon, my entire life as a total nerd and avid reader since the age of seven when my sister first introduced me to The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, and many many movies and TV shows. And the character of Ripley in the Alien movies definitely made a huge impression on me.
What do you think makes Ashley Parker such a great character?
I am a fan of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. They either rise to/above the situation or fail miserably. Either way, they're interesting to read about or watch. Ashley is definitely an average woman when the series starts, defined by her divorce and by trying to fit in with a college crowd on average a decade younger. So she definitely had room to grow once the zombie shit hit the fan, and it's been a lot of fun to write her first person narrative and (hopefully) show that growth. As to whether or not she's a "great" character, that's up to the readers to decide. Say… was that one of those "trick" questions? :-)
While a TV show like The Walking Dead certainly seems to have helped, why do you think the zombie genre continues to be so popular?
There is so much speculation about the reason zombies are so popular, ranging from their convenience as a placeholder for whatever very real fears people have (you'll notice a lot of people are happily prepared for the impending zombocalypse whereas they wouldn't put together an earthquake kit because the latter was just too real and scary) to the fact that they're currently making a lot of money for writers and filmmakers, so why wouldn't they keep generating more material while zombies are hot commodities? I personally am happy to read/watch anything in the genre because for many years, the zombie pickings were lean. vampires and werewolves and scary-ass pasty faced children with vengeance issues have been popular for a long time now so I say let zombies have their moment in the sun as the fair-haired child of the horror genre.
What about this genre appeals to you as a writer?
Horror and zombies and humor appeal to me as a reader (or watcher, if we're talking about TV or movies), so of course the combination is going to appeal to me as a writer. I've loved zombies since I saw Dawn of the Dead (the original) and I'm just thrilled that there's so much material out there devoted to them. And getting a chance to make my own mark in the genre is kind of awesome.
You appeared in Army of Darkness. Can you tell us about your experiences on set and what exactly your involvement with that movie was?
For the first portion of my experience, I was the onset armourer's assistant, which involved distressing armor to look like well worn metal instead of pristine plastic. I repaired broken straps, helped many extras into their armour, and was onset when the crane holding Ash's car fell off the cliff (not in the film) When i wasn't working, I got to ride one of the horses owned by one of the Union riders, Tim. He was a doll (horse and man, actually) and I have very fond memories of riding (I want to say Bullet, but may have the name wrong as it's been a few years) up the hill of the quarry at the end of the day.
When it came time to film the Deadite sequences, I was a sword fighting Deadite and fight captain, which meant I got to wear a ginchy latex Deadite costume made by KNB, choreograph fights, train extras in the basics of broadsword and shield, and spend endless hours out in the desert in between takes. One of my favorite memories is when Sam (Raimi) wanted to see everyone's "deadite walk." I took my inspiration from Ray Harryhausen's skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts.
The funny thing about the experience as a whole is that we had no idea we were involved in what would eventually become a cult film. To me, it was a chance to work with my fiance (the onset armourer and before you start screaming about nepotism, I rocked at the whole distressing armour job, thank you very much!), a chance to get paid for sword-fighting, and an opportunity to ask Rob Tapert what the hell a "fake shemp" was.
Would you ever be interested in writing a comic book series? Any superheroes in particular that appeal to you as a writer?
Oh, absolutely I'd be interested in writing a comic. My ex and I had a contract with WeeBee Comics (based in Flint, Michigan) years ago for a series called Malitia. We were collaborating with comic book artist Mark Beachum (I did some modeling for him as well. My butt has been featured on several comic book covers, including Samuree and Achilles Storm). Sadly, WeeBee went under before the project took off. But I still have the synopsis and the artwork.
As far as superheroes appealing to me as a writer, I loved Phantom Stranger and Wonder Woman back in the day. As far as modern day comics, I'm more attracted to things like The Walking Dead and 30 Days of Night, with a variety of characters, than a specific super hero.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
I would totally go back for the cats.
Plague Nation goes on sale later this month and is available from Titan Books. Click HERE for further details.
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