Last week, we featured a review of Dana Fredsti's new novel, Plague Town. Today, we are excited to feature an interview with Dana herself in which she talks about zombies, Buffy, and Ellen Ripley!
Jen Miller: Plague Town clearly reflects quite a few of your own interests, such as Lil's cats, Tony listening to "March of the Dead" from Army of Darkness, Ashley's ability with a sword, and even her knowledge of wine that we see early on in the novel. Is there a single character in the novel that you identify most with, or is there a bit of you in everyone?
Dana Fredsti: Well, Ashley would probably get the number one slot because the more I'm asked the question of "Do you identify with Ashley?" the more I realize how much of me is in that character, along with a smattering of Buffy and a hefty dose of Ellen Ripley (who I also identify with very strongly). As far as the other characters, several are based on people I know and others are made up out of whole cloth. Tony, for instance, is based on my kind of sort of godson Ernie Sloman, with a smattering of my ex (and best buddy) Brian Thomas. Both of them would totally be listening to music on their iPods as they slaughtered zombies.
You wrote on the Titan Books blog about how zombies are everywhere these days--even the CDC has a zombie survival guide! How do you see your novel standing out or doing something different among so many other works that including the walking dead?
Every author brings their own take to whatever genre they decide to write in - and if they don't, they need to work on their craft. I think I have a lot more humor than most zombie novels, as well as one of the few female protagonists. I've also got my own twist on the zombie virus. I'd say more, but it would be a spoiler and then I'd have to kill you, burn down the website, and miss out on this great promotional opportunity.
There are quite a few pop culture references throughout Plague Town--you even describe the book as "Buffy meets The Walking Dead." How do you see your love of other works of pop culture informing your fiction? Are there certain shows, books, or characters that strongly shaped your novel?
I am a geek from way back when (we're talking the days when ComicCon was a tiny wee convention held at the El Cortez Hotel, okay?), so there's no way my love of pop culture in all genres couldn't inform my writing. Although the expression "inform my writing" grates on me the same way that "Can you speak to this subject" makes my inner Henry Higgins want to slap people around and say, "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?!" That being said, the shows/books/characters that have definitely influenced me would be Buffy (I'd be lying if I said otherwise); pretty much every zombie movie out there, and a lot of the books (some of them taught me what I DIDN'T want to do, but I'm not gonna be a bitch and name those); Ripley (as mentioned up above), and ... well, so many movies and books that pop up in my memory as I'm writing. Joss Whedon and James Cameron are influences because of the former's ability to tap into the pop culture sensibility of his audience, and the former's ability to take a disparate group of characters and make them all stand out as individuals in a very short amount of time.
In a novel filled with so much blood, death, and gore, it wouldn't be surprising if there was a point when you as the author became overwhelmed by it all. Did you ever find this to be the case? Was there a part of the novel that you found particularly difficult to write? Was there something that you found unexpectedly difficult to get through?
Confession. I can watch any zombie movie and happily devour pasta with meat sauce, even during the intestinal taffy pull scenes. So no, the gore didn't bother me at all when I wrote it. Some of the emotional stuff got to me a bit more if it was something I could relate to on a personal level, but... when I wrote some of the nastier stuff, I would giggle maniacally 'cause it was so exactly what I wanted it to be. My boyfriend would cast some very wary glances in my direction at those times. As far as scenes that were difficult to write, the original draft was a breeze. The edits were the kitty-bitch. My editor, Steve Saffel, challenged me to put more layering into the book, pick up the pace, and I found some of the edits very challenging (the tapestry of obscenities I wove still hangs in the air of our living room to this day). The gore though? Nah, it was really easy. Which perhaps should worry me a bit... ... Nah.
I was intrigued that Ashley, the protagonist of Plague Town, has hints of a past that set her apart from other college students--she's been married and is now divorced, for starters. Do we learn more about this past in other books? Do we ever get to meet her ex-husband, or see up close what went wrong between the two?
Very good questions and ones for which I don't have any definite answers at this point. That being said, I think it would round out her character to reveal a bit more details about her past. And THAT being said, I can think of the perfect circumstances under which I'd reveal them. Thanks for asking that!
Plague Town includes a few jabs about vampires, specifically the Twilight kind of vampires. Do you ever see yourself branching out and writing vampire fiction, or do you plan on sticking with zombies? Is there something about zombies that makes them the most appealing kind of undead for you?
I like vampires (my very first serious crush was Christopher Lee as Dracula in those glorious Hammer horror films) just fine, but yeah, I'm not a fan of the sparkly Twilight Morm... er.. vampires. I don't like wimpy heroines. I've written a jaguar shape shifter novel (Fixation w/Ravenous Romance) under my pen name Inara LaVey and that was a lot of fun, so I can definitely see myself branching out into other supernatural genres, including vampires if inspiration bites (sorry, sorry, couldn't resist!). But zombies will always remain the most compelling and creepy undead monster for me, if not the sexiest.