Friday, July 27, 2012

Dana Fredsti: Swordfighter, Actress, Author.

I mentioned the other day how I sometimes get a story for an upcoming anthology and feel fortunate. Having Dana Fredsti pay a visit to this blog falls in with that sort of OMG feeling. The coolest people are the ones who do amazing things and see it as no big deal. That would sum up the vibe I got from Dana when she so kindly agreed to be interviewed. So, let me get the hell out of the way and introduce you to, as they say in jazz circles, "One groovy chick."

What led you to writing? And do you plan to return to the screen anytime soon?

I’ve been interested in writing since I was old enough to string words together. English was always my favourite class in school and I loved creative writing assignments.  I dabbled in writing off and on throughout high school and into my twenties and thirties, but was distracted by other things, like “I wanna be in a rock band!” and “I wanna be an actress!” and “Swordfighting is fun; I think I’ll get into fighting and stunts!” and “Oooh!  Squirrel!”  I didn’t really focus on it until mid/late thirties when I decided I liked working in my pajamas better than just about anything else.  And no real plans to return to the screen at this time, although I AM working on a project (currently classified) with Ken Foree.  I may or may not log some screen time, but my main focus is development/co-producer.

What is the difference between being an author and a writer?

Er… a writer writes and an author pontificates? J   I have never before pondered the difference or, indeed, really thought there was one.  But if pressed for an answer, I’d say an author has completed books/novels/stories/essays and has gotten them out into print or eBooklandia, be it via traditional publishing or going the self-published route.  There. Do I get a cookie? 

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about your “B-Actress” movie career. Share some of the highlights (and an Army of Darkness snippet would also be great).

Well, “C” is a better grading for the movies I did, other than Army of Darkness.  Highlights would be being the only movie villainess in cinema history to use a white hot spoon as her torture implement of choice; working with Ken Foree, Brinke Stevens and Joe Pilato on a pilot for a horror/sci-fi movie that I co-wrote with Brian Thomas (derby aficionados in Los Angeles and Flint, Michigan know him as “Hell Ocho”, btw); and yes, being a part of Army of Darkness.  I was a sword-fighting captain/fighting Deadite and the on-set armourer’s assistant on the film, and also was a lighting stand-in for Sheila (Embeth Davidtz) when they were setting up for the infamous barn kiss.  Being a Deadite was a lot of fun, especially doing my own sword choreography, but I’m telling ya that when you have a short break and REALLY have to pee, getting out of that latex outfit (courtesy of KNB/Greg Nicotero) was a bitch.  Plus I have flashbacks whenever I hear the line “This is my BOOM stick!”  I can’t tell you how many takes they did of that particular scene, but I was on set and had to hear Every. Single. One. 

What got you into sword fighting?

Three and Four Musketeers directed by Richard Lester, fight choreography by William Hobbs. Those two movies started my fascination with swordplay.  Then, when I was eighteen, I was working at a Renaissance Faire in San Diego and overheard a man talking about how his fight partner dropped out so he couldn’t do his sword fight performance. Without thinking about it, I said, “I’ll do it!” So the man (who turned out to be Christopher Villa, who has been a fight choreographer most of his life) gave me a quick basic lesson and taught me my first fight. Unlike surfing, which I love but is still very difficult for me, swordplay and theatrical combat are skills that I took to really quickly. I love to fight…  

The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up in the Indie world? Solutions?

I’m not exactly an Indie writer, per se, since I’m currently working with Titan Books, but I’ve looked into putting some of my own stuff out there and think it’s a really viable choice now … if writers are willing to put time, effort and editing into their work before throwing it out onto Kindle and Smashwords.  The lack of quality control by authors themselves is what I see as the biggest issue in the Indie world.  It doesn’t just hurt the authors who put stuff out before it’s ready and lose a potential readership by alienating them with lousy grammar, typos and basically amateurish work, but it also hurts other Indie authors who get tarred with the same “amateur” stigma. 

The other issue that’s my other huge personal turnoff are the promotion whores.  We’re talking authors who use social media exclusively tell people how many reviews they’ve gotten for their latest book and every single post is another promotional blurb.   Do I post links to my good reviews?  Of course I do!  But every day, all day without making any effort to get to know my FB and Twitter pals and readers?  Heck, no.  As an avid reader, I’m a lot more likely to invest money and time in a book or story by someone I’ve gotten to know on a semi-personal level rather than someone who keeps telling me why I should buy their stuff.  And I have noticed crossover between the two issues I’ve mentioned; some of the worst self-promoters evidently don’t bother with editors. It drives me mad.  MAD, I say! 

The social media is…

…a bitch/whore/goddess of a demanding mistress who can give such pleasure and yet suck all of your time away…  

Share some information about your work with us:

My writing tends to be infused with humor, no matter the genre.  I can’t seem to help it. Some people may not find my writing funny or may think it’s inappropriate in, say, a book about a zombocalypse, but oh well.  And I tend to somehow manage to bring in at least a few detailed mentions of food and drink, also no matter the genre.  It’s a sickness.

Explain your love of cats to a dog lover.

I love both cats and dogs so I guess I’ll explain it to myself. “Dana, see, just ‘cause you love the guileless nature of your puppy and the way she is so excited to see you whenever you get home does not mean you can’t also appreciated the guileless love of your cats, who are so excited to see you when you get home.  The puppy jumps up on your legs and licks your face.  The cats stand on their hind legs and try to rub noses with you.  They both give you unqualified love, have unique personalities, and require much clean-up duty to maintain a home you can invite friends into.  The puppy is goofy more often than not, but so are some of the cats.  Others are mysterious and sometimes aloof, but will then stare at you with this glowing look of adoration and start purring when you talk to them. They are beautiful, graceful, silly, and hours of entertainment.  And at least a few of them appreciate your puppy.  What’s not to like?” 

And by thunder, I now understand my own love of cats! J

What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?

“How’s the writing going?” 

How will you deal with negative reviews?

Well, after the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth portion of the evening, I’ll shrug and remind myself that you can’t please everyone. It’s impossible to not take it personally on some level because, after all, this is your baby they’re eviscerating, but … that being said, it’s really not personal.  I’ve had a couple of bad reviews and have actually had civil and productive conversations with the reviewers. I don’t recommend this as a general rule, but I have found that if you can leave defensiveness and ego at the door, it’s possible to learn from negative reviews, even if you don’t agree with them. And I always thank people for giving my books a chance, even if it didn’t work for them, whether they’re a reviewer who received an ARC or someone who paid money for it.  Either way they took the time to read it.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?

I love to read.  It’s as much a part of my life as breathing and I read in every spare crack of time I can find. I firmly believe that writers who do not read are short-changing—and fooling—themselves if they think they can excel at their craft without reading other writers’ works.  You learn what sort of narrative “voice” you like as both a reader and a writer, and it helps new writers develop their own style over time.  And you also see what sucks and try to avoid it!

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career that you wish you could go back in time and tell a younger you?

Don’t query a publisher unless you have a finished product that’s worth sending out. Because you never know when your query will get a positive response and if your book isn’t ready to go … you are so screwed.  My ex-writing partner and I sent a query to St. Martin’s Press years ago, before the cozy mystery market was glutted, and we hadn’t finished the book yet.  We got a phone call three days later asking to see the finished product.  Three days/nights of no sleep, lots of sugar and typing as fast as possible, we turned in what was definitely NOT a finished product and lost out on a very good opportunity.  Our own damn fault too. 

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on Plague Nation, the second in my AshleyParker series for Titan Books.  Zombies by way of Buffy meets the Walking Dead.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?

It would depend on whether or not they follow me on FB, I guess.  If you’re my FB friend, I’m pretty much out there as far as personality traits and quirks, likes and dislikes. And my author bio talks about some of the more exotic things I’ve done with my life.  I guess the one thing would be my ability to read while walking. I carry books with me everywhere and have perfected the fine art of walking and reading, so I get in exercise and reading at the same time. It’s all about peripheral vision, btw, as far as not colliding with fellow pedestrians, random poles, and cars. 

Give us your most bizarre “postman” story.

Oh jeez, the most bizarre postman story I can think of is watching Kevin Costner in the titular role in that awful movie…   I can’t think of any personally weird experiences with a postman.  Hmm… er… well, the postman for our neighbourhood is the inspiration for Mack the Mailman in Plague Town!  Does that count as weird? 

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?

Lots of people, but for now I’d like to give a shout to everyone at Titan Books.  They are amazing.  From my editor (Dark Editorial Overlord) Steve Saffel to the publicity teams in New York and the U.K. (Tom, Hannah, Sophie, Katharine, and their fearless leader Tim), to the owners Nick and Vivian…  Love love love them.  And my ever-support boyfriend (and fellow author) David Fitzgerald/Kilt Kilpatrick. Love love love him too. 

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?

My TBR pile is huge. I have a stack of books I brought home from World Horror Con that I haven’t even started on yet, and a bunch of books stashed on my Kindle.  I would wager I have at least thirty books, if not more, in my TBR pile.  Currently open on my Kindle is The Cold Beneath by Tonia Brown (AWEsome zombie steampunk novel) and my current paperback is Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine. I have Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher in my desk drawer at work, and I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series for a few minutes before falling asleep at night. I’ve got a Jonathan Maberry book waiting for me, a story by Ray Garton, anthologies, and just SO much more! I’ve bought books for my Kindle that I haven’t loaded onto the damn thing yet.  Do I feel that this is out of control? Heck, no!  A huge TBR pile is like having a huge stockpile of toilet paper and wine.  Life is good!   

For more links to Dana:


Dana Fredsti
PLAGUE TOWN: An Ashley Parker Novel (Titan Books, release date April 3, 2012)
MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock Inc, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint)
(Ravenous Romance, as Inara LaVey)
WHAT WOMEN REALLY WANT IN BED (Quiver Press, with Cynthia Gentry)
Member, Sisters in Crime (National & NorCal Chapters)
President- 2010/2011, SinC NorCal

Thanks so much to Dana for sharing some time with us and much success in Plague Town

This weekend will be featuring some more of my ramblings where I discuss "That Ghoul Ava" and an interview with Kat Yares. Also, today is the day I chose to make a purchase of a book by Mark Tufo: Zombie Fallout. Share who you decided to support today by making a comment. Tell us what book and why.


  1. Todd, thank you so much for having me as your guest. I have to say I had a lot of fun answering your questions!And as far as your intro... awwww, shucks! :-)

    1. Absolutely sincere when I say it was a privilege to have you here for the day.

  2. Great interview! I wish I could walk and read at the same time. That would be a great time saver!

    1. And I would be thrilled to feature an interview here with you Ms. Lane. Still telling folks about World-Mart...what a great book.

  3. Hi, LIsa, and thanks for stopping by! And it really is a great time saver. Now that I have the puppy, though, I need to relearn how to read and walk and walk a dog at the same time. Heh.