Rhiannon Frater

After I posted Dana Fredsti’s interview (you can check out Dana’s interview here) she contacted me to say that I ought to expand the title of this series of interviews to include both Zombie Masters and Zombie Mistresses.  She quickly added that not all women would be okay with the title Mistress of anything, so I ought to be careful how I apply it.

Now I have no idea which title Rhiannon Frater would prefer, but frankly, she’s so damned good at what she does that she can take any title she wants.  Like having her book The Last Bastion of the Living named as Barnes & Noble’s Best Zombie Book of the Decade, for example.  (Here’s a link to that article, and it’s an honor I couldn’t agree with more.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Rhiannon Frater, she is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege,) and the author of three other books: the vampire novels Pretty When She Dies and The Tale of the Vampire Bride and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. Inspired to independently produce her work from the urging of her fans, she published The First Days in late 2008 and quickly gathered a cult following. She won the Dead Letter Award back-to-back for both The First Days and Fighting to Survive, the former of which the Harrisburg Book Examiner called ‘one of the best zombie books of the decade.’

There’s that phrase again!  Best zombie book of the decade.

You’d think she’d get used to hearing that.

If you haven’t read her (and if you’re a zombie fan I can’t imagine she’s slipped under your radar this long) I strongly urge you to do that right after you read this interview.  She will not disappoint!

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Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Rhiannon Frater:  Thanks for having me!

Well, first off, I try to approach the scenario as realistically as possible. How would ordinary people really respond to a zombie rising? Everyone has this grandiose idea that it would be fun to run around killing zombies and living free of modern constraints, but logically a lot of people would be shattered emotionally and psychologically by the loss of their loved ones and way of life.

So then the question becomes how do you continue to survive in the face of such misery and fear?

The human spirit is very resilient, so that’s what I try to concentrate on.

I used to work for a governmental consultant agency and dealt with disaster relief programs across the state of Texas. The stories of survival and how people dealt with life-altering events really touched me. That was the main inspiration for the As The World Dies trilogy.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

RF:  I’m definitely not prepared. I’m not even sure how you could be fully prepared. What sort of zombie are they? If they’re like the World War Z film, we’re all screwed. I am a Texan. I have my weapons. I have a big SUV, but I can’t say I’m prepared.
Humanity would eventually win. I have no doubt about that. How long it would take would depend on what type of zombie we’re dealing with. The slow shamblers would rot away very quickly, especially in the Texas sun. A viral-type zombie would be much harder to deal with, though they would probably starve to death in a few months’ time.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

RF:  My favorite zombie film is Night of the Living Dead because it just hits it out of the ball park on all levels. The setting, the characters, the story, the actors, the social commentary, etc… It’s so disturbingly creepy in black and white. The relentlessness of the zombies is also quite perturbing. It just gets so much right about people in adverse situations and how things can go horribly wrong.
I also like the female characters in the movie. A lot of people concentrate on Barbara, but Judy was a really great supporting character. I liked how she ventured out with the men to help fuel the truck. It didn’t end well for her, but that would be the reality of the zombocalypse. People would make brave choices and end up dying.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

RF:  When Anna takes out that massive female zombie in the Dawn of the Dead remake. That was just gross and amazing.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

RF:  Honestly, I believe zombies are tapping into our inherent unhappiness with how complicated our lives have become. We work horrible hours, rarely take vacations, struggle with money matters, and because of the new media we’re constantly bombarded with what’s wrong with the world.  I read a recent study that says that people are chronically depressed because of the 24-hour news cycle. The media decides what we see and so they stir us up with tsunami of negative news. They like scaring the hell out of us.
So, there are all these people wishing for some sort of dramatic reset and zombies promise just that. The fantasy is that somehow we’d be the ones surviving and creating a new world. Of course, most of us would be lunch, but we don’t want to believe that.

Even in the zombie genre there are incredibly negative tropes that are continually hit upon because we think they’re true. We’re doomed to lose. The worst enemy is humanity. It goes on and on.

Yet, we look at history and humanity is all about survival through community. The first thing people do after a natural disaster is group together to survive.

So what do zombies say about us?

That we’re not very happy with our society right now.

 

Check out Rhiannon’s blog here, and then go buy her books here.

And while you’re at it, make sure and pre-order your copy of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead.

Dana Fredsti

Ladies and gentlemen, my countdown to the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, continues with a writer I always seem to run into at conventions and always find fascinating.  Please allow me to introduce the lovely and talented Dana Fredsti, zombie master.

Dana is an ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting, including sword-captain and fighting Deadite in the cult classic Army of Darkness. Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC (Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center), Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, kissed by tigers, held baby jaguars and had her thumb sucked by an ocelot with nursing issues. She’s addicted to bad movies and any book or film, good or bad, which include zombies. Her other hobbies include surfing (badly), collecting beach glass (obsessively), and wine tasting (happily).

Dana was co-producer/writer/director for a mystery-oriented theatrical troupe based in San Diego. These experiences were the basis for her mystery novel MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock & Company Publishers, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint, Oct. 2007). She co-wrote What Women Really Want in Bed with Cynthia Gentry, their second writing partnership after Secret
Seductions, for which Dana used the pseudonym Roxanne Colville.

She’s written numerous published articles, essays and shorts, including stories in Cat Fantastic IV, an anthology series edited by Andre Norton (Daw, 1997), Danger City (Contemporary Press, 2005), and Mondo Zombie (Cemetery Dance, 2006). Her essays can be seen in Morbid Curiosity, Issues 2-7. Additionally she’s written several produced low-budget screenplays and currently has another script under option. Dana was also co-writer/associate producer on Urban Rescuers, a documentary on feral cats and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Valley Film Festival in Los Angeles. Under the nom de plume Inara LaVey, she has half a dozen short stories, three novels, a novella, out at Ravenous Romance, which specializes in erotic romance. Her most recent publications are her Ashley Parker zombie novels, Plague Town and Plague Nation (Titan Books), with Plague World coming out April 2014./p>

But guys, don’t let the exotic romance lead you into thinking Dana doesn’t have some serious zombie skills.  Her novels Plague Town and Plague Nation feature a badass zombie hunter named Ashley Parker, and they don’t come hotter or more capable than Ashley Parker.

Now, please enjoy this little conversation with Dana Fredsti.

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Dana Fredsti:  Well, my zombie related writing started years ago when I wrote A Man’s Gotta Eat What a Man’s Gotta Eat, which is about a world where zombies are sentient and dominant, and my hero, Chuck T-Bone, earns his living as a P.I. looking for missing people.  I’d just been to a signing for the first Book of the Dead edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter, and really wanted to write something for their next anthology…  I was heavily into noir at the time, as well as having a deep love of the zombie genre ever since I saw Dawn of the Dead as my first official date (Oh yeah, baby!).  I came up with the idea driving down the 5 Freeway from Glendale to San Diego, breathing in gas fumes on the tail end of a migraine. My approach has since become more traditional as far as dealing with (mostly) slow shambling Romero-esque flesh eaters in my Ashley Parker series, but I definitely approach the genre with a more obvious sense of humor than many of my contemporaries.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

DF:  I’m prepared in that I have ample supplies of water, wine, perishable food, pet supplies and weaponry at home, but since I’m not going to leave my animals to die and bug out somewhere safer, I have no bug-out bag and I suspect some people would consider me woefully unprepared.  Psychologically, however, I think I’ve got what it takes to shoot loved ones in the brain pan if they come shambling after me and smell bad (Note to loved ones: Good hygiene essential around me if you don’t want to be mistaken as a zombie).  And as far as humanity winning, I certainly like to think so.  If zombies follow the rules as set by George Romero, I think we’re in pretty good shape considering the pop-cultural inundation we’ve experienced in the last few years.  Frankly, if someone can’t figure out the ‘shoot ’em in the head’ thing at this point, they deserve to be a Darwin Award nominee.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

DF:  It will always be the original Dawn of the Dead.  That was the very first movie I was taken to on an actual date (popcorn, candy and soda included) and it made a huge impression on me.  I don’t think any scene can ever equal the one where Peter and Roger are exterminating the zombies in the basement of the apartment building, some wrapped in sheets and wriggling like maggots… the “heartbeat” music of Goblin playing (I saw a different edit of the movie and they’d changed the music in that scene and it just didn’t have the same impact).  That scene creeped me out and it’s probably the best movie George Romero has ever made.  I could ramble on ad nauseum here about other movies/books/stories, but I am gonna keep it short and stick with the movie that is responsible for my total love of the flesh eating zombie genre.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

DF:  Oooh, that’s a toughie.  For a classic movie, probably the machete to the head in Dawn of the Dead.  In a more current film….  Shaun of the Dead when Ed and Shaun dispatch the two zombies in their backyard.  The sequence of events, the music, the actual kill…  Love it.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

DF:  Oh man, now you’re asking me to dip into the deep end of the pool as opposed to splashing happily in the gore-filled shallows.   I think every author, every filmmaker and every reader has his/her own take on what zombies actually mean in terms of society/psyche, etc.   They are us; they reflect our fear of being one of the faceless masses; they reflect our fear of being overwhelmed by the faceless masses; they basically can stand in for any fear the human psyche can manufacture.  Personally I think that certain movies and books came out at just the right time to create a perfect storm of zombie-awareness in a public that had been all about the vampires and shifters up to that point.  Hollywood and publishers realized there was money to be made, so more books/movies/stories/games were generated, thus perpetuating the popularity.  For every person who thinks zombies have jumped the shark, there are fans of the genre who’ve been waiting years for this abundance of material.  So… I don’t know.  For me, there’s just something essentially creepy about your friends/neighbors/family coming back to life as ravenous flesh-eaters.  And while I think I could cap my boyfriend in the head if he tried to rip my neck out, I understand why so many people would hesitate (perhaps fatally) before shooting their child-turned-zombie.  Sadly, I also think part of the appeal might be because of the huge and vitriolic political schism in our country and the fact a lot of people might just really be into the fantasy of killing those that don’t agree with them without any repercussions.  If I’m right about that, that’s kind of sad.  Of course, I’m about to destroy a call center in India in my current WIP for personal reasons, so who am I to judge? 

And that was Dana Fredsti.  You can learn more about Dana and writing here, and you check out all her books here

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