If Ashley Parker was not a 'wildcard', how would she have reacted to the outbreak?
Short answer? She'd be dead or a zombie because she was bitten at the beginning of the outbreak.
Longer answer: when first confronted by a zombie picnic crasher while out with her boyfriend, Ash reacts by killing it with a bread knife. Then, when she and her boyfriend realize there are a bunch more zombies heading their way, she keeps a level head, taking charge while said boyfriend freaks out. She's bitten through no fault or mistake on her part, but if she'd made it to safety unscathed, Ash is still the type of person who'd try to do something proactive. Becoming a wild card didn't change her basic character; it did, however, probably accelerate her natural leadership qualities.
Why do you feel zombies are so popular in fiction these days?
Because they don't sparkle.
Okay, sort of serious here now (I say 'sort of' because this question is one gets so many long-winded and painfully serious answers), I think WWZ (the book), the remake of Dawn of the Dead, The Walking Dead, and a couple other really good zombie books created a perfect storm of quality products for those of us who've been waiting for someone to kick the vampires and werewolves to the wings for a while and let zombies have their chance to shine (but not sparkle). And yes, I suppose that it might have something to do with zombies being the perfect blank slates on which people can impose their fears. . I could even dip my toe into a slightly deeper portion of the answer pool and add that the polarization of our country between political parties and the "Us versus Them" mentality that's taken hold makes zombies that much more appealing because what better example of "Us versus Them" could you ask for? And in zombie fiction you have to kill Them in order to survive whereas in real life you can't shoot your neighbor in the head because he has opposing political views.
What do you find more challenging, acting or writing a book?
Writing a book wins by a landslide. Yes, acting can be challenging, especially if you've got a really lousy script and don't want to completely suck in whatever the project is... and sometimes it's hard to summon up the necessary emotions (y'know, like Tara Reid when she got her hand bitten off in Sharknado 2), but I personally find it a lot easier than writing. I love writing, but there are definitely days/weeks/months when it's a love/hate relationship.
In Plague World, the outbreak has spread throughout the world, how likely do you feel a scenario such as in your story could occur in today's world?
I really have no clue. I'd like to say it's totally impossible, but given some of the scary diseases lurking in the Amazon and the Congo and other places that until recently were pretty much left alone by modern society, who knows what might happen? Mankind may be more equipped to handle a pandemic what with modern medicine and all, but we're also better equipped to spread a plague what with our ability to jet from one side of the planet to the other within the space of a day. And given the antibiotic resistant infections, the talk of a Super Bug, and yeah, I'm pretty sure the various governments have developed some pretty nasty ass biological weapons.... I'd say it's possible we might see a pandemic within our lifetime. I hope not (and I am going to go out on a limb and say I don't think the dead are going to reanimate any time soon), but ... ya never know.
Ashley seems like a tough character, not typical of female characters in horror stories. Where did you come up with the idea for her?
Well, first of all, there are a lot more tough female characters emerging in horror, urban fantasy and the paranormal genres than you think. And more authors are crossing/mixing genres, but you can bet those written by women are generally gonna get the babe in black leather with a tramp stamp on the cover (which tend to scream half-fae/one quarter dragon/one quarter demon hunter vampire thingee in love with a quarter werewolf/three-quarters merman type of story), which don't always reflect just how far some of these books cross into horror. That being said, I was contacted by Lori Perkins, then with Ravenous Romance, to develop a series that would be "Buffy, but with zombies. But different. Name her Ashley." I was told I could take the story and character any way I wanted. I started writing and Ash's voice pretty much made itself known after the first few pages. I also like the fact that Ash is not just "tough" in the kick-ass sense of the word, but she's also able to deal with what's thrown at her, make decisions on her feet, and continue to fight without losing her empathy. And that's a kind of strength that makes her more interesting to me than if she was just all about the ass-kicking.
J.T. is a very likable character. What did you feel it was important to include when writing this character?
J.T. is based on a friend of mine (other than the Parkour skills - I added those), who is just as quirky, friendly and manic as the J.T. in my books. I have to confess that I never sat there and thought about what would be important to include when writing his character. I'm more of an organic writer (grass fed and everything!) than a plotter, so I don't have things mapped out as to 'well, I have a nasty character and now I need someone more likable here to balance things out.' I knew I wanted someone with mad free-running skills somewhere in the trilogy because seriously, that kind of ability to scale walls and navigate one's surroundings would come in as handy as marksmanship ability as far as staying alive. So when I decided to include my friend as a character in the books, given his personality and manic energy, he seemed the perfect person to be assigned the parkour skills.
You have two other books in the Ashley Parker series, Plague Nation and Plague Town, will there be any more stories with her in them?
I'm in discussion with Titan about the possibility of more Ashley Parker books. There are definitely still more stories I could tell in that world.
Is there any upcoming projects you wish to share with the readers?
I'm excited to be included in the fourth V-Wars anthology, edited by Jonathan Maberry. Not sure what the release date is, but the story has been really fun to write. I've got several other projects in development (outlining, writing the first 50 pages) while waiting to see what happens with Titan, all of them within the horror/urban fantasy/Sci-Fi genres. We shall see!
Where can people find out more about you?
Well, I have a website that's in dire need of updating, but it does have a lot of info about me and my eclectic history: www.danafredsti.com, and I'm always happy to be meet people via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dana.fredsti.inara.lavey and Twitter. https://twitter.com/zhadi1
Thanks for taking the time to interview me!