Today I am interviewing Dana Fredsti, author of the new dark urban fantasy novel, The Spawn of Lilith, first book in the series.
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DJ: Hey Dana! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Dana Fredsti: Hi there! Thanks for having me as your guest! Let’s see… a little bit about myself. First of all, to quote my official bio: Dana Fredsti is an ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical combat (a skill she utilized in Army of Darkness as a sword-fighting Deadite and fight captain). Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC, Dana’s been kissed by tigers, 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. She’s the author of the Ashley Parker series, touted as Buffy meets the Walking Dead, the zombie noir novella, A Man’s Gotta Eat What a Man’s Gotta Eat, and the cozy noir mystery Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon.
And that’s enough of talking about myself in the third person.
I love writing, reading, wine-tasting, am involved in animal rescue, and live in San Francisco with my husband, a horde of cats, and our dog Pogeen (which means “little kiss” in Gaelic). David, my husband, is also a writer and we’re co-writing a science-fiction series for Titan Books called Time Shards.
DJ: What is The Spawn of Lilith about?
Dana: Well, for a short and spoiler-free answer, it’s about Lee Striga, a stuntwoman who discovers there’s more in her family tree during a film shoot that’s plagued by demons. Supernatural creatures of all sorts are a part of the world of Spawn of Lilith, although they go under the radar for the most part.
It’s hard for me to give a detailed response because the story arcs of each book are, to some degree, intertwined with the series arc and we all hate spoilers. Each book stands on its own as far as wrapping things up for that particular piece of the series arc, while also giving a little more of Lee’s background and family history. So hopefully readers will not finish any of the books with Empire Strikes Back syndrome. My second book in the Ashley Parker series really did end on a “Han frozen in carbonite” cliffhanger, but I ran out of my allotted word count.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Spawn of Lilith and the series?
Dana: Well, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Lilith as first wife of Adam —she ditched him and refused to go back to him as she was having too much fun with her new lover. This pissed off El/Yahweh/God, who turned all of her children into demons. Basically another version of Pandora’s Box and the whole “it’s YOUR fault there’s evil in the world, disobedient female!” I think women have gotten a bad rap over the centuries – especially if you figure it was Yahweh’s choice to turn her kids into demons. There had to have been some other options if he was that cheesed off that she wouldn’t return to Adam (who comes across like a big whiny jerk in this particular legend). That was the starting point. Then I started reading up on other cultures’ creation myths, as well as demons, angels, monsters, whatever rabbit hole I found myself following. Getting ideas for world-building and backstory.
Once I decided to go with the film industry and make Lee’s ‘day job’ a stuntwoman, I took a walk down memory lane to my own experiences on both sides of the camera, found as many books on stunts and stuntmen/women as possible, realized I needed to update my knowledge to the 21st Century, and contacted Alina Andrei, a stuntwoman friend, and was put in touch with Jayson Dumenigo, a stuntman with the Action Factory. Both were awesome about answering all my questions and gave me some great insight to the ways the industry has changed and how it’s stayed the same. I also interviewed actress/writer Amber Benson, who did the same for me as far as what it’s like from the acting side of things.
I admit that a huge influence is the wicked joy I get in making fun of the entertainment industry.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Dana: Well, my main protagonist is Lee, and I think she’s very likable and real. She’s got a sense of humor, a taste for craft beer (something I’ve developed over the last year or so because being a wino…er…wine enthusiast isn’t enough, right?), and she’s not annoyingly perfect or stuffed so full of supernatural powers that she’s never in any real danger. She has a lot of self-doubt when the book starts out because she’s recovering from nearly fatal injuries from a stunt gone bad, has to overcome some newly developed phobias that interfere with her work, and she’s stuck living back at home with her over-protective godfather and his moody son—stuntmen who happen to be nephilim. What Lee doesn’t have is an oversized chip on her shoulder. I’ve found as a reader that having an overly angsty main character can get old quickly, and there’s enough drama in the situations that arise without making Lee a drama queen. Not saying none of the supporting characters don’t fall under that description, of course. We are talking Hollywood.
I love the Katz Stunt Crew, all the stuntmen and women that work with Lee’s godfather, Sean Katz. I watched Hooper, a classic Burt Reynolds film about a stuntman, and read an autobiography by Hal Needham, stuntman and director, and paid attention to the attitudes and interactions of the characters, and also drew on memories of the swordfighters I trained with over the years. All of this inspired and influenced me when I was creating Lee’s family of stuntplayers. One of them (not saying who) went from what was supposed to be an irritating bit-part to being an important and sympathetic supporting character, and I’ve been told by one of my few beta readers that if I kill him, she will never forgive me. Jury’s still out on his fate down the road, but threat duly noted.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years as a writer and as a voracious reader is, that as fun as it can be to hate characters because they’re just total assholes, it’s ultimately more satisfying to have at least some shades of grey in there so even if you still hate someone, you can at least understand why they’re who and what they are. I like all my characters in this book, even the ones with very few (if any) redeeming qualities. Axel, actor and half-Priaptic demon—the frat boys of the netherworld—is so irritating that the succubae have put out a restraining order against him, and probably the closest thing I have to a black and white character, but he was great fun to write.
And there is more than one character inspired by a real person. Not saying who!
DJ: What is the world and setting of the series like?
Dana: This is why clarifying that this is a dark urban fantasy and not an epic fantasy is so important. Although the politics in Hollywood and the entertainment industry are up there with Game of Thrones as far as being cutthroat and unpredictable.
The most important thing to note about the world of my series is that, as mentioned above, the world of the supernatural—fading deities looking to reinvent themselves, ghouls, banshees, vampires, lycanthropes, you name it—is very much a part of daily life for Lee if not for the majority of humanity. Some films are ‘supe’ friendly (if the filmmakers are in the know) and others are totally clueless that their makeup artist is a quarter pixie. Even the Katz Stunt Crew works on films ‘undercover’ (i.e. the producers and directors don’t necessarily know most of them are not fully human). Integrating the two worlds was a challenge as I wanted the supernatural element to be totally normal to Lee without going too much under the radar for the reader.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Spawn of Lilith?
Dana: All of it. Poking fun at an industry that practically falls on its knees and begs to be satirized; playing in my own sandbox filled with all sorts of shifting pantheons of gods and goddesses, demons and monsters; making up movies for Lee to work on; coming up with creepy/gruesome fates for hapless characters… I loved all of it.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Dana: I hope that it’s ‘I can’t wait for the next book to be released!’ I also hope that the characters, especially Lee, resonate with readers. But I honestly have no idea.
DJ: Do you have a particular goal in writing the series? The Spawn of Lilith is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Dana: My original goal was pretty much to entertain. But somewhere along the way I realized the theme of the series—all wrapped up in humor, gore, and the quirks of the film industry— is Lee’s fight for the freedom to choose her own destiny in the face of constant pressure to obey someone else’s plans for her. Very much “Nevertheless, she persisted.” I can’t help but think living in the Bizarro World Reality Show That Is America under Trump hasn’t made me more aware of how much this is going to play into the series. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have tears streaming down my face in the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Spawn of Lilith that you can share with us?
Dana: Yay foodies!!! I’m very fond of food and drink in my writing and in my reading. Hang on, I’ll find you a quote… actually a few lines in one scene that won’t give spoilers!
“Omigod, this is the best mojito I’ve ever had,” Kyra moaned with the kind of ecstasy normally reserved for orgasms or chocolate.
“Is this your first time here?” I asked.
“Second. I went on a date with one of the other contestants on Faceoff a few months ago and he brought me here.”
“I take it that it didn’t work out with him,” Eden speculated.
Kyra snorted. “Not even. His mom was a shifter. Hyena. He totally inherited her laugh. And the shit he thought was funny?” She gave a little shudder. “One date was more than enough. There aren’t enough mojitos in the world, y’know?”
My own personal favorite quotes from other sources are:
“A life lived in fear is a life half lived” – Strictly Ballroom
“Never give up. Never surrender!” – Galaxy Quest
“And my axe!” – Fellowship of the Rings (just because it’s so much fun to say randomly at least once a day or whenever anyone needs my help.)
DJ: Now that The Spawn of Lilith is released, what is next for you?
Dana: Well, the first Time Shards book is being released in January 2018, so there will be publicity for that… and I’m currently working on the second Lilith book (working title Tramp Stamp), and then as soon as I’m done with that, on to the second Time Shards book. And rinse and repeat for the third book in both series. I also wrote a story for an anthology called Hard-Boiled Horror edited by Jonathan Maberry, co-write a story with Dave for another Maberry anthology called Kingdoms Fall, and have a story coming out in Ledger: Unstoppable that’s an adventure with my character Ashley from the Plague books and Joe Ledger from Maberry’s Joe Ledger series. That’s being released in October and I can’t wait!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile?ie=UTF8&pn=irid9509639
Blog: on my website, which is www.danafredsti.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dana.fredsti.inara.lavey – this is my personal page and the social media I use the most. My author page (which I’m not as active on as I should be because I like the personal interaction with people) is: https://www.facebook.com/danafredsti/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/zhadi/ – I’m terribly lazy about Pinterest, partly because I know I’d get totally sucked in if I spent too much time on it!
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Spawn of Lilith and the series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Dana: No real actors, directors, producers or crew were harmed in the writing of this book. I made sure to change their names first.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Dana: My pleasure! And let me know if you need anything else from me!
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*** The Spawn of Lilith is published by Titan Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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About the Book:
Out of the spotlight, in the darker corners of the studio backlots, Hollywood hides a remarkable secret. Actor or actress, set designer, electrician, best boy, or grip—in la-la land, it pays not to be human. Vampires, succubae, trolls, elementals, goblins—studios hire anyone and anything that can take direction, be discreet, and not eat the extras. (The less you know about your agent, the better.)
Though only human, stuntwoman and struggling actress Lee Striga is a member of the legendary Katz Stunt Crew. They’re the best in the biz, in part because they can y, and boast superhuman strength.
When Lee lands a job on the movie Pale Dreamer, however, not everyone is following the script. It’s up to her to gure out who—or what—is killing the cast and crew. Especially when Lee goes from stuntwoman to lead role… and the next target.
Dana Fredsti is ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. 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 (Fox Spirit Books). She is the author of the Ashley Parker series (Plague Town, Plague Nation, Plague World) with Titan Books, touted as Buffy meets the Walking Dead, as well as what might be the first example of zombie noir, A Man’s Gotta Eat What a Man’s Gotta Eat, first published in Mondo Zombie edited by John Skipp, and more recently published as an eBook by Titan books. Her first book in the Spawn of Lilith series will be released June 27, 2017 (Titan Books) and the first book in the TimeShards trilogy, co-written with her husband David Fitzgerald, will be out winter of 2017.
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, with several scripts 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 wrote several novels and short stories for Ravenous Romance.
She guest blogs frequently and has made numerous podcast and radio appearances. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and fellow author David Fitzgerald, their dog Pogeen, and a small horde of felines. You can find Dana on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dana.fredsti.inara.lavey and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/zhadi1