Welcome back to The Writers Block! I had to step away for a bit due to a scheduling conflict with one of my other writing projects. I pinky promise that was the reason. It had absolutely nothing to do with watching a white ferret fighting off a gang of squirrels over who should get the last few cheese puffs left in the bag. And yeah, the white ferret prevailed (albeit not unscathed), and I'm not sure fighting five squirrels over three cheese puffs was worth all that blood on the white fur, but that had nothing to do with the interview hiatus.
And while you're busy believing that, allow me to present my next guest. A writer, a teacher, a lover of horror, and a sense of humor that...well, take a look at her Facebook page and you'll see. It is truly a pleasure to introduce you to Jo Fontana.
Let's get to it, shall we?
KD: Okay, let's do this. In a nutshell, who is Jo Fontana?
Jo Fontana: I think I can sum myself up as a professional by day and a writer by night.
KD: I'm not sure why I saw "writer by night" and pictured a superhero going from rooftop to rooftop with a pen in hand saving the city from typos and...but I digress. How do you kick back, relax, and unwind?
Jo Fontana: That depends on the day. Either I’ll read, take a walk in the park, or watch cheesy documentaries.
KD: Remind me next time to ask you what makes a documentary cheesy. Who are your writing influences?
Jo Fontana: I suppose my influences are eclectic. Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, and Harper Lee to name a few. As a kid, I also had the benefit of an educational system that required students to read some banned books so I think that helped a bit too.
KD: Your influences are some true greats. With maybe the exception of Shirley Jackson, I've read at least three stories from each one of those authors. Okay, it's shout out time to your neck of the woods!
Jo Fontana: I’ve lived in many places before finally settling in Colorado. I feel Colorado has its own special magic. There are still hidden places here that you can travel to, just to enjoy nature.
KD: That's true. Personally speaking, the mountain views, the hot springs, the nature walks...Colorado does it in style. Okay, so I’ve checked out your Facebook. It has a style of humor about it. How big of an impact has social media been for you as a writer?
Jo Fontana: To be honest, I struggle with social media. I know it’s important, but I feel like there is always a marketing aspect to it. Even when using a private account, you have to somewhat censor yourself. I prefer to write and experiment.
KD: Makes sense. Especially the marketing aspect part. Now comes my favorite three-parter. What genre of music/movies & shows/reading do you listen to/watch/read more than others?
Jo Fontana: Before the pandemic, I would watch and read copious amounts of horror. Now, I’ve taken to reading Agatha Christie and rereading some of the classics. I’ve expanded my viewing preferences as well. Now I watch more documentaries both in English and Spanish. As far as music goes, I usually listen to anything except country music. When I’m writing, I listen to instrumental music because I find I become too distracted when I listen to anything with lyrics.
KD: And speaking of genre...it’s easy for a writer to state what genre they write in. Less so to describe their writing style. You see where I’m going with this, right? How would you describe your writing style?
Jo Fontana: That depends on what I’m writing and what language I’m writing it in. However, no matter what the content, I usually draw from experience. For example, my children’s work tends to be humorous just because I have been in or seen such ridiculous situations as a Gen-X kid.
KD: The stories we Generation X kids could tell these youngsters nowadays. Coffee, tea, or…?
Jo Fontana: Definitely tea because I have a sensitivity to coffee. Maybe some Baileys on the rocks if I’m celebrating, but that’s far and few between these days.
(Readers, don't judge me too harshly, but I had to Google Baileys to see what it was...)
KD: Time to flex those writing muscles. Tell me a story using only five sentences.
Jo Fontana: I curse the gods of winter for the cold snap. Sliding glass doors are a poor insulator and safeguard against sound or things that go bump in the night. Insects invade my room daily and to my dismay, die in spots where I can conveniently find them. I hear a cracking sound like glass breaking and I scurry under the bed with the insect corpses. As something slides into the room, I wonder who will take care of my pets.
(Readers, when Jo Fontana sent me her five sentence story, she also sent a disclaimer of sorts. I'm going to include what she wrote, then respond to it.
Jo Fontana: A quick note. Not every writer excels at microfiction. The shortest works I have written have been about 500 words for children's books, so please be gracious when assessing this work.
KD: For 80 words, you hit the nail on the head. In fact, you had me under the bed with a teddy bear wondering what happens next!)
KD: I can honestly say, you understood the assignment! Are you more an introvert or extrovert?
Jo Fontana: That depends on the day. I’d probably say I’m an ambivert.
(Okay, yeah, I had to Google ambivert, too. In my defense, I never claimed to be all-knowing.)
KD: So this is a question I will be asking most (if not all) of my fellow writers. Based on whatever criteria you use as a gauge, what book/story of yours do your readers enjoy the most?
Jo Fontana: They usually mention the work I feel most connected to.
KD: Okay, let me include the companion question to this. Which book/story of yours is your personal favorite?
Jo Fontana: Gods of the Bay because it’s a love letter to my hometown.
KD: Love letters in the form of stories are so cool. Okay, time to weigh in on the topic of AI. Your thoughts as it pertains to the literary world?
Jo Fontana: I think the process of a writer actually doing the work is everything. I read something recently where someone remarked they wouldn’t bother to read something no one has bothered to write. I one hundred percent agree with that sentiment. I don’t think taking that sort of shortcut can produce a work that will impact people’s lives in a meaningful way. AI should be used to improve medicine, scientific knowledge, and systems and processes. At this time, I’m still not sure how I feel about using AI for researching subjects for writing.
KD: One day I'm gonna ask Google to search for something and it's gonna say, "No, I don't think I will." That will be the day I go looking for the one known as John Connor. Care to drop some writing advice on the class?
Jo Fontana: When editing a work I follow two rules I have learned from other writers. These rules are to finish the draft and let a sufficient amount of time go by before returning to it so you can rewrite with fresh eyes. Then when you start reviewing it, read it out loud. You catch more mistakes this way.
KD: Good advice! Now, I’d like to think that every writer has a Muse that speaks to them. How does your Muse speak to you?
Jo Fontana: I think my Muse changes depending on what I’m working on. I have one for the children’s projects, one for the projects in Spanish, one for fantasy, and one for horror. Each one speaks to me in a different way and sometimes they aren’t consistent. The one that is the loudest is the one for the children’s books and I’m okay with that because it’s a happy Muse.
KD: Mine gets chatty and won't stop whispering until I finally start paying her some attention. Her first words in my ear are usually, "Here, write this down." What, to you, is the greatest aspect of America?
Jo Fontana: Before the pandemic I would have said community. Now, I think the greatest aspect of America is that for the most part, if you work for something, you have a good chance of attaining it. As a single parent, the things that have helped me the most in life, science and education, are accessible.
KD: I am a huge nerd on all things science! Flipping the coin, what do you feel is the greatest challenge facing America?
Jo Fontana: The pervasive political division. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground anymore.
KD: As a writer, what would be the holy grail for you?
Jo Fontana: The holy grail for me would be to have one of my children’s books published and distributed by Scholastic.
(If any peeps know some people that know some people with Scholastic connections...)
KD: What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?
Jo Fontana: Pineapple on pizza is fine.
KD: What in the unholy...let us just move on, shall we? Are you more an audiobook, e-book, or traditional book in hand type of person? Or are you an “I love all my children equally” type of person?
Jo Fontana: Traditional books are my favorite, but I’ve transitioned to e-books since I find they’re easier to read in bed.
KD: Any business or website you'd like to promote?
Jo Fontana: www.jofontana.com
My thanks to Jo Fontana for being a part of The Writers Block! Pineapple on pizza notwithstanding, it was great gleaning insight from the mind of a fellow Tales Teller! Of course, my thanks to you, the reader. Thank you for continuing to join me and enjoy both my interviews and my writing projects. The Writers Block will continue.
Take a break from your world...visit for a while in mine. Come often. Stay for a spell.