Jo Fontana lives in Denver, Colorado, with her family and special-needs pets. She is a hybrid author who had a children’s book series published by a small local press. She has written a collection of stories called ”Approaching Darkness,” which contains the award-winning story, “The Plant Lady”. Her fantasy novel, “Brotherhood of Blood” was released last summer.
Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
I’ve had this story rolling around my head for several years. I thought it would be fun to write about Fire Island. I had difficulty writing the story in the way I initially approached it and I struggled trying to put the story on paper. For a while, I had the outline and notes but the story felt as if it were fighting me when I tried to write it a certain way.
So, as I continued to work on it, the theme changed. I began to blend elements of fantasy with childhood rumors and local lore. The final product was something I enjoyed writing.
Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
One of the main themes is climate change. This excerpt is taken from the third part of the book where the protagonist returns to her hometown and is devastated after seeing stark differences from what she remembered.
The changes that could have been prevented felt the most grievous to her. It wasn’t something simple like the neighborhood demographic changing. The land development impacted the wild areas and climate change appeared more pronounced due to the prevailing attitudes of the residents who turned a blind eye to the impacts of their actions.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write the book?
Davis Park was a magical place for me. It was a chance to explore and learn in ways different from being at home because I was able to sit and watch people when I wasn’t in the water. We used to go there almost every weekend. My brother had been given a small boat by my parents and he would take me there with him. I believe the unspoken rule was that he had to or they’d take the boat away.
It seemed unthinkable that I would be able to pilot one, let alone own one. My adventurous nature was frowned upon at home. I hated being treated differently because I was a girl. It felt like my family believed that as a girl, I would have more chances to get into serious trouble outside of home or work. This greatly influenced the main character. I wanted to empower her in a way I never was growing up. I thought it would make her more relatable.
Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?
I had actually intended this to be a short story, specifically horror, but it wasn’t working when I approached it that way. Once I let the main character lead me, it began to flow.
More often than not, I am surprised where my characters take me. I’ve learned to be flexible and go with it. Fighting the muse is an exercise in futility because the story will not be a good one, if you finish it at all. I’ve learned that almost every time the narrative or characters veer off in an unexpected direction, it actually improves the story.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
It surprised me that I had a harder time writing about the changes versus what I remembered about the area when I was younger. I was surprised at the amount of research I needed to do for part three.
It’s easier to fudge the past a bit, but writing about a place in the present time requires a visit to the place, speaking with people who still live there, and doing library research as well.
Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?
Actually, most of my readers have told me they could relate very well to Katie, the main character, and they liked the theme about climate change and its repercussions.
Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
I don’t have one specific space in the house where I write. Sometimes, I sit on the patio outside, sometimes it’s in the living room, and sometimes I’m writing something down in a notebook in my bedroom when I wake up with an idea in the middle of the night.
I don’t have a specific process. I usually sit down and just start writing. I’ve tried to be a morning writer, but for some strange reason, that’s when the editing happens. I do my best writing after noon until about six or seven in the evening. I start with notes and a basic outline and go from there.
Tell us about your next project.
My next work was a dark fantasy novel, “Brotherhood of Blood” which was released last summer. The story follows Jericho Brightbrook, who is an unconventional healer in the world of Idora. He tries not to maim or kill, but the only way to truly cure is to offer a blood sacrifice.
This puts him at odds with the ideals of his temple. However, his power is so great, the temple leader makes exceptions for him. Jericho finally becomes disillusioned with everything and finally makes a break with them that may very well cost his life.