Today we are talking to the amazing Shea Fontana. Shea has many credits to her name including developing and writing DC Super Hero Girls TV specials, movies, and graphic novels, working on Disney’s The 7D, Whisker Haven Tales with the Palace Pets, the new Muppet Babies series, and a show that is pretty much on non-stop in my house, because my two little girls love it – Doc McStuffins! Shea has been on the NY Times Best Sellers list and has won multiple awards for her writing, including the 2018 Ringo Award for Best Kids Comics/Graphic Novel.
Shea, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with our readers today! I have read and watched so much of your works. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started being a writer?
I grew up in a tiny town in Utah. We lived in an area where there weren’t other kids in walking distance and my brothers were all substantially older. So, a lot of my childhood was spent entertaining myself. I’d make little movies of myself acting all the parts, put on elaborate shows with my dolls, wrote, drew, made crafts. Pretty early on in school, I found that writing was easier for me than it was for other kids. I loved going home after school and writing overly long reports and stories (and I still write overly long…). Initially, when I started college, I was pursuing journalism, but it soon became clear that my passion was actually animation and family entertainment.
You have been a part of a lot of amazing projects, DC Super Hero Girls, Doc McStuffins, Wonder Woman, and the list goes on. Out of all you have done, what stands out as one of your most favorite you have written?
DC Super Hero Girls was such a great experience from the beginning and it’s so incredible to see how it has taken off. I love seeing all the kids in their DCSHG costumes and hear from parents how much it has meant to their superhero-loving kids who didn’t previously have a lot of options. I had a lot of creative freedom, especially with the graphic novels, to tell the kind of stories I wanted to tell, and it’s very fulfilling to see it succeed.
So I am a father of two girls (6 and 4 months) and my oldest loves DCSHG! A lot of your writing features strong female leads. How important is it for you to inspire younger women and girls in literature, art and entertainment?
I absolutely want to empower girls and inspire them to be the heroes of their own stories. But I also think it’s extremely important not to limit strong female leads to an all-girl audience. Boys need to see female leads just as much as girls do.
Great point! Since I have two girls and we have watched EVERY single episode of Doc McStuffins, so much that I can sing all of the songs now, what was your favorite part of writing for Doc? It is really a unique show teaching children about medical situations that could come up in life.
Doc touches and inspires all kids who watch it, but it is particularly important and impactful for kids who have medical conditions. One of the episodes that I wrote (Factory Fabulous) featured a toy character who was “manufactured” without a limb and the message was how that was a perfectly “fabulous” way to be. When the episode premiered, a mom posted on the Disney Facebook page about how much it meant to her son who was born without a lower arm. For the first time, he got to see a character like himself on TV. Not many shows have the chance to really effect kids like that and it was such an honor to be a little part of it.
What a really cool moment that must have been! I know that you have written a lot of comic and graphic novel stories. If you had the chance to write for any character, for any publisher, who would you want to write about?
I have been incredibly lucky to have written just about all my favorite characters! Between DC Super Hero Girls, Wonder Woman, Disney on Ice, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and many of the other branded properties I’ve been involved with, I’ve written many of the greatest, most famous characters in the world. Next up, I’d love to write more originals and get some of my own characters out there.
What new projects are you working on and are excited about?
The problem with the long production time of animation is that all the things I’m working on now haven’t been announced yet! I recently wrote and story edited a new Polly Pocket series, which is now available in many countries around the world and will be coming the US soon.
That is hilarious, because I just overheard my wife telling our girls about Polly Pocket a few weeks ago. What advice would you give our readers if they wanted to be an author? What advice were you given that really stuck with you?
Of course the first — and most generic (but it really works!) — advice is read a lot! Read whatever you can. I also tell kids to try a lot of things. Even if you don’t love soccer, gymnastics, horseback riding, painting or chemistry, it’s incredibly beneficial to know about a wide breadth of things as you can use it stories. You can’t only “write what you know” (I don’t can’t fly and I write plenty of flying characters!), but the more you know, the more you have to write about. Everything you do, especially the things that take courage and help you meet different kinds of people, is great story fodder. I always reframe bad experiences as “that will be good for a story one day…”
Growing up, what was the book that you read and reread over and over again? Why was that book important to you?
I’ve never been much of a re-reader, but I did love the Little House on the Prairie series. It had such great female characters.
This one is kind of silly. You write a lot about super heroes. What super power would you want if you could have any of them?
Teleportation! I love travelling, but going to the airport and flying is such a pain.
Teleportation would be amazing. Go anywhere and no lines! Last question, we want to end with something that inspires you. So, what in this great big world, inspires you to do what you do and follow your dreams?
Meeting kids who have read or watch things I’ve written and loved them is incredibly inspiring and encouraging. Not many people get an opportunity to share hope, optimism, relief from loneliness, and encouragement to a mass audience, and I’m always thankful that I get to be one of the lucky ones.
Thank you so much Shea for spending some time today talking to us about your inspirations and your passions. For any of our readers who want to find out more about Shea’s works like DC Super Hero Girls, Polly Pocket, or any of the new projects that Shea is working on please check out her site — http://www.sheafontana.com/.
Thanks everyone and remember to like this site to see more interesting interviews as we continue to ask Questions to Inspire!