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Lisa Fantino

Lisa Fantino


Lisa Fantino has been there…done that. She spent more than 20 years as an awarding winning reporter at New York City’s two top all news radio stations; she’s an attorney with an international, general practice; is the founder of Wanderlust Women Travel – a concierge travel company, and….is also an author. Amalfi Blue – Lost and Found in the South of Italy is her travel memoir, written after she packed up and moved there for love. Then there’s Shrouded in Pompei, a political thriller. Lisa talks about it all in our conversation.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_toggle style=”simple” title=”Transcripts”]Sandi: Welcome to another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.  Lisa Fantino, where to begin. First of all, she spent more than twenty years as an award winning reporter at New York City’s two top radio news stations, WCBS and 10/10Wins. She was also an anchor at the NBC radio network. Lisa has interviewed a whole host of bold faced names. Mick Jagger, Walter Cronkite, Yogi Berea to name just three.

She’s also an attorney. With an international general practice that provides legal services to both individual and corporate clients. Lisa also started Wanderlust Women Travel, a concierge travel company that, despite its name, is open to everyone and offers customized itineraries all over the world. Even though she’s been just about everywhere, Lisa says her says her soul is always happiest in Italy.

Which brings me to Lisa the author. A Mothy Blue: Lost and Found in the South of Italy is her travel memoir. Written after she packed up and moved there for love. It’s been at the top of Kindle’s best seller list since its release two years ago. That was followed by Shrouded in Pompeii. A political thriller in which she introduces the Mickey Malone mystery series.

Lisa. Welcome and thanks for joining me today.

Lisa: Thank you for having me.

Sandi: Let me ask you straight out. Do you get bored easily?

Lisa: Yes. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing]

Lisa: How can you tell?

Sandi: Well, geez.  You don’t sit still. A little ADD going on there, or professionally?

Lisa: A good reporter has to have that doesn’t she?

Sandi: Well, you’ve reinvented yourself, several times. Start at the beginning will you?

Lisa: Radio was always in my blood.

Sandi: Why?

Lisa: I don’t know. For my second birthday I got a reel to reel tape recorder from my parents and a typewriter. When I was two.

Sandi: That’s crazy.

Lisa: It is crazy. But I used to enter all kinds of radio contests from a young age, I would have them call with the correct trivia answer.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Lisa: I met Fred Robbins. I’m dating myself now, but I won a date or I was a finalist for a date with Kookie.

Sandi: Kookie?

Lisa: Sunset strip, junior.

Sandi: Oh! Yes. Oh my Gosh! Yes, yes, yes.

Lisa: Radio was just in my blood. I couldn’t

Sandi: Did your family not have a television?

Lisa: [Laughing] Captain Kangaroo. When I interviewed him, at Disney World and told him he was my idol. He looked at me. I had kangaroo pajamas. [Laughing] I’ve been a broadcast junkie for a very long time.

Sandi: Were your parents that, I mean

Lisa: No. They were the furthest things from it. That’s why they would have to be my voice because I was too little to pick up the phone and enter all these broadcast contests.

Sandi: Isn’t that wild.

Lisa: But they nurtured me and they encouraged me. I used to make war of the world’s news reels and everything on this little reel to reel.

Sandi: You majored in broadcasting in college?

Lisa: Yes. Double major. I went the English Lit route.

Sandi: Um Hmm

Lisa: In case I needed to fall back on education. I did that. When I got out of school, I was teaching full time during the day, doing radio in Westchester at night.

Sandi: On the air.

Lisa: On the air.

Sandi: You know, when I started in radio, a long time ago, and I don’t know I think I’m older than you are and it doesn’t matter, but there weren’t a whole lot of women on the radio.

Lisa: Nope.

Sandi: There was Allison Steele.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: In New York City who was this really sexy sounding disc jockey.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: That’s kind of it. Right?

Lisa: Correct.

Sandi: There was a part of me that felt, that at least for me, I hate that expression the right place at the right time.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: But I think it applied. Do you feel that way too?

Lisa: Yes. Definitely. Coming up also, I had good male role models as news directors, who would encourage me to go make my chops out on the street.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: There were a lot of people when I got to the network level that had never been on the street. I felt that being on the street polished my news skills a whole lot more.

Sandi: You have to think on your feet pretty quickly.

Lisa: Yea. Exactly.

Sandi: You started out as a reporter?

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: Or did you start out as a writer?

Lisa: Mm. When I first, my first commercial station I was an anchor.

Sandi: You were an anchor.

Lisa: An anchor and a reporter.

Sandi: Clearly, you had to have a good voice.

Lisa: I would hope so.

Sandi: Then did you move from upstate?

Lisa: It was in Westchester.

Sandi: Westchester, right. You said Westchester.

Lisa: That was my first commercial station.

Sandi: And was it difficult? And so was mine at WVOX in New Rochelle.

Lisa: OH! I was at WFAS.

Sandi: Okay, in White Plains.

Lisa: We were competitors.

Sandi: This is getting a little inside baseball

Lisa: [Laughing]

Sandi: For me, making the transition to New York. You know how in those days they said you’re going to have to go to Iowa.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: Cut your teeth on Iowa.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: Before you come back to the Big Apple.

Lisa: Exactly.

Sandi: I guess for both of us it was really kind of lucky because I went to KTU which was the disco station.

Lisa: The disco station. You took the words right out of my mouth. Yea, what I did was, I saw that I wasn’t advancing where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the city.

Sandi: Hmm

Lisa: I wasn’t getting out of FAS. Not that I wasn’t happy there, it was a great training ground, but I decided to go for my master’s. That’s when Syracuse opened doors for me. I went to Syracuse University.

Sandi: You master’s in what? Communications?

Lisa: Yes. Broadcast journalism.

Sandi: Why? Why did you think you needed a master’s when here you were doing the job?

Lisa: It was to network. I had gone to Pace Undergrad.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: I got a very good education, but there was no networking as far as broadcasting goes.

Sandi: Oh, that’s really interesting. That you felt that you had to go on.

Lisa: Right. NBC, it was almost open entrée to NBC once you stepped out of Newhouse, at that point in time.

Sandi: Is that where you went?  To the radio network before you went to the two all-news local radio stations in the City?

Lisa: Yes. When I graduated Syracuse, when I came back to New York, I was hired at Wins.

Sandi: At 1010 Wins.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: As an anchor or a reporter?

Lisa: Reporter and a writer.

Sandi: Did you cover stories, or were you basically interviewing celebrities?

Lisa: Celebrities was my own TV chat show on cablevision. When I went to NBC I was more of an entertainment reporter. But, no, I was covering hard news.

Sandi: Fires

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: And shootings

Lisa: Yes

Sandi: And things like that.

Lisa: And chasing [00:05:48] around and then Juliany and

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: yea.

Sandi: Did you like it?

Lisa: Oh, I loved it. Are you kidding? Yea.

Sandi: Why didn’t, why aren’t you still doing it?

Lisa: Managerial differences.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: At one of the stations and then 9/11 hit.

Sandi: You worked on 9/11?

Lisa: I was supposed to. If you remember correctly, that was primary day in New York. I was always the election night producer. Cutting tape in the tape room. The election got postponed that year, if you remember.

Sandi: Sure.

Lisa: After 9/11.

Sandi: Sure.

Lisa: So, I wasn’t supposed to work until that evening. Being in Westchester when the planes hit, it was like being cut off from the world. You couldn’t get across the river.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: So I never went back to work and that was my last scheduled shift.

Sandi: Wow. For me, I was in New Jersey. They, I couldn’t get across the George Washington Bridge because it was closed.

Lisa: Right.

Sandi: So, they sent me to Jersey City, where a lot of the walking wounded. I went to a hospital.

Lisa: Mm Hmm

Sandi: Just interviewed people. That was a stunning, stunning moment.

Lisa: Actually, I had tried every police and fire connection I had. Can you just get me across the bridge and I’ll get downtown.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Because I knew, the newsroom was crazed. They weren’t even answering the phones at that point.

Sandi: Sure, sure.

Lisa: I knew they needed bodies in house.

Sandi: Mm hmm.

Lisa: I couldn’t make my way across the river.

Sandi: I think for me the next day, they let certain personnel cross the George Washington Bridge, and I had press credentials, and they sent me to go to various hospitals where people standing outside with pictures. Have you seen so and so.

Lisa: yea.

Sandi: Yea, that was crazy. Then you go to law school?

Lisa: [Laughing]

Sandi: Is that the next, and then how about switching gears.

Lisa: That was plan b, and plan c. Yea.

Sandi: Why? Why did you want to be a lawyer?

Lisa: [Sigh] Well, covering a lot of murder trials. Covering criminals from when their arraigned. I mean, sometimes I was with a criminal more than their lawyer was.

Sandi: Huh.

Lisa: From their arrest, their arraignment, through their conviction or acquittal. Then on appeals. Sometimes you stayed with an accused or a convicted person for two or three years. I saw in court, a lot of good lawyering and a lot of bad lawyering. Being a news reporter, even in a city like New York. Is sort of like being an actor. You never know where your next gig is going to be.

Sandi: Mm. Hmm

Lisa: You always have to have plan b because you never know if plan is going to take you through to the end of your career. I was, my wheels were always turning when I was sitting in a trial. I would,

Sandi: Thinking that this can’t last forever for you?

Lisa: Yea. Yea.

Sandi: Oh, that really an interesting thing.

Lisa: Yea. Definitely.

Sandi: I thought it was, lots of times we didn’t have control over our fates, but on the other hand, if you were “doing a good job” you could stay there forever.

Lisa: As long as the new director didn’t get changed.

Sandi: That’s true.

Lisa: I started going to law school the same day I started working at CBS. CBS was gracious enough to work my shifts around my law school classes.

Sandi: Did you go to school at night?

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: Okay.

Lisa: I was going to law school. I was working part time at a firm. Thank God I had that because when 9/11 hit, I had a job to fall back on. Then I just started nurturing my law practice.

Sandi: But, you didn’t graduate from law school and start your own practice did you?

Lisa: No. I was working part time for a firm.

Sandi: For a firm. Now, you’ve got journalism under your belt, you’ve got law under your belt, and now you’re in the travel business?

Lisa: [Laughing] Um, let’s put it this way. Things happen in your life that aren’t always planned.

Sandi: Duh.

Lisa: [Laughing] My dad passed away about eight years ago.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: After that had settled, I needed to escape. So, I escaped to Italy because that’s my happy place. I love

Sandi: You had been before.

Lisa: Yes, and not in many years. It’s sunny most of the time.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: How could you not be happy there?

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: So, I went there, and it was on my last night, coming home.

Sandi: This was a finite vacation.

Lisa: Yes. It was a one week vacation.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Went to Rome, then went down to the South through Naples and found my way to Sorrento. It was like a scene from a movie. The day before I was leaving, I met somebody on a ferry. He asked me dance, literally on the deck.

Sandi: Just because.

Lisa: Just because. That was the beginning of a five year love affair that turned into books. [Laughing]

Sandi: But let’s not go to the book first.

Lisa: You want me to. The travel company was the entrepreneur in me decided I needed a way to be able to keep going back to Italy frequently. A, with a write-off, and B, so that I didn’t wear out my welcome there. Because, an American can only stay for ninety days in the EU. It has to be ninety days, they don’t tell you this is the regulations, but is has to be ninety days followed by another ninety off before they’ll let you back in.

Sandi: So, it’s three months there, three months off, three months there.

Lisa: Yea.

Sandi: And you wanted to stay for that stretch?

Lisa: I wanted to be able to

Sandi: You could afford, in terms of time?

Lisa: As an attorney, most of the time, you’re not seeing your clients unless you’re in a court room, so I did a lot of my work on the phone. I would sit in my living room in Italy at night and my clients would never know where I was.

Sandi: Oh, that’s really wild. But, was a lot of your practice defending them in court? As opposed to, you know

Lisa: No, a lot of it was transactional work.

Sandi: Right. Like drawing up a lease.

Lisa: Correct.

Sandi: Or something like that.

Lisa: If I had a major litigation or a trial upcoming or going on, no I could not have done that. At the time, my practice was mainly transactional.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Transactions are done via email. The internet and telephone.

Sandi: Were you your own firm?

Lisa: At that point in time, yes.

Sandi: It was just you?

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: And that sustained you? I mean you could juggle those balls in the air? You could be in Italy and you could also work in your firm?

Lisa: Mm Hmm. But that’s why I also developed the travel concierge business. So that I could cater to high end clients who wanted a customized trip to Italy, London, wherever.

Sandi: If you’re just joining us, my guest today is Lisa Fantino who has been in radio, in the law, in the travel business, and is also an author. We’re going to get back to the travel business. How were you able to do this as a sole practitioner? And what time is this?

Lisa: Yea. This isn’t that long ago. This was 2009.

Sandi: Okay. That’s recent.

Lisa: Right. People were still into blogging.

Sandi: They still are.

Lisa: They are, but it’s now become twitter.

Sandi: Okay. Okay.

Lisa: But, people were still into blogging, trying to get their voices heard, their opinion out there and everyone has an opinion. The journalist in me, decided to start a travel blog. This way I would have something to write about to nurture the travel habit I just got. The entrepreneur in me said I’ve got to monetize this. Doing it with back links and ads for sponsors, wasn’t going to make me enough money. I knew that. So, I decided to start a travel concierge service. We became, We, I me. I’m the staff; became a full service travel agency. So, now.

Sandi: Did you have a lot of clients?

Lisa: It started with a fellow journalist from CBS, who said I want to go to Italy for two weeks.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Lisa: Can you help me? She was my first client. We planned her entire trip from soup to nuts.

Sandi; Uh Huh.

Lisa: Then just, you know.

Sandi: It just snow balled?

Lisa: Yea. Then, I developed more of a following on twitter. A lot of my first clients, who were strangers, just found me on the internet because of my expertise in Italy. Italy primarily was the country that I was known as a specialist in because that was where my blog articles were focusing on.

Sandi: Mm Hmm.

Lisa: But then, someone called me and said can you handle two weeks in Thailand? I said, no problem. When, what I tend to do, when I’m booking a destination for the first time, because I don’t like to book clients into destinations I’ve never visited. Even if it’s a five star hotel, it could be three star service.

Sandi: Had you been to Thailand?

Lisa: No, I never. But I was honest with my client and I told him that. I came them half off what my normal concierge fee would be for a trip like that, and they were willing to roll the dice and they were happy with everything.

Sandi: Are you still in the travel concierge business.

Lisa: Yes. Yes.

Sandi: Where does your hutzpah come from?

Lisa: Hmm. Probably my mom. But, you what, if I ever write this memoir, it will be the story of my two grandmothers. Both of them came here from Italy when they were young children. One was eight, one was eighteen. The eighteen year old was from a wealthy family in Sicily, but Sicily was falling apart at the time that she came here and she was educated. When she came here, she had nothing. Long story short, she fell in love with the gardener and was disowned by her father who was a well-known engineer out in Amityville and the Great Gatsby kind of mansion.

Sandi: Mm Hmm.

Lisa: So, we was out on the street with five kids. She started a bakery out there, then she came to the Bronx, bought up a one square block area, built a whole bunch of retail stores with an apartment building on top and this was a women who just left the cushy life she had grown up with in Italy and in Amityville. Then, my other grandmother came here eight. Unfortunately, her father didn’t come with her, so she came with, my great grandmother was essentially a single mother here. Living in lower Manhattan. She knew that she had to fight for everything that she wanted. When she was married, she was married in 1926. That was a time when women weren’t really liberated so to speak. She wanted to drive. She wanted to be able to take her kids to the beach. My grandfather wouldn’t let her get a license. She saved up her money from a part time job, bought a car,

Sandi: Wow.

Lisa: To take these kids to the beach. It’s genetic.

Sandi: In your DNA?

Lisa: yea, exactly. [Laughing]

Sandi: You, in a sense, were your own cheerleader?

Lisa: Oh Yes. But my mom has supported me in everything. She would chase down the rock stars with me when I was going to cover a story for NBC, my mom would come with me. If there was a three or four hour ride to get to the gig, she’d be in the car with me and we’d just head out.

Sandi: Was that a pretty cool part of your life? In terms of interviewing the big celebrities?

Lisa: Oh, yea. Yea. The day I started at CBS, much of the audience may be New York based,

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: But, CBS’s headquarters is on, or was on 6th Avenue in a very tall building at the time. It was called Black Rock.

Sandi: Black Rock, Mm Hmm

Lisa: Because it was a

Sandi: Big black building.

Lisa: It was gorgeous and there was steps that went down to the lobby.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Before you actually got in. I was just excited because my mom had been at CBS as an administrator when I was a kid. Now, I’m going to CBS and I’m going to be a writer and a reporter. I walked into the elevator, and Walter Cronkite was in there. To me, I’d interviewed Mick Jagger, I’d interviewed Paul McCartney and all these other people, but there’s Walter Cronkite. Working with me. He looked at me, and he said, hey kid, he goes where you going? I wasn’t a kid at that point, but I liked the fact that he thought I was. I said, I’m starting today at 88.

Sandi: That’s its place on the dial.

Lisa: Exactly. He said, well, welcome to the farm. I thought, oh My God, I’ve made it. This is Walter Cronkite!

Sandi: You were hanging on his pants leg.

Lisa: [Laughing] Exactly. [Laughing]

Sandi: As he’s walking out of the elevator. [Laughing] As you look back, that was an exciting moment, but you’re not easily intimidated are you?

Lisa: No, or easily impressed.

Sandi: Ah Ha

Lisa: To easily impress me, doesn’t mean you have a jet to take me away to San Francisco for the weekend. It means that you’re a loyal person, you’re dependable, you’re trustworthy and it takes a lot.

Sandi: And Walter Cronkite impressed you.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: and you are not easily. Let’s put him in a special category.

Lisa: And he was my career icon.

Sandi: Mm

Lisa: I think if anyone needs a career idol, then it would be a monumental moment in their life. I dated rock stars. I said that in my memoir.

Sandi: Who’d you date?

Lisa: I never kissed and told before.

Sandi: Well, that’ unfortunate.

Lisa: yea, but, they’re names that you would know.

Sandi: What was that like?

Lisa: It was boring after a while.

Sandi: All about him?

Lisa: No. No.

Sandi: Oh.

Lisa: Because the guys that I went out with, I wouldn’t have been attracted to them if it was all about them.

Sandi: Did you see yourself one day, walking down the aisle with somebody?

Lisa: Yea. I think that’s the problem. Because they’re not the walking down the aisle kind of guys. Generally.

Sandi: So, you were a little naive to that.

Lisa: Star struck I guess. Romantically star struck.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Lisa: They’re not the kind of guys that bbq on the weekend. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing] Okay. But that must have been glamorous from the outside looking in.

Lisa: Yea.

Sandi: Would it impress me?

Lisa: Sure.

Sandi: You’re involved in this travel company, but you’ve got this connection out of Italy in the form of

Lisa: Of a love relationship. Yes.

Sandi: As I was going through your memoir, it was a little bizarre because the guy lives there, and you live here. Yes, there’s the internet and there’s texting and whatever, but it’s really not the same thing. How did you convince yourself that this was, and I’m using term “a legitimate relationship”?

Lisa: He came here. He did. He would come here for months at a time also.

Sandi: You would be working and he would.

Lisa: I would be working and he’d be going to the gym or whatever.

Sandi: Uh Hun.

Lisa: He’s Italian, they work out. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing] Okay. So, he had a great body. Right.

Lisa: Yea.

Sandi: Not enough, huh?

Lisa: No. I think it was a learning experience for me. I think I

Sandi: How old were you when you first met him?

Lisa: Um, fifty?

Sandi: Did you see this as being, oh I hate this word, your soulmate?

Lisa: Yea, but I hate that word. Just the same reason as you. It has a negative connotation for me.

Sandi: But you saw yourself kind of going off into the sunset?

Lisa: We never had one fight. I think the problem was him leaving Italy. I think that’s eventually what it boiled down to. We wouldn’t have lasted five years if it was just a quickie vacation fling.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: But, five years went back and forth.

Sandi: You saw him what, two or three times a year?

Lisa: Yea, but for months at a time. It wasn’t like for a weekend at a time.

Sandi: And you could afford to go there and do your work from Italy.

Lisa: Yes. Yes.

Sandi: What did he do for a living?

Lisa: He’s a great chef. That’s what he was trained to do. He actually served President Clinton when he was in the Italian Navy and stationed here. He’s an excellent chef, but work over there is very difficult. The unemployment rate in Italy, for the young, is at forty percent right now.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: So, he was working the ferries because that’s where his family has its roots.

Sandi: So, he could afford to take these

Lisa: Well, come October, the ferries don’t run. At the time that we were dating, he didn’t have a job in a restaurant either.

Sandi: And was he the same age as you?

Lisa: No. He was much younger.

Sandi: Was that an issue?

Lisa: No. Again, I don’t think we would have lasted five years if that was the issue. I think it was basically him leaving Italy.

Sandi: Did it end on a mutual note? Did you both realize this is just, we can’t pull this off?

Lisa: Yea. I think by the end we did. We’re still friends.

Sandi: And you knew you were not going to go, you were not going to move there.

Lisa; I knew I couldn’t live there full time. I mean, yes, the romantic notion of being able to live there and have a virtual law practice or any other kind of business that’s essentially based in the United States. You still have to make face time to grow your business.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: That’s not going to happen when you’re sitting a penthouse apartment in Sorrento. It’s just not. It’s not realistic. There also wasn’t enough opportunity. To be perfectly frank, as much as I love Italy, and I love living there three months at a time. I can’t wait to get back to New York at the end of the three months. There are just many modern conveniences that we take for granted on a daily basis.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Including good transportation. If I lived in Sorrento, which is where my apartment was, I would have to say a prayer in order to get to Naples which was the next biggest city. Normally, that would be like a suburban New York commute.

Sandi: Mm

Lisa: Forty-five minutes on the train, but sometimes the train breaks down and you’re stuck in the tunnel for three hours. Or sometimes the train doesn’t run or sometimes they take a strike in the middle of the day.

Sandi: Sure. Testing.

Lisa: Exactly.

Sandi: These are the times that try women’s souls.

Lisa: Even if I was able to get a job with an American firm with an office in Italy, I don’t know how that I’d be able to commute. It’s just, it’s not a logistically convenient country to live in.

Sandi: So, where did Amalfi Blue come from? How was that born?

Lisa: It’s a play

Sandi: Your memoir? Is that a fair way to describe it?

Lisa: Yea. Because it came, what happened was, the first time I went there was a very rainy spring. I started having these conversations with myself. He would work in the daytime. I didn’t really have friends, per say.

Sandi: Wait, let me interrupt you. When you first went there. This was when you first met him?

Lisa: I first met him in 2008.

Sandi: Okay.

Lisa: I didn’t start staying there on a regular basis till 2011. We were commuting for two years,

Sandi: Okay.

Lisa: Then in 2011, I started staying for prolonged.

Sandi: Like three months.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: Okay.

Lisa: So when I first went there, I had business contacts because of the travel business, but you don’t hang out with your business contacts during the business day. So, I was very lonely. It was raining, and I started having these conversations with myself. As a journalist, a career journalist, my conversations turned into a journal on my iPad. Again, the entrepreneur in me said, I’ve got to do something with this, just to keep my mind going because I’m going crazy here. So, I started pouring out all this emotion. It is an emotional journey. It may not be for everyone, but it’s my emotional journey and it’s my truth so to speak. People don’t believe the story, but, every single word in that book is the truth. It was experiences and emotions I had felt at the loss of my father. Then, with my mother surviving a stroke. I had gone through a very rough two to three year period, and now, I’m in Italy and I’m all alone. I was exploring life at that point and trying to figure out what it was that I wanted. How I wanted to focus my life for the, you know, the second half of it. It turned into a book. Amalfi Blue is sort of a play on words. The Amalfi coast has this wonderful blue water. It’s just magical. I liked the color and I liked the way they spelled it blu in Italian.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Someone who’s very dear to me, who’s big in publishing and in magazines, Bob Gucchioni Jr.

Sandi: As in Bob Gucchioni’s son?

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: As in Penthouse.

Lisa: yes. And the son had started Spin Magazine. We’re very good friends.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: I was bouncing a lot of writing ideas off of him while I was writing this book and I told him what I wanted to call it. He said, don’t go with the Blu, go with the Blue, because it’s a double play on that word.

Sandi: Oh, you were sad.

Lisa: Yea.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Lisa: He said, and then you came out of it. It’s sort of like you came from a blue place and now you’re in a better place. So, I went with the traditional English spelling on.

Sandi: Was that a hard book to write?

Lisa: No, it just flowed. That’s, and it’s a very small book, but it packs a lot into it. It’s categorized as a travel memoir because of the location that it took place in. But, I think it’s more than that. It’s more than, you get to a point in your life where you make different evaluations and you focus on what’s important to you. I think it’s a journey of my life that came at that point, but it’s based in Italy. So, there’s a lot of things, you know, the comical things of me being frustrated at me trying to get my clothes dried with an Italian dryer and the manual is written in Italian.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Things like that. There are a lot of travel memoir aspects of it, but it’s sprinkled with life lessons along the way.

Sandi: If you’re just joining us, my guest today is Lisa Fantino, who has been in radio, in the law, in the travel business, and is also an author. I don’t write, so this is kind of something I’ve always thought of, and I wanted to somebody who does. Is there a presumptuousness in terms of being a writer? Where does one come off to think that they can write a book? And I don’t mean that at all in a nasty way.

Lisa: I know that. But, for twenty five years, I think my career speaks for itself in the fact that my writing

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Was noticed. It was recognized by associations that give awards for such things.

Sandi: Mm Hmm. But, you’re not writing a book.

Lisa: But it means I know where a period goes and where a comma goes, and how to structure. Get out my Strunk & White, which is unheard of these days.

Sandi: Exactly.

Lisa: And know, grammatically how to put a sentence together.

Sandi: Yea, but interviewing Mick Jagger, just to play the devil’s advocate, could be far more interesting than hearing about what happened to you in Sorrento.

Lisa: Correct. And, I wrote the book for me.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Lisa: I’m happy that it sold, and that it’s been at the top of the Kindle best seller list for two years periodically. It fluctuates just as any other book.

Sandi: Sure.

Lisa: But, that’s, to me, that’s an accomplishment. That’s my life story and it’s being validated whether the people like it. Whether they can relate to it or not, is one thing. But the fact that they’re taking their time and their money and they’re reading the whole thing says something.

Sandi: Absolutely.

Lisa: They could stop at the first page. They don’t have to read the rest of the book if they don’t like it.

Sandi: So, then how was the second book, Shrouded in Pompeii born?

Lisa: Now, that. That is.

Sandi: That’s a departure from what you were doing.

Lisa: Yes.

Sandi: That’s fiction.

Lisa: That’s fiction, but Mickey Malone is a New York based, gutsy street reporter.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: Mickey Malone was actually born during my stint in law school. I started my first book, the same day I started CBS, the same day I started law school. It was one big bonanza week in my life. [Laughing]

Sandi: Really.

Lisa: But, that book will never see the light of day. I finished it, it took me the four years I went to law school to finish it.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Lisa: I learned a lot about writing. How to structure. In the meantime I’ve talked with other authors. You’re right. It’s different writing a sixty second news story than writing a 350 page novel.

Sandi: Hello.

Lisa: Yea. But if I had Mary Higgins Clark on my chat show, I would pick her brain. Here’s somebody that I read. That I enjoy reading.

Sandi: Sure.

Lisa: What makes me want to read her, and how does she get me to want to read her. So I would pick her brain with things like that. I think I structured, Mickey Malone was always with me, until she was born again in Shrouded in Pompeii. But, I didn’t know how this story was to evolve particularly. The story came to me when I was on a press trip for Amalfi Blue. It was during one of my stints in Italy when the book had first been released in 2013, and the U.S. Navy has a huge base, the 6th fleet is stationed in Naples. It’s also now a joint force fleet base. So that NATO was there, the army’s there. It’s a very large presence. It was national poetry week. They have an American high school on base for the kids that are there. So, they invited me to do a full week’s worth of presentations to the kids, to the parents.

Sandi: Oh, very cool.

Lisa: Book promotion in the annex, food court

Sandi: Um Hmm

Lisa; So, I was there for the full week and I had to take this long train that I told you is not too reliable. Going back and forth between Sorrento and Naples. And Pompeii is smack dab in the middle of them. My brain just started going and I started imagining.

Sandi: But your brain never stops going apparently.

Lisa: No. [Laughing] Very rarely. Even when I try to go to sleep.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Lisa: But I said, what happens if I kill off a naval officer, and his body’s found in Pompeii? That’s exactly where it was born. It was funny because, all the sailors and all the officers and everyone who would meet me in the food court, would say, if its, when it’s made into a movie you have to come here because they have a cinema on base. It’s right in the annex. They were like, have the premier here and they were staging the whole thing. The guys in service were great. They were feeding my imagination as to how I was creating this story.

Sandi: So, we’ll hear more from Mickey Malone.

Lisa: This was just the first.

Sandi: The first one.

Lisa: I’m working on Mickey’s second adventure now.

Sandi: Well, I can’t believe it, we’ve run out of time.

Lisa: [Laughing]

Sandi: But, I get the distinct feeling that we’ll be hearing plenty from Lisa Fantino.

Lisa: Thank you very much.

Sandi: Do you have anything up your sleeve that you might want to share?

Lisa: Well, Mickey’s second adventure is going to be in Cornwalling London.

Sandi: Which is where you’ll be traveling?

Lisa: Yes. Mickey likes to travel the way most reporters like to travel.

Sandi: That’s wonderful. So, you think that that’s kind of what you are going to focus on. Among the law, travel, and

Lisa: Writing.

Sandi: Writing.

Lisa: Writing’s my passion. So even if I retire as a lawyer at some point in time, I could keep writing.

Sandi: That’s great. You’ve got a lot to say to people. You are just never shy.

Lisa: No.

Sandi: I’m going to do this. You are your own best, what?

Lisa: Publicist.

Sandi: Publicist.

Lisa: [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing] Touché.  Lisa, thanks so much for joining me today.

Lisa: It’s been a pleasure, truly.

Sandi: Join us for another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.



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