Afton's Story


Official Biography


Afton's Books

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I was born in Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, MI on August 7, 1982. My parents, Tom and Carol Newton from South Haven, MI, had always enjoyed traveling out West and stopped in the small Wyoming town named “Afton” during one of their trips. They decided to give this name to their future daughter and chose "Lisette" as my middle name because they liked the name when reading the book Centennial.

Despite being a content and happy baby, I suffered from medical problems from the very beginning of my life. At the age of six months, my parents learned that I had a congenital hip dislocation. They took me to a specialist in Chicago, and he had me put in traction for 2 weeks.  After that, I wore a full body cast for several months. The doctor feared he would need to do surgery to create a new hip socket, but decided to try a brace, first. God performed a miracle and the brace worked, so I did not have to have surgery and have no leftover effects from this problem. I thankfully do not remember any of this, but my parents assure me that I never stopped smiling, even when in the hospital.

I have loved learning about history since I can remember. I used to sit and listen with fascination as my dad – who also loves history – talked about famous people from the past. One of my earliest memories from the age of three is him telling me about Napoleon and Hitler and their role in history. I have tried to use Dad’s same attempts to make history seem interesting and easy to understand when writing my books.

At the age of four, I had already begun to develop my own historical interests. I became fascinated with the American Indians and American West. My parents shared and encouraged these interests, especially by taking me on many trips through the western United States with stops at national parks and historical sites. Though my historical interests shifted to various other topics as I got older, my love for history and “seeing it” at historical sights never died. In my Cousin Adventures series, I hope to give readers a chance to “experience” some of the wonderful places where I have visited. Writing stories about those places also brings back fond memories of my trips.

In addition to always enjoying history and traveling, I have also loved reading since teaching myself at the age of four, using my mom’s old Dick, Jane and Sally book. From birth until the time I could read on my own, my mom had read to me every night. My favorite books were always historical fiction and historical biographies, especially the ones about Annie Oakley. My writing career also began early when I wrote my first story, The Horse and the Too Big Apple, at the age of four. Before I even began school, I wrote my next story: My Dog Bitsy. During grade school, I continued to enjoy reading, writing, and history and combined these likes in my first “real book” for the second grade young author’s program. This story of Flying Eagle told the tale of a Nez Pearce Indian boy and his horse and was my first attempt at historical fiction.

Horses are another of my lifelong interests. Though I do not claim to be and have never been a truly “horse crazy” person like some, I have always and still do enjoy riding. I got my first pony – a Shetland named Nicky – when I was only 18 months and soon decided that I wanted to ride in the Little Britches Rodeo after watching the exciting rodeos during my many vacations out West. But this dream ended at the age of six after I got a Pony of the Americas (POA) pony named DDS Amber Britches and went to my first show on the POA circuit in Okalahoma where we had met so many wonderful people while trying out and purchasing Amber. POAs quickly became a huge part of my life. During my 15 year youth show career, I had the good fortunate to travel to many states to horse shows, often taking side trips to historical sites in the area and am thankful to the many friends who “baby-sat” my ponies so my parents and I could take this opportunity. The idea for the Cousin Adventures series actually came from some of these trips as I wrote the first story in the Cousin Adventures series – The Mystery of the Sabotaged Dig that takes place at Fort William Henry in Lake George, NY – while thinking about the good times I had showing and visiting historical sites in that area. I continued showing for the rest of my youth career and completed two years in the POA 19 and over program before my health prevented me from being able to show. However, I still enjoy riding my POA Pal Fausteana and still have my retired show pony – who will always be my partner and best friend – HH Cherokee Taboo, who is now 30 years old.

In Kindergarten, I attended the Gagie School. After skipping into second grade, I spent the rest of my elementary school years at Lincoln Elementary School and Central School in South Haven, MI. In the middle of sixth grade, our school was moved to the new Baseline Middle School. It was shortly after that time when my  parents began home-schooling me. Although this worked well for me as I am extremely self-motivated and it provided me the necessary flexibility for traveling to shows, these were not the primary reasons for making this choice. It was at this time – when we made the move to a new Middle School – that I was diagnosed with the environmental illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). When writing The Cousin Adventures series, I decided to give this problem to one of the main characters because I know what it is like to suffer from the disease, even as a child. Even though I did not have MCS as bad as Jen does when I was her age, I can still relate. I sometimes felt, and still feel, very alone in my suffering and experiences and think that a lot of kids with chronic and severe illness share these feelings and frustrations. I wanted to give them a character to relate to and hope Jen does this. While her frustrations and limitations sometimes do come out in the books, I try to present her situation in a positive and encouraging way. Jen might not be a “normal” kid, but she still lives a very full life and has created a “new type of normal” for herself, just as I have attempted to do in my own life.  

After a number of serious chemical exposures in my first years of college, my MCS progressed to the point of causing permanent damage to my body and various internal systems. It also created numerous other autoimmune difficulties, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. As a result of all of these problems, my time and the things that I can do are very limited, and I am mostly home bound. This can be very frustrating for me, not only as a young adult but also as an author because it limits time available to write as I must focus my primary attention on taking care of myself each day. It also prevents me from promoting my books through things like school visits and book signings.

However, I admit that without having Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I probably would not be a writer at all. Knowing the type of person I am, I believe I would have been working in a job somewhere – 24/7 if possible – and never taking the time to write, most likely never even realizing how much I loved it. Though I have always written some throughout my entire life, I began doing it much more after I got sick. Writing gave me a wonderful way to experience things I felt I was missing, a way to escape from my problems and live in a “more perfect” world of my own making, and a way to travel through my “imagination” since I can no longer do much traveling in reality. It gives me the ability to control my situation in times when I feel powerless in doing this in my own life because of my health problems. I love writing the “Cousins” stories because I “know” the characters. They have become my friends, which is important for me  at a time when I feel isolated from friends and family. I also get the opportunity to travel through my books, experiencing what the characters do as I am transported into the world of my books.

I have not been able to travel as much as I would like since becoming ill, I have managed to make a few trips, especially to my parents and my favorite vacation spot of Walt Disney World. My limitations and frustrations have also not prevented me from enjoying many good things in my life, and I am thankful for the many blessings God has given me, especially my wonderful and supportive parents.

Though I have not published any books for a few years, I am still writing and have completed many drafts for future “Cousins” stories. I do hope to publish at least some of these one day. I also stay busy working on my Teen and Adult historical suspense novels. To relax, I enjoy riding my pony “Teana” (when the Michigan weather permits) as well as reading and playing computer games.

I hope that everyone enjoys reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them!



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