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Secrets of Afton Lisette Newton and "The Cousin Adventures" Revealed!

What motivated you to begin writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and have done it for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story, The Horse and the Too Big Apple, when I was about 3 or 4. My Dog Bitsy followed shortly after. I also participated in the “Young Authors” program during elementary school. I’ve always had a very vivid imagination and also like to make my feelings and thoughts known to others. I suppose writing is a way for me to share my ideas with the rest of the world.


Why did you decide to write mysteries?

I wanted to find a fun and exciting way to teach kids about history, and I have always liked mystery stories and grew up reading books like the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I also wanted to write stories that let readers “visit” different places through their imagination and began thinking about what could happen while the characters were at the historical places. I started writing and the idea just came out and evolved into The Mystery of the Sabotaged Dig.


Are the characters in the books based on your real family members?

Many people think this because the pictures on the cover are of me and my cousins, Nate and Tyler, when we were kids. However, the Armstrongs and other characters in The Cousin Adventures are not actually based on real people. They may share characteristics with real people (for example, Jen is like me because she is an only child who is home-schooled and suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), but the characters are their own people. The characters take on a life of their own and become almost real to me, but they are real only in the imagination and on paper.


Will there be any more books in "The Cousin Adventures" series?

There will definitely be more books in The Cousin Adventures series. The next ones, if all goes well, should be out before Christmas of this year. As for how many “Cousins” stories there will be, I plan to write them as long as readers want them.


How did you get the idea of the story line for "The Cousin Adventures?"

One day several years ago, I took a break from writing my college papers to write something fun. I started thinking about all of the good times I had showing POAs in upstate New York and visiting historical locations between the shows. It would have been even better if my cousins Nate and Tyler had been there, too, because we always had such great adventures. The combination of the concept of cousins enjoying different historical locations with my desire to teach history in an interesting, understandable way gave birth to The Cousin Adventures.


Is being an author hard?

Writing and coming up with ideas is not hard for me. What I do have trouble doing is finding enough time to make stories out of all my ideas. My health problems severely limit my time available for writing, though, so I have to make every minute count.


Do you like your job? 

I love my job. Sometimes I get so into writing a story that it is all I can think about. As a kid, I never even considered being an author but now I love it.


 What areas of history interest you?

My favorite era/subject in American History is currently the Colonial/Revolutionary time period. As a child, I was fascinated with the American West and the American Indians. Lately, I have been becoming interested in those subjects again. I hope to someday write Cousin Adventures stories that take place west of the Mississippi River.


Was it hard as a kid to live with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Living as a kid with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity was very difficult. I faced many of the same problems that Jen faces, which are addressed even more in later books not yet published. I do not think I realized, though, as much as Jen what I had wrong with me. I just thought I “felt crummy” a lot. When I was in sixth grade and first found out I had Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, it was very difficult as I got sick every time I went in the school. Thankfully, though, things got much better for a while after I started being home schooled. I was fortunate that my mom could do this.


Is it hard now?

Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity now is extremely hard. Several very bad exposures when I was eighteen and nineteen caused permanent damage to my body and also decreased my tolerance to more exposures. It is very difficult for me to go places now, even just to the store. I am very lucky that my parents allow me to live at home and help me in every way they can. Also, the internet is a wonderful thing for me as it allows me to stay connected with people since social contacts are very difficult to maintain when I can not go places and spend time with people. Sometimes it makes me sad that I can not live a “normal” life but I thank God for the many blessings he has given me, especially being able to publish three books despite my health problems.

I have to stick to a very rigid routine of taking care of myself, which consumes most of my time. This is very frustrating for me because of the limits it imposes on my life and my career. In addition to having very limited time and energy that puts constraints on my writing, I can not go on tour to schools, bookstores or other places to promote my books.


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