Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Afton: When I was 12 years old my older sister, Wendi and I would spend time every night before bed writing in our journals. I didn’t have a lot to say then but I discovered the satisfaction of writing. As I continued to write through the years, especially in my teens, I discovered I wanted to share my voice through writing stories.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Afton: I’ve written a variety of genres from children’s fairytales to adult fiction and memoirs. My published work consists of newsletters and my personal memoir, Enduring Miracles. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Education from ASU and a Master of Education from NAU. I’m a licensed registered contractor and licensed resident manager for assisted living.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Afton: Real life communication and connections give me passion about writing. Many people don’t know how to express their thoughts and feelings written or verbal. I enjoy expressing thoughts through characters and dialogue.
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?Afton: Difficult. I have submitted several stories that have come back with “we like what you’ve written but don’t think it’s marketable.” I know a book must sell well but I don’t like to put a price on creativity, especially stories. It took me approximately 3 years to write and edit my book and then work with a self-publisher to pull it all together. I don’t advise self-publishing because you’re basically on your own with selling and marketing.
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?Afton: I’m still discouraged along the way with new written material. However, I still believe that what I’m writing can inspire or bring enjoyment to readers so I continue to revise and edit to make my stories better. Knowing it is my gift to write and I enjoy it helps me to deal with discouragement.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Afton: Mostly late in the evening from 10pm to 12 or 1 am.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?Afton: Real life experiences. Most of the ideas I experience myself or see other people experience are a great story in itself so I take real life and make it colorful. But honestly, real life is better than fiction.
Deirdra: Can you tell us about your book Enduring Miracles.
Afton: Enduring Miracles is a book written about my late husband, Juan’s battle with cocci meningitis or better known as valley fever. Our family lived through an unbelievable nine year journey with the physical affects of a life threatening illness that changed each of our lives. I carry my readers through the normal life of a young family and then pull them into my journey as a 30 year old wife and mother of 3 young children with a husband who has lived beyond doctor’s expectations or explanation. We learned to rely on God, faith, and the power of enduring miracles. I published the book three years before my husband Juan lost his life to the affects of the horrific disease. I’m working on a sequel to conclude his journey in my book Enduring the End.
Afton: Yes. Valley Fever is a fungus in the soil from Texas to California. Arizona has a high concentration of valley fever spores in the soil that typically become airborne through monsoon storms or construction. Most people fight off the illness like pneumonia while others may need anti-fungal antibiotics to get well. The unfortunate ones that don’t get treated in a timely manner discover that the spores disseminate to other parts of the body such as in my book, it settled in the brain causing fungal meningitis. At that time it became an epidemic because of the new housing developments stirring untouched soil outside the Phoenix Metropolitan area.
Deirdra: What is Valley Fever? Is it something people in the southwest should be worried about even if we aren't farm workers or construction workers?
Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Afton: Typically 10 readers review my manuscripts. Most readers don’t edit it with a fine tooth comb as needed. That’s when you need to pay an editor to work it over a time or two. I still find errors in my published manuscript that need a little work.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Afton: I hope my readers gain inspiration to continue to live life to the fullest. Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life is a wonderful journey to share. I hope that through my writing, I will give my readers a new outlook on life and carry a positive spirit about their own.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?Afton: I’ve done both sit down and write as well as start with an outline. My most prized work is when I just sit down and let my mind flow out my fingertips and into the keyboard.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?Afton: Definitely. I often have writer’s block when a character is being stubborn and won’t do what my mind wants it to do and say. The problem with writing and waiting to see what happens next is that a character gets out of sorts and what I have them say and do doesn’t fit their personality. I read other books to help me deal with writer’s block or I start an entirely different story.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?Afton: I can’t write during the day when there are distractions. I listen to a lot of music which inspires me to write so I carry a small notepad in my purse so when I think of dialogue or a story line and jot down my ideas for later. The still of the night is best for me to write.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?Afton: Music is inspiring. Yoga and meditation give me a flood of creativity.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?Afton: My mother. She’s read everything I’ve ever written and her feedback is priceless.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Afton: Dialogue. Several conversations between characters bring them to life.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?Afton: When I was younger, I admired Danielle Steele. In these past years, I admire Nicholas Sparks and even Dr. Laura Schlessinger gives me inspiration.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Afton: I don’t eat when I write. Usually a glass of water is my only culinary companion.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Afton: I love to teach in the classroom. I substitute teach public school and LDS seminary. I enjoy business. I own a few businesses in window coverings and assisted living. I enjoy walking and exercising as well.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Afton: Keep trying. Don’t lose sight of your dream.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Afton: A memoir entitled Enduring the End. I’m working on getting a fairy-tale published entitled The Rescue.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?Afton: www.aftonzapata.com or www.Amazon.com/enduringmiracles or www.authorhouse.com/enduringmiracles.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?Afton: I encourage journal writing for anyone and everyone. There’s a lot of pain in the world. Everyone will experience trials and hardships at one point or another. Writing is an important tool to get unsettled feelings out of the heart and mind. Writing may also give someone focus and clarity of goals and dreams needed to continue living the journey we were meant to carry on. And Deirdra thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts about writing.