Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview with Joan Conning Afman, author and editor

This morning I am starting a new monthly interview section with authors who write in various genres. My first guest is author and editor Joan Conning Afman who writes both paranormal and suspense thrillers.

Good morning, Joan, and welcome to the Island of Palmaltas. I hope you enjoy the visit.

1) What kinds of books do you like to read?

My very favorites are political intrigue novels, and I especially like to play tapes of them when I’m on a long drive. I also like stories with a mystical bent.

2) Who are your favorite authors, past and present?

I grew up on Louisa May Alcott and Ray Bradbury and -- The Sherlock Holmes guy—Arthur Conan Doyle. There is a series of books by an English author, Susan Howatch, who writes novels about clergy with all their faults and fetishes. Love that series! And, Jodi Picoult, and Anita Shreve, and Ian McEwan.

3) Are there any authors who have inspired you to write and, if so, who are they?

I don’t think so, really. I could always put words together, and my mother, a former English teacher, always said to me, I think you could write. I used to answer, “I know I can write, Mom, but I don’t have anything to say.” At this stage of my life, it just seems like what I should be doing. I love language, the way words make pictures on paper. It’s a different kind of art. And now I say that to my daughter, Heather. “Heath, I think you could write…”

4) How do you choose your characters’ names?

Oh, that’s so much fun! I’ve always loved names, had so much fun picking out distinctive and beautiful names for my own kids. I use some family names, like my son Dane’s name in “The Last Time We Were Here”, and my three daughters’ (Mindy, Heather and Sarah) in “Death Island”, coming out in June. Otherwise, I just use names I really like, and then the characters grow into them. For sci fi stories, like “Cheetah Princess”, which I hope will get published some day, I made the names up…Dsanna, Vadent, Arshane….

5) Do you plan your novel from beginning to end either in your head or by outline or jotting down notes? Or, are you a “pantser”?

The idea is pretty much in my head before I start. I usually know, vaguely, what the plot is and what the outcome will be. But I write by the seat of my pants! If I did an outline and tried to stick to it, the characters would wander off course and do their own thing anyway.

6) What kind of writing schedule do you have?

I’m most geared up in the morning, so I write or edit for a few hours then. If I can’t use that time, I write whenever I do have time. But, every day I write a little bit—or if the spirit moves me, a lot.

7) How do you choose your titles? Do you have a title in mind before you start writing or does something occur after you have begun to write or after you have finished?

Yep, the title comes to me when I think of the idea. “The Last Time We Were Here” is what my daughter said to me when she was about three. “You know, Mommy, the last time we were here, you were my baby.” So when I decided to write that novel, with a reincarnation theme, that title was a natural.

8) Do you base your characters on real people or are they completely from your imagination?

Both. In “The Last Time We Were Here,” I based many of the characters on my high school classmates. I’m just lucky they’re still talking to me! But—the “Cheetah Princess” people are totally made up, as are the “Death Island” crew. The minister’s wife in that might be a little like me! And sometimes I put the characters from one novel into another—that’s a lot of fun.

9) Have you used real life experiences in your novel or is everything from your imagination?

I use real life situations when they fit into the story. The two childhood incidents in “The Last Time We Were Here” really happened—whether anyone believes that or not. “Kingsley Woods”, which doesn’t have a publisher yet, is based in Pittsfield, MA, where I grew up, and there are “real people” and places in that. And a lot of made-up stuff, too. It all jells together in my brain.

10) When did you realize that you wanted to write novels?

I took a course in writing for children—banged out about a dozen kids’ stories, and got totally bored with that. Took a course in writing novels, got involved with other writers in a critique group, and that was it. Started editing for a publishing company, and they published “Last Time.” I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas—there are so many broiling up there in my head that I’ll probably run out of time before I run out of plots and people to perform in them.

11) Where can readers find your books?

"The Last Time We Were Here" through
and “Death Island" through Both also available at

Thank you so much, Joan. I can identify with running out of time before running out of ideas. I have read both books and enjoyed them and our little chat immensely.


Marja said...

Wonderful interview! You sound like an interesting woman, Joan. I look forward to your books.

Palmaltas said...

Thank you, Marja! Joan's next book is Death Island, a novel of mystery and suspense.

sarah b said...

Both of Joan's books are amazing.... And I'm not just saying that beacuse she's my Mom... :~)