Joan holds an MFA from Wichita State University, where she was awarded a fellowship. She is the author of This Will Never Stop, narrated by four generations of Appalachian women

Joan Spilman


Joan Spilman is a prize-winning author of adult, young adult and children’s fiction. Her latest work is This Will Never Stop, a novel narrated by four generations of Appalachian women.

Joan holds an MFA from Wichita State University, where she was awarded a fellowship. She is the author of This Will Never Stop, narrated by four generations of Appalachian women, of which Kirkus Reviews said, “Spilman’s textured prose masterfully evokes the hard-knock lives and locales of these women. A highly readable and adeptly crafted addition to the literature of Appalachia.” Her short novella, The Establishing Witness, won both the George Garrett Prize for Fiction at Western Washington University and the Mikrokosmos Fiction Prize at Wichita State. Sansablatt Head, a young adult novel, was given a five-star review by Kirkus Reviews, which called it “a masterfully woven adventure, likely to leave fantasy lovers in awe.” She has published in The Laurel Review, The Carriage House Review, The Southern Humanities Review, Willow Springs and many others. She has received a PEN syndicated fiction award, judged by Jayne Anne Phillips. Joan has also written books for young readers about zombie ducks under the general title The Waddling Dead. She is currently working on a sequel to This Will Never Stop entitled The Mortician’s Granddaughter.

For more on Joan, please visit her website. For more on her latest novel, This Will Never Stop, visit her BookLife project page.


Sansablatt Head (2013)

The Establishing Witness (2014)

The Waddling Dead: Evil Hatching (2015)

The Waddling Dead: Megachomp, D.D.S. (2015)

The Waddling Dead: Megachomp’s Activity and Song Book (2016)

The Waddling Dead: Tight Squeeze the Fire Chief (2017)

This Will Never Stop (2019)

Your biggest literary influences:

Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. O’Connor’s “Revelation” is humbling, Munro’s “Runaway” is nearly as perfect as a short story can be, and I reread “Stone Mattress” by Atwood every year.

Last book read:

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

The book that changed your life:

At age eight, I closed The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and wanted to be in the world of Toad, Mole, Rat and Mr. Badger so badly that I tried to recreate it in my small West Virginia town. Mud River (yes, Mud River—Google it) became Rat’s beloved and musical river; a copse of trees and weeds near an old barn became the Wild Wood; and a hillside cabin, built by one of my relatives for his sons, was the prison where Toad lay in chains. I began the trek upward, pretending to be the gaoler’s daughter carrying a bubble and squeak, when I was stopped by a very mean Dalmatian named Skippy. Even so, a part of me was now aware that worlds could be built from words, and I wanted to be part of it.

Your favorite literary character:

I’m very fond of Brendan O’Carroll’s Agnes Browne character in The Mammy. Agnes is the mother of seven children and the widow of a shiftless husband who left nothing but a mistress, whom Agnes meets the day of his burial. She lives in Dublin and struggles to make ends meet by selling fruits and vegetables in the Jarro. She has only one daughter, Cathy, whose beautiful hair is cut with a fringe. When Sister Magdalen cuts the fringe as punishment, Agnes marches to Mother of Divine Providence School and slaps the nun across the face with an unripe cucumber. Unfortunately, the nun is wearing a palate. “The palate clicked across the classroom floor like seven little white tap dancers.” Agnes gets arrested, but even so, that’s a wonderful image. I like women who make commotions.

Currently working on:

The Mortician’s Granddaughter, sequel to This Will Never Stop.

Words to live by:

Deal with it.


Totally Outstanding

Reminiscent of Pearl Buck? This is a finely crafted piece of literature that you may wish to compare to a sculpture. The careful choice of words and phrasing set this book apart from the crowd. The setting is in mythical Harshbarger Mils, WV, and is seen through the eyes of Lorraine while you explore this setting and the family influences that made her.

This book is an experience that you will want to share with others through conversation and correspondence. Could this book happen anywhere? For sure it can. Forget the WV moniker, the book has a universality to it that will make it entertaining and thought-provoking to anyone who reads its content. Whether your roots are in West Virginia or not, there is much here to experience, so any and all have much to gain. Reminiscent of Pearl Buck? You be the judge!

Noel Jordan, Amazon Reviewer

A Masterpiece of Appalachian Literature

“The past is never dead,” said Faulkner. “It’s not even past.” In Joan Spilman’s novel, This Will Never Stop, four women struggle to escape the past they know, only to discover that each escape leads them further into the past. In four interconnected stories, each woman seeks to claim her ground, to own herself; and to an extent, despite suffering and sacrifice, they succeed. But success is fragile. Lorraine, whose mother deserted her, has come to an uneasy truce with that loss and with herself, but when her absent mother sends her a long letter, asking understanding and forgiveness, it is as if the past has been waiting for that moment. More and more is revealed, deeper and deeper we go, until finally, Lizzie, the matriarch, takes us back to the source—not to tie things up, not to solve or soften, but to unveil the source of her pain and theirs. Nothing is solved, nothing ends, but the truth is revealed. This is a beautiful novel about strong, stubborn women, who confront life with courage and passion. This does not make their lives easier, but it does make them admirable, and this novel a truly memorable experience.

Eaglehaslanded, Amazon Reviewer

A Powerful Read

A gut-wrenching narrative written in such rich prose that the reader has to step aside occasionally to give it time to be absorbed. This Will Never Stop is a superbly written saga of four women whose lives are forever connected by dysfunctional family ties and the times in which they live. From the beginning, Ms. Spilman ensnares the reader with her descriptive introductions of the generations of connected women. Although each character is connected by a strong personality thread, the separations are well defined by the time period in which each woman lives. Ms. Spilman’s writing is emotional and sensitive and I defy any reader to deny finding a little of herself in each of the sad but strong-willed women portrayed in this powerful book.

Sharon Smith, Amazon Reviewer

Haunting and Haunted

This Will Never Stop lives up to its name, in that it is a piece of literature that will stay with you. Haunting and haunted. The gripping, witty, and poignant voices inside cannot be stopped, not even by death. Among the many things unraveled is the nature of inheritance—the bloodlines and memories from which we draw strength and pain and from which our stories come and then change and become new stories. Each voice is fully realized, aching, stubborn, and full of hard-won laughter. These women deserve to be listened to.

M., Amazon Reviewer