Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Member Showcase: Eleanor Watkins

I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Hi everyone! Well, I am a writer, wife, mother, grandmother, friend,  prayer group leader, former bookshop worker, bookworm  and a lot of other things, not necessarily in that order. I live in an old farmhouse which used to be full of kids and animals but now there’s just my husband, me and a ginger cat. We live near the book town of Hay-on-Wye on the slopes of the beautiful Wye valley. I love reading, the countryside and natural world, gardening, travel and meeting people.

Could you tell us a bit about your journey as a writer?

I think I wanted to write almost as soon as I could read and realised the power of the written word, how a story can take you to other times and other places, to fantasy realms and thrilling adventures in the company of fascinating characters.  I was born during World War 2, I’m not sure whether writing paper and exercise books were scarce afterwards, but I remember scribbling stories on bits of paper and the end papers of books or anything that offered a nice blank page.  The earliest piece of published writing was started when I was about fifteen, finished later and published as a childrens’ serial in the Christian Herald  some years afterwards. Christian Herald published several of my short stories and childrens’ serials, and my first book was published by Victory Press, followed by several more until that publisher closed down.  Over the years I’ve written for other magazines in this country, Australia and the US, not all of them Christian publications.  Book publishers have included Lion, Scripture Union, Christian Focus Publications, Kevin Mayhew, and more recently, Dernier Publishing and Books to Treasure. I think the next book will be the forty third.  They are mostly fiction for children and teenage,  the Kevin Mayhew books are non-fiction books of prayers, meditation, agony-aunt type Q&A books for teenage girls, and a series of six humorous  A –Z survival handbooks.  I’ve also written a semi-autobiographical chick-lit book for women, which is currently with a publisher.

What does a writing day look like for you?

Any writing is done in the mornings. I’ve had bouts of CFS for several years, and my energy levels drop off in the afternoons.  I’ll read what I’ve written later in the day, do a bit of editing, read it again next morning to prime the pump for that day’s work.  I try and read books that inform about the time or place the current story is set in, or anything relevant to the story.

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

Almost anything can be a source of inspiration. Current events, newspaper articles, snippets of overheard conversation,  a TV series set in a certain historical period,
other books, the possibilities are endless.

I believe you have recently had a book published. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The fourth in the Beech Bank Girls series was published by Dernier in June this year. It’s called  Beech Bank Girls – A Time Remembered,  and is narrated by the six contemporary girls from the other books, with the addition of the diary of Grace, a 14
year old girl who lived  a century ago at the outbreak of World War 1.  Grace’s story follows the fortunes of her 16-year old brother Will, who joins the army under-age as a bandsman, and has an unexpected link with one of the Beech Bank girls.

I’m delighted to hear that you have another book being published on the 15th September. What is this about?

This one, The Village, is for YA and is set in medieval times when the Black Death was sweeping the country.  I wondered how the survivors managed to build their lives after losing whole families, so decided to explore the fortunes of three young teenagers from very different backgrounds- Ellen, daughter of a travelling tinker, William, son of the lord of the manor, and Sam, a village boy who is ‘different.’

If you could choose just one piece of music to listen to, what would it be?

The one I hope will be played at my funeral  -  Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  This music seems to hold and express the two strands of the Christian experience,  the tension of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’,  the peace and joy of knowing Christ and the longing to know him in an even closer way.  I think Bach must have composed this from the depths of his own heart.

When you are not writing, what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

So many books, so many brilliant writers!  It would take me all day to list those that I love, or even the different genres!  I love biography, fiction, humour, teaching, travel, classics, childrens’, YA, historical, just about everything except soppy syrupy romantic stuff!  Although that has its place too, I have a close friend who reads little else.  I wish there were more writers of outstanding  Christian fiction, although I do love Jan Karon and Marilynne Robinson.  Others that inspire me are Catherine Marshall,  Dickens, John Steinbeck, Alexandr Solzhenitzyn, Agnes Sanford, Bill Bryson, Fannie Flagg, Madeleine l’Engle, C.S.Lewis, Annie Dillard,  Gene Stratton-Porter, Leif Enger…………I had to stop the list there as a new book just arrived in the post, it was by Jodi Piccoult!  I could go on and on and on, but I’ll stop there. And I’m sorry but I can’t possibly pick the best!

What part does your Christian faith play in your writing?

I’d say it was everything. Our Creator God has blessed us with part of his creative nature, each one in our different way, and I believe he is pleased when we use and develop that creativity.  Perhaps we are the nearest to God in this life when we are using the talents he has given us – that, and in childbirth.  Maybe they are much the same thing!

If you could travel to three countries, which ones would you choose, and why?

North America, where I’ve done most of my travelling, because my youngest son, daughter-in-law and little granddaughter live there, and we have friends scattered the length and breadth of that vast continent. Also because of its wonderful diversity -  the mountains, valleys, coastlines, prairies, deserts, forests, huge bustling cities, tiny hamlets  and amazing variety of flora and fauna.

New Zealand, because my nephew and wife have settled there after travelling the world, and are always saying how beautiful it is.

Switzerland and Austria, because of the snow-capped mountains and beautiful wildflower meadows.


  1. How interesting to hear more about you Eleanor! Thank you :)

  2. Great post, Eleanor. And I haven't forgotten the guest blog you've done for my website - just haven't had a moment to put it up yet.