Eric, how long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I began keeping a book journal in 1998 after I became seriously ill and had to stand down from my ministry at Cardiff City Temple, now Cardiff City Church. I felt it was important to record what I was going through and how God was speaking to me through it all. Then, after a visit by Jeff Lucas, he asked me to write a small group leader’s course book called Trust: Enduring Hope (Spring Harvest Publications, 2006). Braving the Stormfollowed in 2008 and Storm Force in 2010 (Authentic Media) telling the early stages of my nightmare story. I also ghost wrote Storming home; the story of Billy Gilvear (Monarch) in 2011 and I contribute regularly to Scripture Union’s Bible-reading notes Encounter with God.
Through the Storms records some very painful dark periods as you battled with pancreatitis – how did you find writing about these?
I found it quite therapeutic to write, but never easy. Reliving my times in ICU and those near-death experiences were tough to record and are, even now, hard for me to read. I did find it helpful, though, to set it all down on paper and then to think through the issues raised for someone like me – a Pentecostal leader and pastor who believes in divine healing, yet has been chronically ill.
As a pastor, how would you counsel someone in the midst of such a health ‘storm’ as you experienced?
Everybody is different and each storm unique, yet there are principles, many of which I set out in the book, that can help us get through. If I were to pick just one or two – I would say ‘never give up hope and trust God and his promises even more than your symptoms or the prognosis of others (including doctors!)’. At my lowest points I considered shortening my appalling pain by my own hand – I can’t even bring myself to explain that more deeply – but I am so glad that I did nothing about it. If I had, the pain I would have caused my family and fellow believers would have been immense, but crucially, I would have missed the developments in medical research which enabled me to have space-age transplant surgery in 2017 that was unavailable throughout my period of pain.
How did writing Through the Storms impact you?
It took more than two years to get it done. Like Dorothy Parker I can say, ‘I hate writing – I love having written.’ It is hard work, but my motivation throughout was, and is, to put resources into the hands of sufferers and carers alike that will give them hope, encouragement and practical help. I also want to scotch the myth that healing is entirely dependent on our faith. Those of us who value a theology of healing, as I do, need to also embrace a theology of suffering. There is a cross at the centre of our faith.
What do you hope readers will take away from Through the Storms?
See above, but I also hope that folk who are not going through storms at the moment, or know someone who is, will be better prepared for having read this book beforehand. I am not an expert, but rather ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread’, so I hope it will prove beneficial to a wide readership.
How did you find the publication process?
Having worked with three other traditional publishers (Spring Harvest, Authentic and Monarch/Lion Hudson) I have found IA to be a pleasure to work with thus far.
Did you get input from friends and family for the book, or was it something you felt best to work on alone?
I am a fairly lonesome scribe, but my wife Diane does read my manuscripts at an early stage and offers me good advice and corrections!
What one piece of advice would you want to give to a new writer?
Get writing straight away. Resist the temptation to edit. Get it down in print first. I aim at 1,000 words per day when I am writing but don’t, of course, hit it! It would not have taken me 2.5 years if I had. Also, don’t be put off by rejections. My study wall is papered with them and this is my fifth published book, with chapters in many more, and well over a quarter of a million words in print.
What are you working on now?
I have been asked to write articles connected to the book for Direction magazine, the Baptist Times, Sorted magazine, and have recently written one for Inspire online magazine. I am also writing Bible reading notes for Scripture Union, this time on the Book of Job – a subject close to my heart.
Finally, what is your favourite book and why?
Apart from the bible – I have two. Firstly, Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor is the best description I have found of how a pastor’s calling should be followed. Secondly, Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel helped me immensely while I was suffering, and feeling such a failure. It also showed me a genre of writing where authors are painfully vulnerable and real with their readers, and it is one that I aspire to join.