Feel free to contact me if you’d like. Here’s my email address:

Those are three zeroes, btw, and not the letter O.)


My newest YA novel, from Scholastic, is called ON BLOOD ROAD and came out in 2018. ON BLOOD ROAD is set during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, about a kidnapped American teenager spirited away from everything and everyone he knows and taken up the Ho Chi Minh Trail to a North Vietnamese prison. My most recent MG book, SINK OR SWIM, also from Scholastic, was published in fall 2017. Set at the start of the Second World War, SINK OR SWIM, inspired by a true story, is about the battle in the North Atlantic against the German U-Boats that terrorized the East Coast of the U.S.–and a 13-year-old boy who managed to enlist in the Navy to fight them.

Another Young Adult novel, GREAT FALLS, published in fall 2016 by Candlewick Press, is a post-Iraq and -Afghanistan War story about the challenges to returning veterans and their families. It’s also about high school football, feral pigs, white water canoeing, knife fights, and peeing in sand traps on snooty rich people’s golf courses.

A previous YA novel, also from Candlewick, came out in 2013 and is called JUVIE. That book explores the troubling and challenging world of juvenile incarceration through the experiences of a rebellious Virginia teenager named Sadie Windas.

I’m also the author of the four-book GHOSTS OF WAR series from Scholastic, about an intrepid trio of sixth graders living in Fredericksburg, Virginia (where I also happen to live) solving war mysteries, starting a band, and trying to survive middle school. The first two books, THE SECRET OF MIDWAY and LOST AT KHE SANH, which were published in 2014, feature lost ghosts from World War II and the Vietnam War. The second two, AWOL in NORTH AFRICA and FALLEN in FREDERICKSBURG, which came out in spring 2016, are about the war in North Africa during World War II, and the Civil War.

Another YA novel, WHAT COMES AFTER, published in spring 2011, was named by Bank Street College as one of the best YA books of 2012, and selected as a finalist for the Georgia Peach Award for YA Fiction. I also wrote Down Sand Mountain, which won the 2009 Golden Kite Award for Fiction from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Both novels were also published by Candlewick Press.

I’m also author of a short story collection, My Chaos Theory (2006, Southern Methodist University Press), which was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize, and an Honorable Mention for the Library of Virginia Fiction Award.

I also wrote the award-winning non-fiction book The Black O: Racism and Redemption in an American Corporate Empire, published in 1997 by the University of Georgia Press, which tells the story of the largest employment discrimination class action lawsuit in U.S. history. The Black O won the 1997 Virginia College Stores Book Award, was an honorable mention for the Gustavus Myers Award, and was a finalist for the Southern Regional Council’s Lillian Smith Award for Nonfiction.

My fiction, poetry, and non-fiction articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The Nation, Poets & Writers, Mississippi Review, 100 Percent Pure Florida Fiction, North American Review and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.

I graduated with my Ph.D. from Florida State University in 1990, and taught journalism, creative writing, and Vietnam War literature at the University of Mary Washington for 22 years. For the past several years, after leaving academia, I wrote full time–when I wasn’t teaching yoga for a nonprofit yoga studio I co-founded, and planting trees with the urban reforestation organization Tree Fredericksburg. From 2017 until Covid I also taught high school English, mostly 12th grade International Baccalaureate classes, at Mountain View High School in Stafford, Virginia.

I live in Fredericksburg, Virginia with my wife Janet, and I’m the proud father of four daughters–Maggie, Eva, Claire, and Lili. The photograph above, with me, Claire, Lili and friends, was taken by Janet in Nanning, China in 2005.

35 Responses to Contact

  1. Mary Magill says:

    My husband and I read your book of stories, My Chaos Theory, and were moved emotionally in all directions. So beautifully written. It is a pleasure to tell you so.

  2. swatkins says:

    Thank you, Mary. I’m so glad you and your husband liked My Chaos Theory. My daughters call it “The Elephant Butt Book.” All best to you and your family.

  3. Victoria Hughes says:

    Halfway through What Comes After I almost quit and wanted to send you an email asking how you could write such a sad story and break the hearts of so many people reading your books. I figured I would give you the benefit of the doubt though and continued on, waiting patiently for the encouraging parts of the story I had read about. So instead, here I am to thank you for choosing to give Iris happiness and a family.

  4. swatkins says:

    Glad you persevered, Victoria. The newspaper article at the beginning of What Comes After is a lightly fictionalized version of an actual one that ran in our local paper about a girl in our area. I’ve known and worked with a lot of young people who have been through terrible circumstances, and am often discouraged to see how they struggle in the aftermath, but also often amazed by their resilience, which happens most when there is a supportive community, in whatever form that community takes. Thanks for your kind note about the book.

  5. Katie Green says:

    Hi there – I am compiling a bibliography for families who have an incarcerated family member, and ran across your book, Juvie. Which led me to What Comes After – and your other writing. I look forward to reading your work, and I love that you refer to yourself as “author, yoga teacher, tree planter.”

  6. swatkins says:

    Thanks, Katie. And hope all goes well with your project, which sounds great and necessary. A wonderful service.

  7. Heaven says:

    Will there be an addition to Juvie, that was quite a cliff hanger. Thank you for a great book!

  8. swatkins says:

    No plans in the offing for a sequel, though I’ve been asked about that a lot. My next YA book, in 2016, is called GREAT FALLS. Meanwhile two middle grade books in a series for Scholastic: The Ghosts of War. Best, Steve

  9. Camden says:

    Dear Mr. Watkins ,
    I am 9 years old and i am almost done with your ghosts of war book I,m only on the first one but it is the best book I have ever read I am so exited to read your ghosts of war book. Please write back.

  10. swatkins says:

    Hi Camden,

    Thanks for your nice note about the Ghosts of War books. I’m so happy to hear you like the one you’re reading and it’s one of your favorites. I’m busy writing two more that will be published next year, and I’m excited about all the cool things I’m getting to learn in my research. Can’t wait to share it all with you and everybody else who likes the Ghosts of War. Lots of interested developments with Anderson, Greg, and Julie too, of course. I hope you keep reading!

  11. Tyler says:

    Mr. Watkins I can’t wait for your new Ghost Of War books if you wright any more ghost of war books please make one about the Battle Of Trenton I have been learning about it in school.


  12. swatkins says:

    Awesome idea about the Battle of Trenton, Tyler. Thanks for the suggestion. George Washington was born near where I live, so I’ve been thinking about a Ghosts of War book about him and the Revolutionary War. Meanwhile I just finished writing books #3 and #4 in the series, and those should be out near the end of this year and next spring. Hope you have a great summer!

  13. matthew ritchie says:

    Mr.watkins love ghost of war should do one about marines and iraqi freedom my dad was in that war it would mean alot.-matthew age11

  14. swatkins says:

    Thanks, Matthew. Just send you an email in response to your email to me.

  15. Whittney says:

    Just finished Juvie and loved it! As a teacher first in the Northern Neck, then in the Spotsy school district, I think it’s awesome to have books with local settings for our kids to really appreciate and connect with.

  16. swatkins says:

    Thanks, whittney. My next YA novel, Great Falls, which is coming out next spring, is also set here. It’s a post-Iraq War novel, published by Candlewick.

  17. Nathan Hammann says:

    Just finished the first two books in the Ghost of War book series and i have to say they are a great pieces of literature. Can’t wait till the next book

  18. swatkins says:

    Thanks, Nathan. Next two Ghosts of War will be out in spring 2016.

  19. cray says:

    what time do you write the next ghost of war book.Pleaes let me know thanks.

  20. swatkins says:

    Books 3 and 4 just came out in March and April. Hope you like them. Thanks for your note.

  21. Camden says:

    Dear Mr Watkins
    I am Finished with your other ghosts of war book Lost at Khe Sanh I am going into 5th Grade now and i am 10. Have you ever been in The National Guard or in A war. Anyway we had to do this book report at school where you had to dress up like a character from a book and i dressed up like William Foxwell it was the middle of summer and for my costume i wore a winter coat so by the end i was sweating. Any who i was just letting you know that i love your books.
    Your Friend Camden
    P.S. I wrote to you before
    Please write back

  22. swatkins says:

    Hi Camden. That’s a great story about you dressing up like William Foxwell–and pretty funny that it was in the summer so you ended up sweating so much. I appreciate you doing that and if William Foxwell was real I know he would have appreciated it, too. Books 3 and 4 in the Ghosts of War series are out now, in case you’d like to read more about what Anderson, Julie, and Greg have been up to. I haven’t been to war and didn’t serve in the military, in answer to your questions. I have great respect and appreciation for those of my friends and family–and all the others–who do serve. Hope you have a great rest of the summer.

  23. JLyons says:

    Hi Mr. Watkins,

    My name is Josh and I just finished reading 2 of your books. They were both in the Ghosts of War series and I liked them very much. The books are Fallen in Fredericksburg and AWOL in North Africa. I have a few questions for you. How did you get the inspiration for AWOL in North Africa? And how did you get inspired to write books about war? Are working on any new books in this series? I think it would be cool if you make movies out of some of the books.

    Yours truly,
    Josh (5th grader)

  24. swatkins says:

    Hi Josh. Thanks for writing, and glad you like the Ghosts of War books. I got the inspiration for AWOL in North Africa from a friend of mine who served on an Army review board, and he told me the story of an elderly man who had been a medic in North Africa in WWII and was put in prison and then dishonorably discharged because he used donated blood from African-American soldiers for transfusions for German and Italian POWs, if you can believe that. The man, who had spent his life as a physician helping others, was requesting that the board overturn–50 years later–that dishonorable discharge and clear his military record. I was really moved by that story–and outraged–and decided to use it in Book #3 in the series as the central incident that sort of explains everything about the ghost, or just about everything. Right now there are only plans for the four books in the series, but I just finished what they call a stand-alone book for Scholastic that’s also about WWII–about the Battle for the North Atlantic and the fight against the German U-Boats that plagued U.S. and Allied shipping. It’s based on, or inspired by, the true story of a 12-year-old boy who managed to enlist in the Navy and who served in the war. I agree with you that it would be really cool if they made movies out of the books. We’ll see.

  25. JLyons says:

    Hi Mr. Watkins,

    Thank you for answering my questions. It made me feel sad to hear that AWOL in North Africa is based on a true story. I can’t wait to read the book about the fight against the German U-Boats. I really hope the movie idea works out.

    Yours truly,

  26. Lori Frownfelter says:

    Hello Steve my son just turned 8 and we have been reading your Ghosts of war series. We have 2 chapters left in the Fallen in Fredericksburg book to finish the series. My son was so sad the we have come to the last book and asked me to write you and ask if there will be more in this series? We have learned a lot together by reading these books. We first became interested because of my sons obsession with WWII and now we have learned about much more! Thank you for writing such great books for kids especially boys! With our girls there was a plethora of books to choose from and I am finding it’s a bit harder with a son.

    Thank you,

  27. swatkins says:

    Hi Lori, So glad to hear that your son is enjoying the Ghosts of War books. Sorry no more are planned (for the time being), but I do have a stand-alone middle grade book coming out in the fall from Scholastic that I think your son will like. It’s called Sink or Swim, and it’s about the battle against the German U-Boat fleet in the North Atlantic and all down the east coast of the U.S. during World War II–actually inspired by the true story of a 13 year old boy who lied about his age and somehow managed to volunteer for and serve in the Navy during the Second World War. Working on another book right now, also for Scholastic, for late middle school and high school readers–about the Vietnam War (though I’m afraid no ghosts in either of these new books).

  28. grace lynch says:

    Hi. I was wondering if you could address some of the literary devices you used in Juvie?

    Much appreciated.

  29. swatkins says:

    Hi Grace,

    Interesting question. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure there is a lot of figurative language in JUVIE, besides a number of allusions–Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California,” F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Dark Night of the Soul,” Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments, the orphans in Romania, the Beatitudes. the Prayer of St. Francis, Everyone Poops, an old American Indian prayer–plus I believe one example of onomatopoeia (a blue jay cawing–and interrupted mid-caw–as Sadie waits to enter and then does enter Juvie) unless I unconsciously worked some in. One reason for that is I wrote the story in Sadie’s voice, and she’s what you might call plain-spoken, and certainly very direct. So her language needed to reflect that, which meant I couldn’t include much in the way of metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification. That just wouldn’t be Iris speaking. I kept the focus more on Sadie’s diction and concrete imagery, which can be resonant in its own way and hopefully is in the book. Anyway, hope all is well. Interesting question to consider. You had me going back through the book looking.

  30. Steve DeGraff says:

    My son and I just finished the secret of midway and are wondering if William Foxwell is a real per person?

  31. swatkins says:

    William Foxwell is a fictional character, but everything that happens to him, and all the details about the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea, are drawn from multiple historical accounts. Glad you’ve had the opportunity to read together.

  32. Steve DeGraff says:

    Is William Foxwell related to a real person on the Yorktown?

  33. Coco says:


    Dear Mr. Watkins,

    My name is Coco, and I am a sixth grader from Illinois! I have been reading the Ghosts of War series for a while now, and I am done with the third book in the series. I chose the book when I was just getting into studying history, and I really enjoy them!

    I think the books are amazing, and I like all the details in it. I also like how you wrote it so that all of the ghosts are different, and how the mysteries are harder to solve depending on that. I also really like how the ghosts are all from different wars, that makes the books fun to read, and I even learn some new facts about the wars that I didn’t know! My favorite character is Anderson, because I can relate a lot to him. I too, am a huge history buff, just like him. I even play guitar like him! My favorite part in the books are always when the ghosts end up finding out who they are, what happened to them, and where their family is. My favorite part of the whole series, though, was when Greg got hit in the head with a rubber chicken! That part actually made me laugh out loud! I have started the last book in the series so far, and I have read all of the other Ghosts of War books. I really like all of the books, Lost at Khe Sanh being my favorite of all of them. I would really like it if a book about a ghost from World War One was made, because I feel like there aren’t enough WW1 fiction books around.

    Overall, I think your novels are great, and I love reading them. I can’t wait to read more of your books, and I bet they will be great! Keep up the great work, and thank you for writing all of these great novels!



  34. swatkins says:

    Thanks for your nice note, Coco. I’m glad you like the Ghosts of War books. I had a lot of fun researching and writing them–and a lot of times I got sad thinking about what people have to go through in wars, and about the real people who inspired the stories. Always good to have a rubber chicken to lighten things up every now and then. I think a WWI book would be awesome. I’ll have to talk to my publisher about that. You might be interested in my newest book, Sink or Swim, which is about the special class of boats that fought the German U-Boats off the coast of America and during the Atlantic crossings during WWII–based on the true story of a 12-year-old kid who served in the U.S. Navy during the war. I hope your school year is going well. Say hi to Illinois for me!

  35. Max says:

    Hi Mr. Watkins,

    I hope you can read this. My eight year old son, Max, just finished your book and he loved it! He picked the book himself and finished it in two days. He has never done this before so I’m very surprised! Thank you so much for creating amazing books for kids. Looking forward to reading more of your works.


    Mish and Max from the Philippines

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