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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

Guest Post by Marcia Ferguson, Author of .. ‘North Of Supposed To Be’

Today, I am handing over the ‘Meet The Authors’ page, here at Fiction Books, to debut novelist, Marcia Ferguson.

Marcia and I were first brought together by fellow blogger, Elizabeth over at ‘Silver’s Reviews’, for which I am most grateful.

Marcia’s first published book ‘North Of Supposed To Be’, is still some way down my reading list, however, having the chance to find out how the story went from concept to finished novel, is just too good an opportunity to miss.

Over to you Marcia …

Hi, I am novelist Marcia Ferguson …

Image Of Author Marcia FergusonI’m delighted that ‘North of Supposed to Be’ has been included in Yvonne’s blog and thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog for you. It’s a true pleasure.

As a child I loved listening to my mother read ‘Five Little Peppers and How They Grew’, and ‘Little Women’. When I learned to read, I  took up the Reading Aloud baton and happily read to younger elementary students. I still remember the library shelf beneath the classroom windows, and mounting the steps into the impressively cavernous BF Jones Memorial Library. The smell of books, the quiet, and the well-worn marble beneath my feet was intoxicating.

A career in retailing and a love of books happily collided when I became store manager of a college bookstore. Textbooks, yes – but also children’s books, fiction, cookbooks, all selected, shelved, and happily sent along to happy homes.

Not surprisingly, after a lifetime of reading, my active imagination and creative bent began carving out the detailed world of my chosen characters, ‘Bronwyn McCall’ and ‘Ernest Rose’. In my debut novel, ‘North of Supposed to Be’, North is not just a direction away from hopes and dreams, but also a place – Maine – where things did become as they were truly meant to be.

I write fiction that rides the line between literary fiction and contemporary women’s fiction.

In the aftermath of violence, photographer Bronwyn McCall isn’t quite so alone. Former M16 agent Ernest Rose enters her life and becomes her Jeeves, equally faithful, sidekick and father figure. When she’s given the abandoned Bayside Blanket and Toboggan Factory in coastal Maine, a massive fortune – acquired in the most bizarre manner – launches second chances and the dream homes of her imagination. It’s easy to fall for the allure of frosty Maine with its luscious lobster and small town charms, but is that enough to halt the haunting loss and loneliness that define both Bronwyn and Jeeves? For this Jeeves has his dark side and secrets, and whether he’s Bronwyn’s salvation or her destruction is always in question as they are swept away on this mutual adventure.

I have been asked about the origins of the book’s title ‘North Of Suppose To Be’ … At first the title was ‘Find Me’ (there are three reasons that ‘Find Me’ relates to the story). However, a few literary agents mistakenly believed ‘Find Me’ was a thriller, even though the synopsis clearly showed it wasn’t. So drawing-board time. I wanted a title that was special, along the lines of Jamie Ford’s ‘Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet’. The funny thing is, Jamie wrote that bestseller as ‘The Panama Hotel’ … so some titles are slow being born.

I was frustrated trying so hard to find the best title until one morning I awakened and felt like “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be; it’s so difficult coming up with something special.” And then I remembered how Maine was North and how North also signified a veering away from … and voila – the title was born. I’m sure Bronwyn – all alone – railed at the sky and shook her fist at least once, saying “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be” as we all do at times of loss.

I have also been asked, “Why is so much of the story so firmly rooted in Maine?” … To me, it’s simply such a special place and it calls to me sometimes. My first visit was long ago, and on that trip I went whale watching, met ‘old’ Mr. Butterfield of JH Butterfield’s grocery in downtown Bar Harbor, tasted popovers at Jordan’s Pond and began my unending love of chocolates at Ogunquit’s Harbor Candy. Maine is the kind of place where you can relax and pop on a hoodie and some LL Bean comfy shoes and just take it all in. Happily, several of these places and other Maine locations are woven into the story.

JH Butterfields - Bar Harbor, Maine

JH Butterfield’s grocery in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine

In writing ‘North of Supposed to Be’, much of the story was launched as I listened to instrumental music – a cello would nearly pierce me with emotion and in that fall from place, I’d look about me and see who among my characters was in pain, and why. And the answer always emanated from inside of me, inspired by the music. Lilting Scottish music would bring me to a table of happily laughing characters and I’d ask myself ‘why are they so happy’? So you see, I find the story unfolding like a movie, with a varied soundtrack that inspires me into a high state of imagination.

When people say they re-read ‘North of Supposed to Be’, it makes me happy for the characters of ‘North’. I’ve only re-read a few books in my lifetime … children’s books of course like the ‘Happy Hollisters and Cherry Ames series’; ‘Saroyan’s Human Comedy’, ‘The Thorn Birds’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, and several in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. If I read a book a second or third time, it’s to revisit ‘old friends’ … much like vacationing in favorite places. I can understand why readers would like to spend more time with Bronwyn and the other memorable characters of the story. But ‘North’ is also written with nuances, foreshadowing, and narrative threads that lie beneath the fluid plot, so a second reading also allows readers to see details slide into place more obviously.

Image Of The Shop Sign At Ogunquit Harbor Candy Shop

Ogunquit’s Harbor Candy Shop

I always hope the non-fiction books I read, will have indexes in the back and I appreciate when fiction offers chapter titles, which seems rather rare. I knew I would title each chapter and I didn’t agonize over any of my chapter titles, as they led the reader (and me, as writer) into the story, one chapter at a time. ‘North of Supposed to Be’ begins with ‘The Looking Glass’ and it’s the first subtle tip-of-the-hat to other writers … when Bronwyn gazes into the mirror at the hotel, prior to meeting the Israeli Prime Minister, she is figuratively about to fall into the looking glass into a world much different than she’d known.
When I sent out the early manuscript of ‘North of Supposed to Be’ to cold readers, I also included a questionnaire, asking specifics about the plot, etc. but also inquiring what the readers’ favorite parts and chapters were. It was surprising, but wonderful, that their responses ranged throughout the entire story, with lots of variation. Whenever anyone mentioned chapter two, I was gratified, as that was so early in the story, yet it stuck with them.

Chapter Two (Bram and David) holds an important place in the story – when readers puzzle over Bronwyn and Ernest Rose’s (Jeeves) relationship, I say ‘look at Chapter Two’ as that was where their relationship was firmly rooted.

Chapter Ten (Alex Ozwald King) is an unusual chapter and one of my favorites – it’s written entirely from Jeeves’ point-of-view, and it holds no dialogue. It is the starting point of their new lives, so it has significance, and was fun to write.

There are lots of favorite passages for me, but if I had to choose a favorite chapter in its entirety, it would be Chapter Twenty One (Sick in Bed). It shows the closeness that Bronwyn and Jeeves still have, as well as a look at the life Bronwyn leads on the estate. It’s a rather quiet chapter, but it’s a workhorse.

Twenty reader discussion questions are at the end of the story, making it a nice choice for book clubs, but they also work for individual reflection or for friends comparing notes over a cup of tea.

Image Of Popovers Served At The Jordan Pond Restaurant

Popovers, served at The Jordan Pond Restaurant

This blog is such a lovely meeting place for people who love books and require reading in their lives. Every day is better, knowing a book is waiting at the end of the day, isn’t it?  I appreciate that Yvonne has brought ‘North of Supposed to Be’ to her followers’ attention and if you happen to read ‘North’ someday, I hope you’ll let me know what you think.   I can’t say why these characters came into my life, but I hope I’ve served them well in telling their story.  They depend on me to whisper “get to know them”, so whisper I will. It’s a grand group of people surrounding Bronwyn and Jeeves … the lovely couples, the lively couples, the heart-poundingly handsome men, the film stars and the solid Maine townspeople with second chances and rescued, renovated, refurbished homes of the dreamy kind, thanks to Bronwyn McCall.

It is rewarding when readers choose to read North of Supposed to Be. Anytime readers sit down with a book, they are investing precious time – I know, as I am a reader, too. But when something touches the reader or provides escape or wonder – it is time well spent.

At this early stage of North’s exposure to the world, it’s a real delight to hear from readers who enjoy the story and the evocative places the characters live in and visit. When I first wrote North, I hoped just one reader would enjoy it as much as I did … and when that happened and there were more and more, it was a tip of the hat to Bronwyn, Jeeves, Clive, Jamie, Gus, Clara, and the rest. I just whisper their story to you – they’re the ones who dance across the pages.

Wishing each of you happy reading, for many years to come.

If you’d like to contact me – marferg7@gmail.com
Facebook … www.facebook.com/MarciaFergusonauthor
Twitter @Marcia_Ferguson
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/mfergusonnorth  you might enjoy the “Books, Bookstores, Writers, Oh My” board – just click on each board to see the photos – the first ten boards reveal places, objects, food, etc. for ‘North of Supposed to Be’.

Image Of Sherman's Bookstore, Bar Harbor, Maine

Sherman’s Books and Stationery – carries ‘NORTH OF SUPPOSED TO BE’ – terrific independent bookstore – locations in Boothbay, Bar Harbor, Camden, and Freeport

Thank you so much for stopping by today Marcia, I appreciate the time you have given over to writing this piece and for all the lovely things you say about Fiction Books. I would like to wish both you and ‘North…’ every, well deserved success for the future.

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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14 comments
  • Thanks to the introduction to Marcia and another book to be added to my wish list. Loving the sound of Maine I’m also intrigued by whether Jeeves is indeed Bronwyn’s salvation or destruction.

    • Hi Tracy,

      Many authors seem to use Maine as either part, or all, of their story locations, so I thought it was about time I checked it out a bit. Hubbie has visited Maine and New Hampshire, whilst working for US companies, but I don’t think he got to see much, apart from the usual touristy stuff. Marcia has some great pictures on her Pinterest page and the Maine tourist information site is excellent. Definitely a State I wouldn’t mind visiting, I can see why so many rave about it!

      I’m not sure that Ernest Rose is a name which suits a former MI6 agent, I think that Jeeves is much more appropriate, although it does sound as though he might be a pretty shady character, so whether he will be good for Bronwyn in the long term, remains to be seen!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and I hope that you are having a good weekend so far.

    • Hello Tracy and Yvonne … I enjoyed writing about this re-interpreted Jeeves, and his story is intriguing I think, for the reader. I like to read about characters when everything isn’t spelled-out and handed to the reader; rather left up to the reader’s interpretation. That also makes it good fodder for book club discussion or just two readers swapping thoughts. Safe to say that I know the heart of the man, but if reader’s care to reflect upon his deeds afterward, I think that makes it a fun ride.

      Had to comment on Ernest Rose’s name, Yvonne. As you’ll find out, that isn’t his real name at all – it’s a name of his choosing. Ernest because his Mam loved all things Oscar Wilde … and Rose, because his deceased wife loved roses so much. To that end, Bronwyn creates an unusual kitchen for Ernest, in his flat. It’s really a magnificent home, quite masculine with rich woods and fabrics, all dark and earthy and elegantly rich. But the kitchen is bright and kitschy with rose wallpaper and cheerfully 50’s style décor – very white and cherry red.

      • Hi Marcia,

        Now you really have me intrigued!

        I can’t wait to find out what ‘Ernest Rose’ … ‘Jeeves’ … real name is!

        Also, it will be interesting to discover just what ‘Jeeves’ makes of his ‘pretty’ kitchen!

    • Hi Nikki,

      Personally speaking, it seems to me that Marcia is quite a visual person, as would be apparent if you checked out her ‘Pinterest’ pages. It looks as though all the characters and the complete storyline have been mapped out in pictures, which probably makes it much easier to ‘get under the skin’ of the various characters and how they would react in a given set of circumstances.

      As you say, it is quite interesting to compare the various methods which authors use to engage with their characters and bring their stories to life.

      It would actually make quite a good question, to ask Marcia if she sketched out the characters and locations first, or whether she found the images and then worked the story around them!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I always appreciate your comments.

      I hope that you had a good weekend.

    • You’re welcome, Nikki-Ann. This blog is a great place to learn more about the writing, isn’t it? And your interaction is appreciated and welcome – thanks!

      I did create files for each location, home, and character over the years – working full time and long hours, clipping from magazines was a pleasant way to keep the story alive in my mind, while it was taking shape. Those photos and articles helped me to decide what the places looked like and who the characters were. But when it was time to write, I seldom looked at the files; I’d just absorbed them and let my imagination run.

      Pinterest came into being after I’d written the novel (or, at least, I hadn’t discovered Pinterest until after the publication of North). It’s a bit frustrating to not find the ‘ideal’ photographs all the time … especially for the homes and décor … but I only use a photo on Pinterest if it evokes the proper ‘feel’. The real places, however, are documented and thanks, Yvonne, for sharing a few of those very real and wonderful places with your readers.

      • Hi Marcia,

        I am so glad that you didn’t think I had changed the ‘look and feel’ of your post too much, I just thought that the pictures brought the places you talked about, to life a little.

        I must admit that I still haven’t delved into the realms of ‘Pinterest’ as yet. I have trouble making enough time to read all the fantastic books I keep being offered for review and keep the blog looking fresh and current. Pinterest would be too much of a distraction right now.

        I can see just how ‘Pinterest’ might help to organise the thoughts a little, when deciding details about a character and location. Also as an additional way to engage and interact with the reader, helping to bring the story alive.

        I am so looking forward to reading ‘North..’ and thank you so much for contributing to the discussion, I appreciate it.

  • What a nice post. Whale watching in Maine sounds amazing. I like that the author infuses her visits to Maine into her work. It is one of the places I want to visit one day. And what a neat idea to send a questionnaire to readers. Thank you Yvonne and Marcia for this cozy, interesting post!

    • Hi Naida,

      Despite the fact that we have whales, dolphins and seals, regularly visit the UK shores, I have never taken to the seas to watch for them. I am not really much of a sailor (lets face it … I can’t swim and I am scared to death of anything water related!) and the waters around the UK are not reknowned for being calm and serene!

      We have been dolphin watching in Florida, but that was from the comfort of our own, hired speed boat, which we never took out of the safe inlet into open waters. We got to see pleny of dolphins for my liking, despite my husbands constant entreaties to be allowed to open the throttle on the boat and take her out into open waters!

      Maine is a very popular location for many authors to use in their stories and from the various sites I have looked at, I can quite see why!

      Thanks for stopping by, I always value your thoughtful comments.

    • Hello! I do hope you get to Maine someday, Naida. It won’t disappoint as it’s such a cozy place. I enjoyed looking at your blog, and hope little Diego continues to feel better. Tell him to look at my Pinterest boards … in particular the ‘Books, Bookstores, Writers, Oh My’ board at http://www.pinterest.com/mfergusonnorth

      Take care,
      Marcia

    • Hi Vicki,

      Personally, I have never favoured the traditional ‘question and answer’ style of interview, as there are only so many questions to go around, so eventually almost every blog or publication will have an almost identcal interview with an author.

      I generally encourage ‘free rein’ for the author to talk about whatever aspect of their writing, books, or personal experiences, they would like to and it is great when I end up with an interesting post such as this one from Marcia.

      She has put so much of herself into this story, that I can’t wait to read it!

      Thanks for stopping by, your comments are always valued.

Written by Yvonne

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