When I was a teen, I had a habit of getting books I loved, reading them, then leaving them all over the house so I could pick them up and read them at all times. My mother loved finding paperbacks strewn across the kitchen table, between couch cushions, even by the toilet.
There was a particular trilogy that I loved by Jean Ferris. It was about a young woman who wound up on pirate ships and had all these adventures during the War of 1812. It was a bit of a romance, as she found and fell in love with her husband, but the books were mostly about the young woman’s spirit and I just loved her. The character’s name, which I will never forget, is Rosalia Maria-Louisa Unity Fielding. I always loved that name.
After I went to college, those many paperbacks wound up donated to the Salvation Army. It wasn’t until years later that I panicked, desperate to re-read them for the millionth time. The YA novels, titled “Into the Wind” “Song of the Sea” and “Weather the Storm” were out of print, but had apparently been resurrected. I was able to purchase all three in paperback form with a banner across the top of the covers that read “An Authors Guild Backinprint.com Edition.”
Tonight I sat down to work on Hot Mess #1, and for the first time in a week I felt like I was getting somewhere. Encouraged, but tired and ready for bed, I picked up that and another one of my childhood favorites (“A Wrinkle in Time”) and settled in to read.
Two pages in and I thought, “It’s 2018. I’m going to look her up! I am going to email Jean Ferris and tell her how much I loved her books and how glad I am to have copies as an adult and tell her about my own writing journey. I bet if I were her and my books ever went anywhere, I’d love to get an email like that.”
The back of her “Back in print” books said to visit her at JeanFerris.com, but when I went there it was going on about Boulder, Colorado tourism so I figured that site must have turned over. Pondering what “Jean Ferris” could possibly have to do with Boulder tourism, I googled her, hoping for a Twitter account or another website.
As google does, it brought up her Wiki bio immediately. She passed away in 2015.
I can’t really articulate how I felt. Sad, of course. A little hopeless. Who would I turn to now for venting and advice? Who else has touched my life so thoroughly?
Well the answer there is, “like, a zillion other authors.” I read a lot, like any writer.
I don’t know if Jean Ferris would have written me back. I don’t know if she would have any sage advice for me other than what my husband tells me daily, which is “Please do not throw your laptop dramatically into the sea.”
But I would like to think she would have. I am now imagining that the next time I wound up in San Diego, I met up with Jean Ferris for a cup of tea. I got her autograph on my “Backinprint.com” edition of her trilogy, and got to tell her in person how much I loved and admired her work. I’d ask her advice on creating such vibrant characters. I’d pen a little shout out to her in my acknowledgements.
It’s strange mourning someone you never met, whom you didn’t even know had died. I’ll pick up my copy of “Into the Wind” and read by my bedside light for the millionth time, and wish I had Jean Ferris to talk to, and think about all the times I wished I had her characters to talk to when I was younger.
And I’ll say a little prayer of thanksgiving for her, that she can somehow learn about this, and that I could be anything close to her talent.