Author's first novel has Sewickley flair
Like many writers, Marcia Ferguson said she loves to read, has a vivid imagination and has had characters running around in her head.
After retiring a few years ago following 27 years as manager of the Community College of Beaver County bookstore, Ferguson said she finally put some of those characters into adventures exploring Sewickley, Maine and other areas in her book, “North of Supposed to Be.”
The book was independently published last August through Franklin Hancock Press, with help from Flying Pig Media and VMC Art & Design LLC. It recently won the Bergie the Penguin Book of the Week honor at the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley. The nearly 600-page novel focuses on character Bronwyn McCall, who is orphaned at age 8 and moves to Sewickley to live with an aunt.
Later in her life, she returns to the area often.
An elite portrait photographer, McCall is critically wounded while rescuing the sons of the Israeli prime minister. As she recovers, former MI6 agent Ernest Rose becomes her Jeeves, both faithful sidekick and father figure. With gratitude, the prime minister's family gives Bronwyn their coastal Maine estate and the abandoned Bayside Blanket and Toboggan Factory.
Mary Ferris, a Penguin employee, said the book continues to sell well at the shop.
Customers have said it's realistic, and that Ferguson is a good storyteller.
“A few dachshund owners said they enjoyed the relationship with the dog in the book,” she said.
The dog pictured on the back cover is Frank Still, a Rhode Island dachshund who is a “great stand-in” for the fictional Snooks Von Krinkles in the book, said Ferguson, who has owned four dachshunds.
Ferguson, who lived in Leetsdale as a child and now resides in Hopewell, said readers also have told her their favorite parts of the book feature local places such as Isaly's, Jenny Lee Bakery, Sewickley Café, Eat'n Park, the former Sewickley Select Market, Penguin Bookshop, Hyeholde Restaurant, Six Penn Kitchen, Grand Concourse and the Kaufmann's and Joseph Horne Co. department stores.
Ferguson, who graduated from Hopewell High School, studied advertising and retailing at The Wheeler School in Pittsburgh. She then worked at Joseph Horne Co. as a ready-to-wear section manager and with the fashion office in Pittsburgh, organizing special events including fashion shows.
She said it was easy to write about Sewickley because she is so familiar with the area, and inherited a love for it from her parents, Pat and the late Bill Ferguson. They lived in several towns in the Pittsburgh area.
When she was younger, she frequented Sewickley Public Library, visited her aunt and uncle on Centennial Avenue and went to the movies and a tearoom in the Village.
“I'm now a big fan of the Penguin Bookshop, oat scones at Ultimate Pastry, yarn for friends at Yarns Unlimited and the tomato dill soup at the Sewickley Café.”
Although the local area is important in the book the focal point is coastal Maine, which she has visited many times.
The “North” in the title not only refers to direction, she said, but also a place — Maine -- “where things do become as they're meant to be.”
The cover photograph by Joy Brown features an antique store that no longer exists in New England. Ferguson said she hopes to someday find the name of the store and the owners, because she would like them to know a photo of their store was used for the cover of a book.
Other photographs of sites and animals included in the book are on Pinterest.com, to give readers unfamiliar with the area a better idea of what they are reading about — especially the interior of the Grand Concourse, Ferguson said.
She's working on a second novel that also will feature the Pittsburgh area, along with the Johnstown Flood.
Ferguson said when writing the first book she enjoyed “making a statement and recording my favorite places.”
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.