After graduating from The University of Mississippi in 1986, Janet Ferguson has been many things over the last 30 years: a mother, a mutual funds liaison, a librarian, a children’s minster and an author. After a string of odd jobs, Ferguson found a way to connect with her own past and others through her writing.
When developing her new series of novels titled the “Southern Hearts Series,” Ferguson knew the perfect location for the first three entries of the series.
“I thought about setting, and of course it had to be Oxford. I lived in this cheap duplex on Fillmore Street during college. It was so great. I had such fond memories of those sidewalks on South Lamar and University Avenue,” Ferguson said. “The unique architecture of the older homes, the beautiful campus and the sprawling oaks and magnolias were always vivid memories. Oxford makes the perfect hometown backdrop.”
With the growth of Oxford continuing at a rapid rate, Visitor Services Coordinator, Katie Kaiser, of the Oxford Visitor’s Center (Visit Oxford) is eager to see the addition of Ferguson’s novel to a town with a rich literary history.
“If they like the book, they’re going to want to come here, it’s a setting that they can relate to. We’ve seen how its worked with Faulkner, and it still brings people here today, so if it’s anything like that we’re going to see a lot of good things come from it,” Kaiser said.
After a mentally devastating car accident at the age of 28, Ferguson used her feelings and channeled it into her writing. The first novel in the “Southern Hearts Series” is titled “Leaving Oxford” a story in which, a main character moves back home after an accident and is suffering from panic attacks, much like Ferguson’s own experiences.
Just as important as the location in her novels, is the message that Ferguson wants to convey. As a women of strong faith, she realized that her writing could serve as a guide to readers struggling with experiences, memories, events and incidents from their own past.
“When people learned I had worked in ministry, they tended to either clam up or share their stories,” Ferguson said. “Not only did they have to deal with their problems, but they also carried an unnecessary burden of shame and guilt. I decided, why not try to write a book that would tie together the fact that regardless of your past, your struggles, or your weakness, you aren’t alone. You’re still precious and useful in God’s eyes.”
With four novels and one novella, the “Southern Heart Series” will be published over the next few years. While three of the novels are set in Oxford, the fourth will be set in Mobile, Alabama, with an unrelated novella set at the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“Each story has its own sort of theme that involves coming to terms with issues deep issues from the past, in the setting of a romantic comedy,” Ferguson said. “My hope is for readers to be encouraged by the stories full of grace, redemption, and humor.”
“Leaving Oxford” will be released on April 15, and will be available on Amazon as an eBook.
Steven Gagliano is an intern for hottytoddy.com, and is a student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Steven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.