Fern Michaels isn’t a person. I’m not sure she’s an entity either since an entity is something with separate existence. Fern Michaels® is what I DO. Me, Mary Ruth Kuczkir. Growing up in Hastings, Pennsylvania, I was called Ruth. I became Mary when I entered the business world where first names were the order of the day. To this day, family and friends call me Dink, a name my father gave me when I was born because according to him I was ‘a dinky little thing’ weighing in at four and a half pounds. However, I answer to Fern since people are more comfortable with a name they can pronounce.
As they say, the past is prologue. I grew up, got a job, got married, had five kids. When my youngest went off to Kindergarten, my husband told me to get off my ass and get a job. Those were his exact words. I didn’t know how to do anything except be a wife and mother. I was also a voracious reader having cut my teeth on The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames and the like. The library was a magical place for me. It still is to this day. Rather than face the outside world with no skills, I decided to write a book. For some reason that didn’t intimidate me. As my husband said at the time, stupid is as stupid does. Guess what, I don’t have that husband any more. Guess what else! I wrote 156 books, most of them New York Times Best Sellers.
Moving right along here … Several years ago I left Ballantine Books, parted company with my agent, sold my house in New Jersey that I had lived in all my married life and in 1993 moved to South Carolina. I figured if I was going to go through trauma let it be all at one time. It was a breeze. The kids were all on their own at that point. The dump was a 300 year old plantation house that is listed in the National Registry that I remodeled. Today it is beyond belief as are the gardens and the equally old Angel Oaks that drip Spanish moss. Unfortunately, I could not get my ghost to relocate. This ghost has been documented by previous owners. Mary Margaret as we call her, is “a friendly”. She is also mischievous. It took me two weeks to figure out that she didn’t like my coffee cups. They would slide off the table or counter or else they’d break in the dishwasher. I bought red checkered ones. All are intact as of this writing. She moves pillows from one room to the other and she stops all the clocks in the house at 9:10 in the a.m. at least once a week. When the Azaleas are in bloom, and only then, I find blooms on my night stand. I have this glorious front porch and during the warm months I see my swing moving early in the morning when the air is still and again late in the day. She doesn’t spook the dogs. I always know when she’s around because the five of them line up and look like they’re at a tennis match. As of this writing we’re co-habiting nicely.
Most writers love what they do and I’m no exception. I love it when I get a germ of an idea and get it down on paper. I love breathing life into my characters. I love writing about women who persevere and prevail because that’s what I had to do to get to this point in time. It’s another way of saying it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what matters is where you’re going and how you get there. The day I finally prevailed was the day I was inducted into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame. For me it was an awesome day and there are no words to describe it.
I’ve been telling stories and scribbling for over 50 years … 146 have been New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers – and I have over 150 million copies in print. It wasn’t easy during some of those years. As I said, I had to persevere. My old Polish grandmother said something to me when I was little that I never forgot. She said when God is good to you, you have to give back. For a while I didn’t know how to do that. When I finally figured it out I set up The Fern Michaels® Foundation. The foundation allows me to grant four year scholarships to needy, deserving students. I then went a step further and opened pre-school and day care centers with affordable rates for single moms who are having a hard time of it. Fern Michaels has donated over 40 bullet-proof vests to K-9 dogs across the country. She also provided two K-9 dogs to police departments in New York and Connecticut. Doing Fern Michaels® allows me to do this and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for being so good to me. I don’t know what I’m the most proud of, the books I write, the scholarships, the pre-schools, the donations or the fact that I put my kids through college on my own with no help from anyone. Probably the latter because when all else is said and done, the only thing that matters is family.
Is Fern Michaels® a great writer. No. She is however, one hell of a story teller. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I scribble and tell stories.” It’s a great way to make a living. The Dutch have a saying, ‘If you can’t whistle on your way to work, you don’t belong in that job.’ I whistle all day long.