Those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time know the name J.L. Fontaine. Judith Williamson in real life, she was a woman of great empathy and understanding, of sparkling eyes and ribald jokes, with a big heart and a generous mind.
Judith passed away on 1st October.
I met her on authonomy, where she contacted me out of the blue, saying she had seen me state that I wasn’t a native speaker, and to send her my manuscript as she’d be happy to go through it to search for any turns of phrase that might come across as less than idiomatic. She didn’t even like fantasy, nevertheless, she read my first book to help me out. That’s how good a person she was. She was one of the first people to believe in me, and to go out of her way to support my efforts. It hurt to wake up today to the news of her death.
I mourn the friend I’ve never met – she lived in Africa, and I fecked up the one chance I got to meet her in person, when she came to the UK in spring for her book launch. It would have meant spontaneously getting on a plane, leaving my husband to watch the kids, he would have needed to take those days off…oh, the should-haves, the had-I-knowns, the regrets.
I mourn the writer – a weaver of stories of such power, they’d stay in your mind for ever and ever. All those finished books that might now never get published. All those stories she’ll never write. But her words will live on, and continue to inspire people the way she had done in life.
She also lives on in the stories her writer friends wrote in her honor, dedicated to her, and in the characters based on her person. She’s Doctor Rachel Williamson in my latest book, My Name is not Alice, and I have portrayed her how I’ve always perceived her – as a woman of honor, who’d listen without judging you, who’d hold out a hand to a stranger to help them on their path, and who’d pass out second chances without an instant’s hesitation. A woman with a warm smile and mischief in her eyes.
I can picture her now, sitting on a cloud and dangling her bare feet, maybe a drop of whiskey in her hand, and going, ‘Oh, stop already.’
Thank you, Judith. Until we meet again.