Thursday 18 August 2011

Interview and Giveaway: Mary Ellen Dennis - The Greatest Love on Earth

Today I have Mary Ellen Dennis over for an interview and at the end of it there is a giveaway where you can win her new book, The Greatest love on earth.

Welcome to Mur-y-Castell!

 Tell us something about yourself, so we can get to know you better…
MED: I acted and sang professionally. I was a journalist and wrote various columns under different names. I once reviewed myself in a play (I was very good!). I worked as a lecturer for Weight Watchers and one night, watching my members weigh in, I thought: “What if a maniac was killing off dieters when they reached their goal weight? What if people were eating as if their very lives depended on it?” It took 12 rewrites before a publisher offered me a two-book contract for Throw Darts at a Cheesecake and Beat Up a Cookie (written under the name Denise Dietz), starring diet club leader Ellie Bernstein. Having learned my craft, I began writing romance (my first love). But my romances always have a bit of a mystery and my mysteries are romantic.

Your latest release is called The Greatest Love on Earth; can you tell us what it is about?
MED: Calliope Kelley, star equestrian, has always wanted to be a lady, or, as she calls a lady, a “Mary.” When her circus is torched by a mysterious evildoer, Calliope manages to save the 7-year-old granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope. She is told that her fiancé, cat tamer Brian O’Connor, was trampled and killed during the fire, so she assumes a new identity: Mary O’Connor. As a ward of the affluent Stanhopes, she becomes engaged to their son, the charismatic black sheep of the family. But she soon discovers the brutality—and vindictiveness—that lurks behind his handsome façade. She is trapped by a deceit of her own making, until she is rescued by Bret Johnson, a.k.a. Jocko the clown, a circus attraction from her past. Bret now owns a gambling establishment, the Cirque de Delices, and has always been in love with Calliope. Unfortunately, Calliope is certain that Bret, as Jocko, was the “evil leprechaun” who torched her circus. Despite that assertion, she agrees to play Cirque Hostess and chair the poker games. Then Brian O’Connor reappears. . .

Also out this month is a reissue of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter. Can you tell us a little bit about that one as well?
MED: The story is based on Alfred Noyes’s poem, The Highwayman but with a happier ending. Publishers Weekly wrote: “Feisty author Elizabeth "Bess" Wyndham is inexplicably attracted to highwayman John Randolph Remington. From the moment he picks up one of Elizabeth's books, Rand is haunted by the story's uncanny similarity to his disturbing recurring dreams.” Unraveling the mystique of those dreams is a recurring theme, and it leads to the possible betrayal of Rand, by Bess, during the novel’s exciting climax. My favorite scene is Bess and Rand’s escape from Newgate Prison.

How did you come up with the idea about writing about a circus?        
MED: My dad knew Emmett Kelley, one of the most famous clowns in history. Emmett would appear with a broom and dustpan, smack-dab in the middle of a huge spotlight. He'd step outside the spotlight and start sweeping it into a smaller circle. Then, smaller. When the spotlight was no bigger than a dinner plate, he'd sweep it into his dustpan. To me, a little kid, it was magic! My heroine, Calliope Kelley, is named for Emmett Kelley.

The seed for my circus theme was planted when I researched my generational saga, Heaven's Thunder, and learned that the circus had visited Colorado in the early 1900s. A big circus. With elephants! And what was then called a cameleopard (giraffe). Curiosity piqued, I ferreted out background data, read dozens of books. Although no one circus is the basis for The Greatest Love on Earth, P.T. Barnum's comes close.

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?
MED: Yes, but I was lucky. I found a terrific book that included circus dialect. I learned that members of the audience were called “gillys” and a wee piggy danced a figure eight to the song “Root, Hog or Die.” Here’s a funny research story. I set a scene in a woodsy area. The scene included a hand-built merry-go-round. It was a love scene, and in my mind I pictured the horses going up and down, up and down, up and…problem was, I didn’t know what kind of music an 1875 merry-go-round would use. Since I always double-check Internet research, I called my local research librarian, who told me that musicians played instruments (think: Mary Poppins’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), which wouldn’t work for my love scene, of course. But even more devastating, I discovered that an 1875 merry-go-round horse didn’t go up and down. So I had to build a gazebo :-)

 If you were a part of a circus, what would your role be?
MED: A bareback rider. I love horses. I attended grad school in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I lived in a little house near a pecan grove and I’d ride my horse, Arapaho, bareback.

Could you tell us a little about some of other books you have written?
MED: My diet club series is very popular, but I hit the bestseller lists with Footprints in the Butter – an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery costarring Hitchcock the Dog – now available as a full-cast “romantic mystery” audio book ( “Footprints” was written by my alter-ego, Denise Dietz. The hardcover edition of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter received starred reviews and went into 4 printings, and I’m extremely grateful to Sourcebooks ( for making it available in paperback. All of my books, including my ebooks, are at my website (, and most include excerpts.

I always ask this at the end: any advice for aspiring writers?
MED: First, aspiring authors should remember that the name of the game is emotions. If the sad bits don’t make you shed a tear, you’ve likely done it wrong. If the sexy bits don’t turn you on, they likely will fail to do it for your reader. You need believable characters in believable situations, with REAL emotions your readers can share. Second, never give up. Because: ”If you drop a dream, it breaks!”


2 copies of The Greatest Love on Earth up for grabs

1. US and Canada
2. Ends August 25th
3. You know the drill, just enter, or if you want to ask Mary Ellen a question.
Or perhaps tell me what you would do if you were part of a circus.

The Greatest Love on Earth - Out Now from Sourcebooks

Set in the exotic world of a 19th century circus, Dream Dancer sweeps readers into deathdefying feats, dangerous rivalries, and a love that has all the thrills and romance of the greatest show on earth.

Bold, beautiful star equestrian Calliope Kelley has two passions in life: her father's circus and daredevil animal tamer Brian O'Connor. When the circus is destroyed by fire and Brian disappears, Calliope changes her name and becomes engaged to another man. But then Brian returns and everything in Calliope's new life goes topsy-turvy...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Former singer/actress and perennial rule-breaker Mary Ellen Dennis is the author of several award-winning historical romance novels and culinary mysteries and is growing her audience for both. She is married to novelist Gordon Aalborg (aka Victoria Gordon), whom she met online through a writer's group; they live on Vancouver Island.

She has two books in stores this month, released by Sourcebooks Casablanca: The Greatest Love on Earth—set in the exotic world of a 19th century circus and sweeps readers into death-defying feats, dangerous rivalries, and a love that has all the thrills and romance of the greatest show on earth., and a reissue of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter: A fast-paced and passionate retelling of the story of two timeless lovers who would die for each other. If only they didn’t have to. This gorgeous romance gives the poem a whole new depth and a happy ending. For more information, please visit


A quick note from me, I am over at The Unread Reader today and talking about what I do when I am not reading.

Come say hi :)


  1. Wonderful to get to know more about MED. I've read both books (Greatest/Landlord's) and enjoyed them both.

    Don't enter me please.

  2. Wow, so many jobs and I love horses too.

    Please enter me for this giveaway.

    givingreadingachance AT

    If I were part of the circus I would love to do that part in which girls and boys do the swinging in mid-air.

  3. Great interview.

    I have to admit that I love circuses, so this book has caught my attention. I think if I were part of a circus, I'd want to be one of the trapeze people.

  4. Hi Nise', great to "see" you again.

    I love to watch trapeze artists, Veens, but I have height issues, LOL. I lived in Colorado for 17 years and people always ask me if I like skiing. The answer is yes, as long as I can ride a horse to the top of the mountains. No way will I ride those teensy swings.

    All best,
    Mary Ellen Dennis

  5. I've never thought about circus culture before, but yeah, it totally makes sense that they would have their own circus dialect.

    Very cool tidbit about Emmett Kelley. As a kid, I would have been lost in that magic as well.

  6. I would want to work with the bog cats!


  7. I do love a book set at the circus.

    Quite a varied career too.

  8. I would love to swing on the flying trapeze at the circus!

    Please enter me in the draw!

    I'm following you on GFC (Darlene), and my email address is darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. Okay, not entering this contest, just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful interview. I would love to be a lion tamer.

  10. Thanks for coming over today Mary :)
    I have to ask, not about the Greatest love but the The Landlord's daughter. How did you come to think of writing about the poem?

    I do love the Loreena Mackennit song version :D

  11. Thanks for the review. I can't enter the giveaway but if I find your book, MED I might read it.

  12. Emmett Kelley! I have seen that same skit and it was dedicated to him. Oh and you mention CO and NM, personally so I have to know! I love the southwest. Yep, do enter me!

    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

    PS... should have kept the term leopard camel. LOL

  13. I lke the idea of a circus set in the 19th century! The circuses in the past is quite appealing and what comes to mind is a lot of traveling and entertainment. I'm no daredevil in real life but I would love to ride the horses.


  14. This book sounds like a lot of maybe love triangles going on! Awesome! Count me in and loved the interview!

  15. Oh wonderful interview. And so neat to be about a circus. :) That is cool. And I would love to ride the horses. he he.

    Thanks for the interview!

  16. I think it'd like to be an acrobat if I were part of the circus, but not on a trapeze or high wire, I'm too afraid of heights. The Greatest Love on Earth sounds like a great story and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  17. This sounds wonderful! I'd love to enter.


  18. I would love to ride horses in the circus or maybe dance. Please enter me in contest.

  19. I'd like to say I would be a trapeeze artist at the circus, except I am afraid of maybe I could just stand at the bottom and look pretty;)

    kpuleski at gmail dot com

  20. FABULOUS giveaway! I would love to win one of the copies! I would love to be a part of a circus as the flying trapese artists.

    I am a new GFC follower.

    Molly AT reviewsbymolly DOT com

  21. I haven't read this author yet, I'll have to check her books out. I think I would like to be a bareback rider as well. I did a lot of it when I was young and it was loads of fun. These days I'd be mighty sore though!

    Just stopping by after seeing the post on Unread Reader. Awesome blog!

  22. I think I'd be too freaked out to be a bareback rider! Too many opportunities to fall off!

    Please enter me!

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  23. Hi Nise :)
    I am glad you enjoyed them both

    Ohhh, I like that part, but it sure looks scary too

    Nice choice, I would never dare that :=D

    Hi Mary Ellen :)

    It sure seems fun to read about


    It would sure be different

    That sure seem to interest many, but would freak me out ;)

    Thanks Aurian :D
    I do like cats too


    I have actually never heard of him, but then I am not from your part of the world :)

    I do think there was something speical about them back then :D


    Good one, I think that would be fun :D

    Same here, heights, no way!


    Lol, well it does look fun but yes I would be too afraid too

    Good luck :)

    Hi there :D
    I love your icon by the way, so pretty!

    I'd love to do some reading too

  24. Blodeuedd asked about THE LANDLORD'S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER.

    When I was in grade school one of our assignments was to read a poem in front of the class. I couldn’t decide between Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman” and Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis”.
    Why yes, I was an overachiever, why do you ask? :-)

    I chose Alfred Noyes. The bell rang before I finished and no one moved. At that moment I decided I’d be an actress when I grew up. And I’d write a romance inspired by my favorite poem. I’ve achieved both goals, although The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter took longer (I played Nellie in South Pacific at age 19).

    In writing my book, the hardest part was giving "Landlord" a happy ending and staying faithful to the poem. I wrote half a dozen different endings, but you'll have to read the book to see which one I went with, LOL. (I promise it's happy.)

    The book is dedicated to Loreena McKennitt.

    Mary Ellen Dennis

  25. Nice interview. It's always nice to hear a bit about the author behind the books. The Greatest Love on Earthdoes sound like a nice read!

  26. If I were in the circus I'd be a clown:)
    Entering contest

  27. This book is next up on my to read list!!

    (not an entry)

  28. I'd love to be entered. I wouldn't mind trying my hand at beign a clown for a day :)
    stacybooks at yahoo

  29. fascinated by both Med and her stories! thanks for the intro '')
    would love the entry ~
    probably horse back riding for me in a circus act ...

  30. Thanks for the giveaway. Please count me in :)


  31. Thanks Mary Ellen :)
    I came across one sentence from that poem long ago and I just never forgot it.



Copyright © 2008-2020 Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell All Rights Reserved. Proudly powered by Blogger

  © Blogger template Starry by 2008 Modified by Lea

Back to TOP