Friday, May 3, 2013

Interview with author Mary Ellen Taylor

Mary Ellen Taylor interview

Hello Mary, I’m so happy to have you here with us today. After reading your book I fell in love with the whole setting, the character and the bakery itself. Would you please tell everyone your inspiration for writing The Union Street Bakery?

Adoption is very near and dear to my heart.  My youngest child is adopted and I couldn’t help but notice that adoptees have lots of joys but also worries and concerns about family.  Seemed natural to take these emotions and work them into a character.

I loved how you entwined the paranormal, history and mystery all together. But what I really enjoyed was how the mystery and history seemed to unravel as I was reading. So, my question is how hard was it to keep up with the history and mystery during your writing process?

It was a challenge to keep it all straight.  I had lots of charts around my desk with timelines as well as family trees.  Though you don’t see it all in the book, I can trace the McCrae family back five generations.   I also wrote the entire historical story in the original draft.  Though I ended up cutting it from the final story, it was very helpful to have written the stories of the historical characters.

What was your favorite eureka moment you had during the writing process of The Union Street Bakery? 

I’m afraid if I tell you that I’ll give some of the story away.  There is a character from history, Susie, and I had to connect her to Daisy.  Once I could articulate that connection the story came together.  But like I said, I can’t tell you or it will give too much away.

What is your favorite quote from Daisy?

  Life can turn on a dime.  It’s the opening line of the book and it sums up Daisy perfectly.  She was abandoned at age three and it’s ingrained in her bones that nothing in life is certain.

Do you have a set idea of how many books you’re going to write for this series?

  I’ve finished the sequel SWEET EXPECTATIONS, which will be out in November 2013.  SWEET EXPECTATIONS picks up about four weeks after THE UNION STREET BAKERY ends.   I knew Daisy had a few more challenges, as did her sisters, and I couldn’t let them go.

All three sisters work at the bakery. Daisy works the finances, Margret runs the front, while Rachel gets to do all the creative baking. Can you share one of her recipes with the readers?

This is a Pumpkin Cake recipe that is one of my favorites!  It’s easy and so good.
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
2 cups shifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Mix together sugar, oil, and vanilla.  Blend in eggs one at a time and then mix in pumpkin.  Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture.  Place in a greased loaf pan or Bundt pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.   When the cake has cooled, dust with confectioner’s sugar, slice and serve.
Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 stick softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box Confectioners Sugar
Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Add vanilla.  Blend in confectioner’s sugar.  Ice the cake.

Can you give us a sneak peek at what Daisy has in store this coming fall?  
Remember, Daisy’s core belief:  Life can turn on a dime.  And it sure does in SWEET EXPECTATIONS. 

I noticed on your blog you love baking so I wanted to include a few baking questions so readers can find out what’s your favorite?

What’s your favorite kind of cake?  Carrot.  I adore carrot cake.

What’s your favorite kind of cookies?  Oatmeal raisin.  Love them!

What’s your favorite kind of pie?  Cherry.

What’s your favorite kind of bread?  I love all kinds of bread as long as it’s fresh out of the oven.  

Introducing Mary Ellen Taylor...

     Mary Ellen Taylor, author of THE UNION STREET BAKERY, grew up in a southern family that embraced stories of all kinds, from a well-told anecdote to a good yarn or a tall tale. It may have been inevitable that Mary Ellen would take her storytelling heritage to new heights, moving beyond the oral tradition to become a published author.

            "I realized early on the tremendous power stories have to inspire laughter, love, sorrow and even fear.  It didn't matter if they were found in the pages of a book, spoken in hushed tones around a campfire, or shared at an old-fashioned family reunion.  Stories created connections, and I knew that's what I wanted to do," says Mary Ellen.

            In addition to her writing, Mary Ellen finds cooking and baking to be important creative outlets and she explores some of the challenges and comforts of those pursuits in THE UNION STREET BAKERY. Honing her skills and incorporating her own ideas about taste, texture and presentation has not only been gratifying, but increased Mary Ellen’s respect for those who do it well.  "I liken it a bit to my efforts as a writer.  You need to learn the basics and respect the tools that give you the freedom to develop your story while helping you avert disaster¾much the way knowing the difference between baking powder and baking soda can be a real lifesaver."

            These two passions—writing and baking—come together in the story of Daisy McCrae. Daisy has not only broken up with her boyfriend and lost a great job, but she's been reduced to living in the attic above her parents' failing bakery.  Though home, Daisy questions whether she belongs there.  Abandoned in the bakery as a child, she was adopted and still wonders if she's a "real" McCrae and why she was deserted in the first place.

            Here again, Mary Ellen's life influences THE UNION STREET BAKERY.  Her grandmother was adopted and so is Mary Ellen's daughter. She calls the novel "a labor of love," saying "I'm an adoptive parent and have been very active in the adoption community.  I've seen many of the heartfelt emotions that adoptees struggle with and, as a writer, I spent a long time trying to find the right character to express these very complex feelings. Then, out of nowhere, Daisy McCrae appeared." 

            Mary Ellen has been active in bringing attention to issues regarding adoption, including the concerns faced by adoptees in adulthood. She spoke at the adoption symposium "Opening Adoption: Realities, Possibilities and Challenges" sponsored by Coordinators2inc and held at the University of Richmond, and is a past president of the central Virginia chapter of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA/CV). Most recently, she and her daughter, born in Russia, spoke out on WTTB-TV in Richmond regarding the efforts in that country to curb adoptions by foreigners.

                Mary Ellen was born and has spent most of her life in Richmond, but also lived in Alexandria for four years.  She received her degree in English from Virginia’s Hollins University. After a decade of working in  marketing and sales, she became convinced she could write and sell one of the many stories swirling in her head. Mary Ellen left the marketing profession and devoted all her spare time to writing a novel. Today,  nineteen of her romance and suspense novels and four novellas written as Mary Burton have been published
and have earned praise from readers and reviewers as well as spots on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.  THE UNION STREET BAKERY is her first novel as Mary Ellen Taylor.

            When not writing or appearing at conferences and book signings,  Mary Ellen continues her culinary pursuits.  She's been a kitchen assistant for more than fifty culinary classes over the past seven years at Sur la Table and at the University of Richmond's Culinary Arts program, where she is currently completing her    Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate. In addition to spending time with her family and her two miniature    dachshunds, Buddy and Bella, Mary Ellen enjoys yoga and hiking. ● ● @METBOOKS

Mary Ellen Taylor
A Berkley Books Trade Paperback Original/Fiction
On Sale February 5th, 2013/$15.00 ($16.00 Canada)
978-9-425-25969-6 · 0425259692

Joan Schulhafer, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, 973-338-7428, and Jessica Butler, Associate Publicist, Berkley/NAL, 212-366-2737,


  1. Thanks for the pumpkin cake recipe. I adore anything pumpkin. Adoption is near and dear to me as well as I have a half brother who was adopted before I was born and we just met 10 years ago.

  2. What a lovely cover! I love the sounds of it and just added it to the list. I'm a big fan of baking in books :) It looks like one my mom would read too which is great. We have a hard time finding one's we'd both like. Will have to tell her about it! Yay!

    And yum oatmeal raisin cookies! Mmmm. I've been sneaking chocolate chips in mine too and loving that extra little bit.

    herding cats & burning soup


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