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Monday, August 15, 2011



I’ve always written in multiple genres because I like to write what I like to read and I read in multiple genres. I can’t even imagine an author writing in a genre she or he doesn’t read.

Once upon a long time ago, I decided I wanted to be a full-time novelist and I’d give myself 3 months to see if I could write a book. I took a hiatus from my job as a journalist and lived off my meager savings—hooray for Happy Hour free buffets and saltine crackers from Wendy’s (along with an enormous jar of generic peanut butter). For my first book, I thought (optimistically), I’d write a women’s fiction, somewhat modeled after Judith Krantz (Scruples) and Susan Isaacs (Almost Paradise) along with a wee bit of John Steinbeck (East of Eden), and I’d tell my story from the first-person POV (Point of View) of three different women.

Everything was fine until I brought my three women together! Today I’d continue writing the story from one woman’s POV. Back then, I tried to write the same chapter (over and over and over again) from each woman’s POV:-). The book started to grow. And GROW. Until, halfway through, it was longer than Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

Obviously, my book was a disaster. But the silver lining was that I knew I wanted, with all my heart and soul, to be a novelist. I wanted to experience the “high” I felt when I expressed my thoughts through words. All I had to do was learn my craft! So rather than go back to my newspaper, I wrote during the day and waited tables at night.

Having lost 55 (and a half!) lbs on Weight Watchers, I took a part-time job as a WW lecturer and, watching members weight in, I thought: “Wouldn't it be funny if some maniac was killing off diet club member when they reached their goal weight? What if people were eating as if their lives depended on it?” Using that concept, I wrote Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, starring diet club leader Ellie Bernstein, then 3 other Ellie Bernstein Mysteries: Beat Up a Cookie, Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed, and Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread, under the name Denise Dietz.

My diet club series was very popular, but I hit the bestseller lists with Footprints in the Butter– an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery co-starring Hitchcock the Dog – now available as a full-cast “romantic mystery” audio book ( The diet club mysteries and “Footprints” were written by my alter-ego, Denise Dietz.

I still wanted to write romance, my first love, so I began working on a saga (Heaven’s Thunder) that would consume 10 years of my life. At the same time I wrote more mysteries, and I finally wrote my women’s fiction novel, Soap Bubbles, about three women affiliated with a popular soap opera. I also wrote a mystery/horror novel, Fifty Cents for Your Soul, about an uptight actress possessed by a randy doppelganger. “Fifty Cents”—which sold out and is now available as an ebook—was inspired by events that occurred during the filming of The Exorcist. My sister, Eileen Dietz, played The Demon, plus many of the possession sequences, and she allowed me to use her journal with all the technical details (the rising bed and rotating head, the pea-soup whoops) if I killed off the film director J.

The seed for my circus historical romance, The Greatest Love on Earth, was planted when I researched 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, and although no one circus is the basis for The Greatest Love on Earth, P.T. Barnum's comes close.

I wrote a contemporary, paranormal romance, Hallie’s Comet, and I can’t begin to tell you the thrill I experienced when that book was published. Having sworn on a stack of Stephen Kings that someday I’d write an historical romance inspired by the poem “The Highwayman,” I wrote The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter, and despite my track record as a best-selling author, that book was difficult to market because publishers were “concerned” about a couple of 13th Century ghosts in a 1790s time period. One publisher didn’t shy away from the ghosts, thank goodness. First published as a hardcover in 2007, “Landlord” received starred reviews and went into four printings, and I’m extremely grateful to Sourcebooks ( for making it available in paperback.

No matter what the genre, I always remember that the name of the game is emotions. If the sad bits don’t make me shed a tear, I’ve likely done it wrong. If the sexy bits don’t turn me on, they likely will fail to do it for my readers. Therefore, no matter what the genre—romance or mystery, women’s fiction or horror, erotica or generational saga—I need to create believable characters in believable situations, with REAL emotions my readers can share.

All of my (multiple genre) books, including my Kindle ebooks, are at my website (, and most include excerpts.

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

Leave a comment for the chance to win one of 2 copies of The Greatest Love on Earth. Open to US and Canada readers only please.


Dawn said...

I admire your determination to go forward with what you truely wanted to do..I wish that I had more of the drive and ambition that you do!! Thanks for sharing today!

Debby said...

I never thought about the problems of writing in different genres. I admire you so much.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

Thank you Dawn and Debbi. YOU are the reason I write books.

Mary Ellen

Na said...

I read from multiple genres and if an author chooses to write in more than genre, then the more the merrier! I think it's important that authors write what they want to write about and not be constrained into one genre. It makes it fun for the writer and the readers have more stories to enjoy.

Congratulations on losing over 50 lbs! That must have been hard work, but it paid off. Setting goals like to get more fit or to write a book in a certain amount of time is a good thing. I like to set goals as well.


GladysMP said...

Boy, you certainly show versatility! Determination, too!

The latter is definitely a must character trait for a writer. Over and over I have read of the many rejection slips authors have received before finally getting an acceptance letter.

I would think that writing in different genres would keep one fresher and less likely to suffer burnout.

shadow_kohler said...

Wow, your quite the lady! Congrats! You have such amibition. Im truely envious of you! I could never do it and switching between! Congrats on all of your hard work and achieving your dreams!