Cover Crush: The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

the-life-she-was-givenPaperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Kensington (July 25, 2017)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1617734497

ISBN-13: 978-1617734496

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


I love reading stories that involved a traveling circus in the Depression-era and stories in that take place in the 1950’s. Circus theme stories have always fascinated me. I think it’s because you find such complex characters and realities of life unlike your own. But are they really so unlike after all?

Then you have family secrets, tragedy, hope and joy. An extraordinary mix of emotions displayed. These are stories that impact us, change us and open our hearts to other people’s struggles in life. We can learn so much from these stories.

I believe it was the circus tent that first drew my attention to this book. Then it was the little girl in the yellow dress. So atmospheric! The title really is intriguing and makes you want to read about this girl’s life she was given.

I am really looking forward to reading this story. I have pre-ordered my copy!

Stephanie M. Hopkins


More Great Cover Crushes!

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!


Interview with Author Barbara O’Connor

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Barbara O’Connor lived on a small ranch on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, where she attend public schools.  She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, attended the University of Texas at San Antonio and McNeese State University in Lake Charles Louisiana.  Her first short story was published in The War Cry, and she wrote a features column for The Leon Valley Leader.  She also published country and western songs with her partner Jimmy Harris and wrote and performed stand-up comedy in San Antonio, Austin, and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Her first novel, Goodbye, Paris Nash, received a B.R.A.G. medallion after a friend submitted the book for consideration.  She is currently working on her novel, The Resurrection of Elizabeth Moss.

Barbara lives in New Braunfels, Texas, with her husband and two furred family members.

Stephanie: Hello Barbara. Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. It is a pleasure to talk to you today. Please tell me about your book, “Goodbye, Paris Nash.”

Barbara: Hello Stephanie, It is my pleasure to share my experience writing “Goodbye, Paris Nash” with you.

Many times in life, I’ve been surprised by the impact a chance meeting has had on me. Since I am a believer in the adage that all things happen for reasons we do not understand, I used that as a thread in developing the characters of Siobhan O’Shaunessy and Paris Nash.

Goodbye, Paris Nash is a story about a friendship that develops in the face of adversity. There is a fifteen-year age difference between the two main characters: Paris is a fifteen-year-old girl who grew up in a loving family on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country; Siobhan is a thirty-year-old reporter who is divorced, and was abandoned as a toddler by her mentally ill mother to be raised by her grandfather. When Siobhan covers the judging for the Grand Champion Steer at the Alamo City Livestock Show and Rodeo, the two meet, and though they have little in common, they experience an immediate trust, respect and eventually, love for one another that changes their lives.


Stephanie: What are some of the themes you touch on in your story and is there a message you want your readers to come away with while reading your story?   

Barbara: There are three main themes: (1) We can make a difference in the lives of people we meet; (2) Everything happens for reasons we cannot understand, and (3) Love lives forever. The last line in the book and a gesture Paris’s boyfriend Charlie discovers in the book was the gesture that actually saved my life. I was so depressed after my son’s death that I thought I’d end my life. I couldn’t imagine going on without him. After a day of reflection and conversation with my God, the idea came to me that I didn’t have to leave him. I felt I had to keep thoughts of him uppermost in my mind, that to forget him even for a minute was to abandon him. So when Siobhan watches Charlie stop next to his Jeep each morning, touching his finger tips to his temple, to his lips to his heart, she asks him the meaning. He tells her it’s how he can go on. He takes Paris from his mind, symbolically kisses her, and tucks her into his heart so she is with him always. That becomes Siobhan’s gesture and the last line of the novel.  I’ve heard from many people that after reading about the gesture in my book, they have used and shared the gesture with grieving friends and family members. They let me know that it to helps them deal with the loss of their loved one, makes them feel they are keeping their loved one near.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved?

Barbara: Since the story is told as a retrospective, I did a lot of research to make sure the dates, event and activities were accurate. Years ago, when I first conceived of the book, I asked the news director for our local CBS affiliate if I could follow a news crew around. That gave me the information I needed to accurately portray the portions about KWNK where Siobhan is employed. As a representative of a beer company for thirteen years, I learned about the operations of a distributor, and actually won the Grand Champion Steer in fierce bidding at the San Antonio Livestock Show on several occasions. My Grandfather was a third generation rancher and I grew up around animals on acreage outside of San Antonio. I guess I’ve been researching all my life.

Stephanie: Tell me about Siobhan O’Shaunessy. What are her weaknesses and strengths?

Barbara: Siobhan’s weakness is her lack of self-confidence. Her friend Phyllis is always trying to bolster Siobhan’s self-image with makeovers and helping with wardrobe selections, but Paris helps change Siobhan’s self-perception more than anyone else does. Siobhan’s greatest strength is her belief in destiny. She has a determined spirit, takes risks, makes decisions, and allows herself to experience life to its fullest because she is purposeful.

Stephanie: Who or what inspired you to write your story?

Barbara: Back in the late eighties I became aware of a young girl who was, as Paris is, diagnosed with terminal melanoma. Her family was unwilling to accept the diagnosis and the girl went through chemo, radiation and all the means available to treat her disease, all to no avail. I wanted to write a story that gave that little girl a happier end of life. That is also the primary reason for telling the story in retrospect. Today there are some advances is the treatment of Melanoma that often, but not always, provide a better outcome


Stephanie: How long did it take you to write it and what made you decide to self-publish?

Barbara: It took years before I could actually sit down to write without interruption. Once I began in earnest, the process took about two years.  My mother was the impetus that urged me to self-publish. She is approaching ninety years of age and wanted to see my book in print.  It was the correct decision.

Stephanie: What is the most single challenging thing about writing?

Barbara: For me, the single most challenging thing is keeping it real. My goal is to maintain authenticity of setting, of character, of plot, of voice…of everything. I owe that to my reader.

Stephanie: Are you working on a book project now?

Barbara: Yes, I’m currently working on another novel set in Texas. The title is: “The Resurrection of Elizabeth Moss: It is a more personal story about two families struggling to survive the loss of their children.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Barbara: A friend and fellow writer submitted my book. He told me after the fact and I was thrilled.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

Barbara: My favorite quote is what I live by. It comes from “De Profundis” by Oscar Wilde…this is paraphrased, “I have to make everything that has happened to me, good for me. To deny my experience is to inhibit my growth.”

Stephanie: Thank you!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Barbara O’Connor, who is the author of, Goodbye, Paris Nash, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Goodbye Pairs Nash merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.