Novelist Mary Ellen Taylor writes about relationships, family and tackling adversity in her contemporary women’s fiction. She’s spent most of her life in her birthplace, Richmond, Virginia, but during her brief time in Alexandria, she fell in love with that city, its history and its famed “Old Town” section. Unbeknownst to her, they would later inspire her books, The View from Prince Street, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Spring 2015 Okra Pick At the Corner of King Street, Sweet Expectations and The Union Street Bakery. It surprises no one aware of her love of history that each of these Alexandria set stories includes “whispers from the past”--- threads tying the present to what has come before, including people and events from the city’s founding through Civil War heroism. Mary Ellen, also known for her New York Times bestselling romantic suspense written as Mary Burton, 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. “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 create connections and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” says Mary Ellen. In addition to writing, cooking and baking are important creative outlets for Mary Ellen and she’s been known to name recipes in honor of her characters. She earned her Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Program. Her two passions---writing and baking---merged for the first time in The Union Street Bakery and, though her Alexandria set stories aren’t set in imaginary Old Town’s Union Street Bakery, the culinarian in Mary Ellen can’t resist slipping in food references and favorite recipes.