After four dancers join a circus in Brazil, their idea of life under the Big Top changes forever. Given a tiny, cramped caravan for their six-month contract, they make a pact: to find a man who can take them away from their rust-bucket lifestyle.
Melissa is a hopeless romantic, but can she trust the dashing Ringmaster and his secretive ways, or does he have plans of his own?
Sarah’s goal is to remain at the circus, whatever the cost. But why?
Lisa, the youngest in the group, is as naive about the job as she is about life. She is looking for romance, but can she tell the difference between lust and true love?
Wendy’s only wish is for a quiet life, but will her disturbing past catch up with her?
Finding themselves outsiders in a Latin American world of female rivalry, magic tricks and murder, they walk a thin tightrope of discovery and learn how to live the nomadic life of circus performers. Amid the trapeze, treachery, and torrid affairs that constitute life in the sawdust strewn ring, a crime has been committed. Can the girls solve it in time and make it out alive?
If you’ve ever dreamed of running away with the circus, or are wondering what happens behind the scenes, this book is for you. Find out what really goes on when the curtains close, and what true circus life is all about.
Have you ever wanted to run away and join the circus? My guest today is straight from The Big Top. Stepping out from The Circus Affair by Michele E. Northwood, let’s find out what life in the circus is really like.
SJJ: Welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our guests your full name.
W: My name is Wendy, just Wendy.
SJJ: Well, “just Wendy” where do you live?
W: At present, I’m living in a dirty, old caravan that my friends and I have nicknamed: ‘The Rust Bucket’. We are working in Brazil on a six-month circus contract and, at the time of this interview, we have been there for about three months.
SJJ: That doesn’t sound too glamourous.
So, Wendy, tell us a little bit about your personality. What kind of person does it take to join a circus?
W: I’ve always been head-strong and have done whatever I wanted to do regardless of the warnings, circumstances or consequences. At the moment though, I’m struggling with a mixture of fear and depression. Sorry for the cliché, but I have literally run away with the circus. I’ve managed to escape an abusive husband who has got himself mixed up with the wrong crowd. So my normally headstrong personality has warped. I’ve become twitchy and nervous. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder because I believe that if my ex manages to locate me, he’ll drag me back home kicking and screaming. I’m petrified to think about what will happen to me if he does find me.
SJJ: I’m sorry to hear that. Now I know why you’re “just Wendy”. I hope this interview doesn’t lead him to you. You’re brave for doing this.
What about your childhood and family life?
W: I had a good, middle-class upbringing and never wanted for anything. I was a good student and attended dancing classes from the age of four to sixteen. I loved it, but I wouldn’t say that dancing was my forte. My dad was a successful businessman but I didn’t get to see him very often because of his work. My mum was subservient and her placid conformity to my father’s demands angered me. Because of that, I became a rebellious teenager, determined to make my mark on the world; to be headstrong and independent.
SJJ: Headstrong and independent—not bad traits. You work in a circus now, but was that something you always wanted or was there something else you aspired to do?
W: I studied Economics at university but have never had the chance to work in that field. I met my husband at university and against all advice, I married him. I was too young and should have listened to my parents, but I was love struck and saw my future life through rose coloured glasses. In reality, I left my home to escape one dominant man but all I did was exchange him for another more dangerous example.
SJJ: Well as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Is there anything you would like to divulge about yourself; something perhaps that’s not well known?
W: I’m fighting an alcohol addiction. Due to my failed marriage and running away to a circus where I feel distanced from those around me, I have too much time to think and wallow in my misfortune. I hide my drinking from the other girls as much as I can, but I think Melissa, one of the other dancers, is suspicious.
SJJ: Now, I was not suspecting that. But, thank you for being so candid. The first step to helping yourself is admitting you have a problem.
If you don’t want to answer this next question, I completely understand. But what do you regret the most?
W: If you mean apart from my marriage, then I would have to say that part of me regrets coming to the circus. It seemed like the perfect way out. I could run away and keep on the move by travelling around and that would make it harder for my ex-husband to find me. I indeed feel safer in Brazil than in my own country, but I´m living on my nerves and drink to quell those emotions.
SJJ: You know, Wendy, you’re braver than you think you are.
I feel like if you could leave the circus you would. So, If you could step into another book, which would it be and how could you contribute to that story?
W: I could easily fit into either of Michele Northwood’s two dancing memoirs: “Fishnets in the Far East” and “Fishnets and Fire-eating.” I could probably mentor the girls during their travels to Korea and Japan. However, as they are true stories, I don’t think she’d allow me to appear!
SJJ: Have you asked her? I mean the worst she could say is no. And besides, there are plenty of fictious novels with real places, and characters who existed (particularly historical fiction). So, why couldn’t a true story have a fictitious character? I’m sure there are books that do.
Alright, so, describe to us your perfect day, what would that look like?
W: A day where I don’t live in fear of being found. A day where my ex-husband’s crimes do not involve me paying the price for his stupidity. I don’t care where I am living; I just want to find that feeling of contentment and relaxation that I lost a long time ago.
SJJ: And I hope you have that day soon and many more.
Now sometimes people find this a difficult question to answer. But what are your strengths?
W: I guess despite everything I´ve been through, I still consider myself to be a strong woman. Although my husband tried to break me, to make me compliant to his every whim, a hidden spark of defiance refused to die. It lay festering in the darkness, just waiting for me to be able to plot and carry out my escape. Perhaps it’s obstinance, perhaps it’s defiance; I can’t say for sure, but I’m a woman who has fought back. Stood up to her repression and continues to do so.
SJJ: I couldn’t agree with you more. It takes a strong woman to do what you have done.
OK, so let me ask you something a little less serious. What do you do for fun?
W: I’m pretty good at analyzing people and when I’ve established what makes them tick, what they are really all about, I enjoy playing mind games with them. I get particular pleasure out of doing it when I know that the other person is unaware of it or is uncomfortable by my comments.
Lisa, for example, is the youngest member of the group here in Brazil and the most naïve. She never knows if I’m playing with her or if I´m being serious. I get a sort of twisted kick out of that.
SJJ: All in good fun. I used to play practical jokes, nothing harmful of course.
And another more laid-back question—what do you do to relax?
W: I find it impossible to truly relax. I´m always on edge. I guess that’s why I drink. It takes the edge off, but it’s fleeting and leaves me wanting more. It’s a vicious circle of self-abuse.
SJJ: Well, you’re not alone, I’m sure. Relaxation doesn’t come easy to many people.
On an entirely different note, what would you say is your most embarrassing moment?
W: One night during the contract, I was alone in the caravan and I thought there was someone outside. Fearing for my life, I grabbed a few belongings and fled. I spent the night in a park and when the girls found me. I was covered in mud from head to toe. It wasn’t my greatest moment!
SJJ: I’m sure that wasn’t a pleasant experience.
What are your plans for the future, Wendy?
W: Until I know that my husband can no longer hurt me or find me, I don’t make plans for the future. I live day to day with the fear of discovery. If I manage to sort this all out, I´d like to get a job. Something in the field of Economics like my Degree would be great.
SJJ: Wendy, I truly hope you find peace.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you like to portrait you?
W: I think Sandra Bullock would be a good choice. She’s sassy, like me. I don’t think she’d be the greatest dancer but… neither am I!
SJJ: Are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?
W: Yes, I think the author has described me warts and all. Maybe I feel a little uncomfortable because I know that future readers will find out about my drinking problem and the stupid mistakes I have made in my life. Thwy’ll see my weaknesses but they will also discover my strengths. Let’s just hope that everything works out for me in the end!
SJJ: Thank you so much for being here, Wendy, and for letting us get to know you a little. I hope you you get the life you are dreaming of and that you overcome those weaknesses of yours. You are a strong and brave woman, and I’m rooting for you.
Michele has a First Class Honours Degree in Modern languages, (English and Spanish). She currently lives in Spain with her Spanish husband, two dogs and two cats. She teaches English in a public school and in her own private school and considers herself to be a frustrated writer – she never has enough time to write!
Michele has won two literary competitions, and her first novel: “Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer´s Diary in Korea” is a Double Award Winner. ( “Best Memoir” with TCK Publishing in 2019 and a Finalist in the “Book Excellence Awards” in 2020. The sequel: “Fishnets and Fire-eating” has just been released, and she is currently editing her fourth book which will be a paranormal/horror novel.
In her past life …. (okay, when she was a young woman,) she worked as a professional dancer, magician and fire-eater who toured the world for over twenty years in theatre, musicals and circus. During that time, she was in the Guinness Book of Records for being part of the world´s largest Human mobile, and worked as a contortionist with the Circus of Horrors as their first “Girl inside a bottle”. She has rubbed shoulders with Sting, Chris de Burg, David Copperfield, Claudia Schiffer and Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees. She has also worked as a knife throwers assistant, assisted a midget in his balancing act and has taken part in the finale of a Scorpions concert.
Michele is concerned about climate change, the abundance of plastic pollution and hates the way man-unkind treats the other species which inhabit this beautiful planet which we are slowly destroying. Michele loves living in the countryside with views of the sea and likes nothing better than to sit on the terrace at the end of the day, look up at the stars and contemplate.
Michele can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Michele E. Northwood Author