Welcome back to Under the Covers, Chanel. I’m extremely giddy to have you here today and to get to pick your brain about your upcoming release as well as your last year. Lots of exciting things have happened since we spoke to you last here.
Thanks for having me!
We are so happy for the huge success of NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA and that it was one of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club picks last year. Congratulations! What was the most memorable part of this experience for you?
Thank you so much for all of your support! It’s been an incredible experience and it definitely feels like a dream. I still have little things that happen that feel surreal. The biggest moment when it probably hit me the most was seeing Reese post about my book on the day she announced it was the July pick for her book club.
Did you imagine when you first crafted this story that it would have the reach it’s gotten?
I didn’t. I will admit while writing it, I did have a feeling that there was something different about this book. It definitely had a special place in my heart and felt almost like it was a part of me, but I couldn’t have imagined the reception it has received and I’m so grateful for it. There’s always a giant unknown when you launch a book into the world and I was just really hopeful that readers would connect with the story.
But now as much as I loved that book, I can’t wait to talk about WHEN WE LEFT CUBA. This book is about Beatriz, whom we got to see a little bit of in NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA. She’s daring and fierce! What is your favorite thing about Beatriz and what was your inspiration for her character?
Beatriz has a special place in my heart. I love how passionate she is and how unapologetically herself she is. My grandmother lived with us growing up and she had those same characteristics and I always really admired that about her. I was definitely inspired by the strong, vibrant Cuban women I saw in my family.
As you blend more of the Cuban Revolution with Cuban American politics in this story, what was the most important thing that you want to convey?
I wanted to explore the tumultuous nature of the early 1960s with regard to Cuban-American relations. So much happens in such a short time span between the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution and the waves of exiles coming to the U.S. and organizing with plans to overthrow Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Kennedy assassination, and it was fascinating to research that time period and the effect it had on the lives of those who experienced it.
Was Beatriz story one you always had planned to write even as you started NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA or was it something that progressed as the story unfolded?
I didn’t plan to write her story until I introduced her on the page in Next Year in Havana. I actually had to stop writing Next Year in Havana so that I could write the first chapter of When We Left Cuba because Beatriz’s voice was so strong in my head. She just intrigued me from the beginning and I had to know more about her.
What is your favorite thing about vintage Havana that is most dear to your heart?
I think I always see it through the lens of my grandparents’ stories, so it feels very personal and almost like a part of my family. My grandmother passed away over a decade ago and she is greatly missed, so working on these books has really made me feel like I get to share them with her as I capture some of her memories.
If you could pick a theme song for Beatriz, what would it be?
That’s a great question! I don’t know if I can pick just one song since there are so many different facets to her personality, but I think Celia Cruz’s music embodies much of Beatriz’s spirit.
What would be your dream vacation?
Right now a quiet beach and a good book sounds perfect 🙂
What are three romance novels on your to-be-read list?
What are you working on next?
I am waiting on edits for my next book which will be out in 2020. It’s tentatively titled, Our Side of Paradise, and is set in the Florida Keys in the 1930s and features three heroines whose paths cross one fateful weekend in September. One of them is an ancestor of the Perez family; she’s Beatriz’s aunt. I can’t wait to share their story with all of you!
Thank you so much for sharing with us today and can’t wait for everyone to enjoy WHEN WE LEFT CUBA!
Available April 9, 2019!
[new-release title=”When We Left Cuba” author=”Chanel Cleeton”]
Under the Covers is graciously giving away
WHEN WE LEFT CUBA Deluxe package
[ includes signed book + lipstick + recipe card
inspired from Chanel’s grandmother ]
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