Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Chanel Cleeton Author Interview

Photo Credit: Chris Malpass

Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Tell us your latest news.
My new release, Next Year in Havana, is out now. It’s a sweeping love story and family saga set against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution and the modern country that emerged in its wake.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
I highly recommend reading as much as possible—both in the genre you want to write and outside of it. Before I was a writer I was an avid reader, and that has made a huge difference in my career.

Publishing can be a solitary endeavor, especially in the early days, and dealing with setbacks and rejection can be tough, so perseverance is key. When you face a disappointment in your writing career, it’s natural to be sad, but the most important thing is to keep writing and learning, and to never, ever give up.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA?
There were so many, but I think the thing that meant the most to me was the sense of closeness I felt to my grandmother while writing it. She passed away nearly a decade ago, and I miss her daily. Writing Next Year in Havana enabled me to inhabit some of her memories and stories of Cuba, and it really felt like it brought her back to life.

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
There are so many authors that I fangirl over, and one of the best parts of this job has been meeting so many of my favorite authors. I had the privilege of meeting David Ebershoff this past year and that was definitely a highlight for me.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Ooh that is a great question. Probably Beatriz because she has been such a fun character to write. I would love to introduce her to Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice because I think they would have hilarious conversations with each other and probably get into lots of wonderful scrapes.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I loved the research I did for this novel. Cuba has always been a huge part of my life and my fascination with the island was ingrained in me from a young age thanks to my family’s love for their homeland. That said, it was definitely easy to get caught up in the research and have to remind myself to start writing.

What part of Marisol did you enjoy writing the most?

I loved writing about her exploration of her Cuban identity and heritage. Her journey throughout the book really mirrored my journey in writing it.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Elisa?
Elisa was really my window into a version of Cuba I had previously only learned about through my grandparents’ stories, so she taught me so much about the spirit of the times and gave me a greater understanding of what a difficult time period it must have been to grow up in.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?

Ooh that is a really hard one. I’m going to cheat and name a few because I can’t pick just one: The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire, and Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve.

Who was your first boyfriend?
My husband was my first serious boyfriend (but my not my first kiss: see below. He is an excellent kisser ;) ).

Tell me about your first kiss.

Sadly, it was not very memorable J Luckily, they got much better.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I love ‘80s music and have a secret fascination with ‘80s fashion, plus I’ve LOVED watching Stranger Things, so I think that would have to be my pick.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I went to an international university in London for my undergraduate degree and it was an amazing experience. I was fortunate enough to make some incredible friendships, study a subject I was passionate about, and travel a bit. I would probably go back to that time, but just to visit J While it was a fun adventure, I will definitely say the present is the best.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would not have gone to law school. Although, that said, law school really pushed me to pursue my writing career so I am grateful for that at least.


1. To be Cuban, is to be proud-it is both our greatest gift and our biggest curse. We serve no kings, bow no heads, bear our troubles on our backs as though they are nothing at all. There is an art to this, you see. An art to appearing as though everything is effortless, that your world is a gilded one, when the reality is that your knees beneath your silk gown buckle from the weight of it all. We are silk and lace, and beneath them we are steel.

2. “Am I dangerous?” I test the word out and decide I like the sound and taste of it.

3. I walk down these streets, and I look out to the sea, and I want to feel as though I belong here, but I'm a visitor here, a guest in my own country.

4. I was caught between two lands—two iterations of myself—the one I inhabited in my body and the one I lived in my dreams.

5. There's a violence to our history that gets lost somewhere in the telling, buried beneath beautiful scenery, the deceptively blue sea and sky, the palm trees swaying placidly in the breeze. It's the sound of firing squads that echo in the wind.

6. ​Perhaps I fell in love with him while walking on the Malec√≥n. Or maybe it was at the party, or a few minutes ago when he spoke of his dreams for Cuba. Or maybe this is merely a precursor to love, an emotion singularly difficult to identify by name when you’ve yet to experience it; maybe there are stages to it, like the moment when you wade into the ocean, right before the waves crash over your head.

7. To be in exile is to have the things you love most in the world -- the air you breathe, the earth you walk upon -- taken from you.

8. It is a strange time to be Cuban, to feel the stirrings beneath your feet, hear the rumblings in the sky, and to continue on as though nothing is happening at all. Stranger still to be a woman in Cuba—we vote, but what does a vote mean when election outcomes are a foregone conclusion? The women in our family attended the best schools, grew up with a slew of tutors, each one more harried and harassed by all of us—Beatriz, in particular—but Perez women do not work no matter how much we might wish to do so. We are useless birds in a gilded cage while our countrywomen serve in the government, while some plot revolution. Times have changed in our little island, a tinder lit, spreading like wildfire throughout Cuba, meanwhile our estates are a bulwark against modernization, change, freedom.

And so occasionally, we do exceedingly foolish things like sneaking out of the house in the dead of night, because it’s impossible to stand near the flame consuming everything around you and not have some of that fire catch the hem of your skirt, too.

9. Pablo takes my hand, his thumb stroking the inside of my wrist, teasing the soft skin there. “You’re going to be difficult to walk away from, aren’t you?” he asks, his voice resigned.

My heart thuds. “I hope so.”

10. In one step, I know power, the drugging effect of it coursing through my veins. With one step I am removed from the fringes and thrust in the middle of my life. In that space of the step, my world shifts. Everything is different now, and nothing will ever be the same again.

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


“A flat-out stunner of a book, at once a dual-timeline mystery, a passionate romance, and paean to the tragedy and beauty of war-torn Cuba. Simply wonderful!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

“Cleeton has penned an atmospheric, politically insightful, and highly hopeful homage to a lost world. Devour Next Year in Havana and you, too, will smell the perfumed groves, taste the ropa vieja, and feel the sun on your face.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

“A vivid, transporting novel. Next Year in Havana is about journeys—into exile, into history, and into questions of home and identity. It’s an engrossing read.” —David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife

“An evocative, passionate story of family loyalty and forbidden love that moves seamlessly between the past and present of Cuba’s turbulent history…Next Year in Havana kept me enthralled and savoring every word.” —Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach

“Chanel Cleeton’s prose is as beautiful as Cuba itself, and the story she weaves—of exile and loss, memory and myth, forbidden love and enduring friendship—is at once sweeping and beautifully intimate.” —Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France

“A poignant tale of aristocracy, subterfuge, tyranny, conflict, corruption and courage during the Cuban Revolution…Next Year In Havana is an extraordinary journey that connects the past and present and will enthrall readers until the very end.” —RT Book Review (starred review)

“An enticing and wonderful read for lovers of historical fiction and soul-searching journeys.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A poignant and lush historical love story.” —

“An undeniably personal and intimate look at Cuba then and now, wrapped around the gripping story of two women torn between love and country.” —Renee Rosen, author of Windy City Blues

“Chanel Cleeton delivers an amazing and captivating read!” —Alix Rickloff, author of On the Way to London

“With graceful prose, Cleeton evokes the former grandeur of 1950s Cuba, and contrasts it with modern day Miami in this sweeping family saga of loss and love.” —Heather Webb, author of Last Christmas in Paris

“A compelling, un-put-downable page-turner told from two equally powerful female narratives…A must read.” —Lia Riley, author of It Happened on Love Street

“Next Year in Havana is a ravishing jewel of romance, hope, family, and the history in Cuba.” —Weina Dai Randel, author of The Moon in the Palace

“This gritty tale pulls back the curtain on revolutionary and modern Cuba, allowing us a glimpse of the courage, heartache, and sacrifices of those who left their country in exile, and also those who stayed behind.” —Stephanie Thornton, author The Conqueror’s Wife

“Next Year in Havana is a riveting, moving novel that explores the ever-relevant themes of love and sacrifice, family and duty, patriotism and resistance. Cleeton describes Havana so vividly that I felt I was there. I could not put this book down!” —Alyssa Palombo, author of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

You can purchase Next Year in Havana at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHANEL CLEETON for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.


  1. "What are the 5 most beautiful things in the world, and why?" Kitties, puppies, grey squirrels, otters, and prairie dogs. Because they are such cute animals!

  2. The five most beautiful things in this world are my husband, my three daughters, and my best friends, because they are my family and love me.

  3. The full moon over the horizon in the morning, a double rainbow, a perfect soft snowfall, the bright red/orange of maple trees and the sight of the first daffodils in the spring. These five come to mind because they are beautiful, unique to this world and best shared with friends and loved ones

  4. Dogs for loyalty.
    Butterflies for beauty.
    Cats for mystical and beautiful.
    Eagles for freedom.
    Horses for freedom.

  5. Family & friends because I love them.
    My cat who makes me laugh every day.
    Sea turtles are adorable & majestic.
    Irises which remind me of my favorite paintings.
    Books because they let me experience new & different worlds.

  6. Money, Money, Money, Money, Money because it buys me all the beautiful things I want.