Author Q&A: Historical Fiction Author Chanel Cleeton
Chanel Cleeton’s latest novel, The Cuban Heiress, is out this week. In 1934, a luxury cruise becomes a fight for survival as two women’s pasts collide on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana. As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, these two women must risk everything to see justice served once and for all.
Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Personal Librarian, raves, “Chanel Cleeton does it again with The Cuban Heiress. Using as backdrop the very real life history of the incendiary New York-Cuba voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the SS Morro Castle, Cleeton explores the explosive encounter between New York heiress Catherine Dohan and the young Cuban lady Elena Palacio. But neither woman is exactly who they pretend to be, and the journey threatens them both, as they risk their lives to pursue justice.”
Chanel is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese's Book Club pick Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba, Our Last Days in Barcelona, and The Cuban Heiress. Originally from Florida, Chanel 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.
Chanel answers some questions that I posed to her about The Cuban Heiress:
What inspired you to start writing The Cuban Heiress?
The Cuban Heiress is inspired by the SS Morro Castle, a 1934 luxury cruise liner that mysteriously caught fire on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana. When I first learned about the SS Morro Castle, I was intrigued by the fascinating real-life mysteries surrounding the ship’s final sailing.
What kind of research did you have to do?
I read, watched, and listened to quite a few sources about the SS Morro Castle as well as the time period in which the book is set. I’ve published a few books set in the 1930s now and it has been fascinating in each one to see how world events have shaped my respective characters’ lives. The backdrop of the 1933 Cuban Revolution, the end of Prohibition, and the Great Depression really sets the stage for how events unfold aboard the ship.
What do you hope your readers take away from your book?
I hope that readers are immersed in the story and that they feel as though they are traveling alongside Elena and Catherine on this voyage. If they were previously unfamiliar with the history of the SS Morro Castle, I hope they learn something new about the ship and find its story as fascinating as I did!
Do you have any say in what your book cover looks like?
I am so fortunate that the Berkley art department and amazing designers like Sarah Oberrender create such stunning covers for my novels. With The Cuban Heiress, I wanted to capture the essence of being onboard the cruise ship and so I asked if they could design a cover with that in mind. I am SO thrilled with the gorgeous final product and really appreciate how much input I was able to have about my vision for the cover.
Are you working on anything at the present that you would like to share with me?
I’m currently editing my next historical fiction release. It’s set at a mysterious estate in Miami shrouded in secrets and scandal. It will release in 2024.
What are you reading now and what have you read recently that you loved?
I’m starting an ARC of Elizabeth Langston’s upcoming historical fiction release The Measure of Silence. I also recently read and loved The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews.
For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.
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