Friday, September 7, 2018

Blog Tour / Interview: Jeanine Kitchel, Author of Wheels Up: A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival @jeaninekitchel

Jeanine Kitchel, a former journalist, escaped her hectic nine-to-five life in San Francisco, bought land, and built a house in a fishing village on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Shortly after settling in she opened a bookstore. By this time she had become a serious Mayaphile and her love of the Maya culture led her and her husband to nearby pyramid sites throughout southern Mexico and farther away to sites in Central America. In the bookstore she entertained a steady stream of customers with their own Maya tales to tell—from archeologists and explorers to tour guides and local experts. At the request of  a publisher friend, she began writing travel articles about her adopted homeland for websites and newspapers. Her travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya, and Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, are available on Amazon. She has since branched into writing fiction and her debut novel, Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, launched May 2018.




Author: Jeanine Kitchel
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 294
Genre: Thriller

Layla always wanted to run the family business. But is she willing to kill for it?
When her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured, Layla Navarro catapults to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel. Groomed as his successor, Layla knows where the bodies are buried. But not all the enemies. She strikes her first deal to prove her mettle by accepting an offer to move two tons of cocaine from Colombia to Cancun by jet. Things go sideways during a stopover in Guatemala whe Layla unexpectedly uncovers a human trafficking ring. Plagued by self-doubt, she must fight off gangsters, outsmart corrupt officials, and navigate the minefield of Mexican machismo. Even worse, she realizes she’s become a target for every rival cartel seeking to undermine her new standing. From her lush base in the tropics, she’s determined to retain her dominant position in Mexico’s criminal world. If she can stay alive.



Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Thank you! Right now, actually, I’m writing all the time but still manage to get in some yoga or tai chi practice, plus a bit of pleasure reading, just to soothe my soul. When I’m not in the middle of a major writing project, I love to travel far and wide.

When did you start writing?

As a journalism major since college days, I’ve always written something. I have two non-fiction books under my belt and have written for numerous newspapers, blogs and websites, usually travel related. But writing fiction began recently, in the past four years.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

For me, the decision to write fiction was a game changer. With that journalistic streak firmly wedged in my brain, I’ve always loved research and found writing non-fiction, dare I say it, an easy enough task. With non-fiction, it’s rather like putting a puzzle together; one just has to find a place for all the pieces. But then I started to think about writing fiction, and realized I could reach a wider audience with fiction and still address some big ticket issues.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Brazil or Argentina. I’m drawn to Latin and South American countries in general and have traveled to both Brazil and Argentina. I find the people in both countries to be big and warm-hearted, the land intensely beautiful, and the cities are a joy, filled with exquisite food and drink, served in generous portions. A return visit would jump start my writing about these romantic southern climes. I minored in Latin American comparative literature in college and never quite got over my fascination with Latin American authors.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Read or write. It’s just a thing now, since I started writing fiction I find myself drawn to writing more and more. If I’m not writing I’m often thinking about what I will write or how to phrase something. I’m on fertile ground and I don’t want to lose that momentum.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Probably the Amazon. My trip up the Rio Negro in a traditional Brazilian river boat with only four cabins a few years ago was an inspiration. Part Heart of Darkness, part African Queen.

Back to your present book, Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival,  how did you publish it?

Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival is self-published,  my first work of fiction.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Yes. I guess you could say I did extensive research. I lived in Mexico for 15 years, built a house and founded a bookstore there. Day to day life was my palate, and I greedily gobbled it up. Mexico is so colorful, so multi-faceted, especially on the Yucatan Peninsula where I lived amidst the Maya pyramids, that I think I was nearly in a dream state at times, in awe of my surroundings and the stories that I heard told. It was quite remarkable, and I often think of Isak Dinesen’s first line from Out of Africa, “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills...”  My travel memoir—not my present book Wheels Up—begins in a similar vein, “Highway 307 on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula stretched like an asphalt ribbon before us. The Maya named this place Sian Ka’an, or ‘where the sky is born’.”

Why was writing Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, so important to you?

I’ve always loved Mexico. It was my home for 15 years and I write about Mexico, the Maya and the Yucatan. Being there gave me an insider’s view into the culture as well as a closer look at the creeping dominance of the cartels and their effect on that society and how the average person, trying to live a normal life, copes, or doesn’t. Corruption is pervasive, a way of life, from top to bottom. It’s Mexico’s main problem and has assisted in giving the cartels a leg up, an easy entry into taking control of an entire country. I’m not sure if there’s an end in sight, and it pains me. Writing about it, in fictionalized form, gave me an outlet to express my concerns about this ongoing problem, one that has handicapped my beloved Mexico.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

For me, coming from a non-fiction background, many of my ideas are grounded in some sort of personal experience, or things I’ve overheard while cruising through life. I don’t carry a notebook with me as many authors do, but I tend to have a good memory, and different ideas or sentences can resonate within for a long time. A seed was planted, and sometimes they take root.

Any final words?

Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings about writing with you! This interview has given me the opportunity to explain why I wrote Wheels Up, and what it meant to me to do so. It has been my pleasure!

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