Interview with Jeanine Kitchel, Author of Wheels Up @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.



Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Mexico was my home for 15 years and once I settled in and opened a bookstore on the Mexican Caribbean coast, I discovered so many untold stories that needed telling. As a former journalist, I realized I had an insider’s view of the country’s extraordinary culture along with a straightforward look at the creeping dominance of Mexico’s cartels. Slowly the idea of writing a cartel novel took shape. Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival uses that insight to catapult my Latina protagonist, Layla Navarro, to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel when her drug lord uncle is recaptured.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I began the writing process for Wheels Up four years ago, and devoted nearly a year to research, reading anything and everything I could find on the cartels, from fiction to news articles along with watching documentaries and films. Coming from a journalism background, research was my comfortable companion. Since I’d never written fiction before, it was tough to let go of details and stick to moving the story forward. I overwrote the book in the first several drafts, and it was only after I found my editor that I realized it. An editor is essential. I trimmed thousands of words to create the finished product. If the story doesn’t move along you’ll lose the reader.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I didn’t realize how difficult the process would be. Self-publishing requires a great many skills that need to be learned yesterday. Today so much revolves around technical prowess, social media, and the author’s platform. It’s time consuming, often frustrating, and takes organizational skills and a great deal of patience.

Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

Wheels Up is a trilogy. I’m working on book two, Layla’s Law. It will be out in 2019. I’m also finishing up a prequel titled Before Wheels Up and that will be out this fall.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

Much of the book is based on fact but fictionalized. Living in Mexico so many years made me very aware of current situations, political issues, and cultural habits.

Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

Corruption and the cartels have shackled Mexico and held the country captive. The novel takes a look at how cartels have affected every level of Mexican society—from the top down to the bottom—and shows how the average person copes, or doesn’t, with the threat of violence that’s become a part of daily life.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you! In my quest to write fiction I’ve taken a number of writing classes, and I’d like to pass along a piece of advice for other authors from my favorite instructor: The muse only shows up if you do.

About the Book:

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.



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