#AuthorTalk – an exclusive feature with author Jeanine Kitchel (@jeaninekitchel) Wheels Up: A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival

Today on Author Talk we have Jeanine Kitchel stopping by for a chat. Jeanine’s book Wheels Up is out now in paperback and ebook.

WheelsUp - 01

| Wheels Up  –  Blurb |

When her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured, Layla Navarro catapults to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel. To expand cartel influence she accepts an offer to move two tons of cocaine from Colombia to Cancun by jet. Along for the ride are her abusive bodyguard/lover, the laidback Canadian pot grower who set up the deal, and a coke-addicted Vietnam vet. The deal takes a bad turn during a stopover in Guatemala when Layla unexpectedly uncovers a sex-trafficking ring. Plagued by self-doubt, she must navigate the minefield of Mexican machismo, outsmart government officials and fight off gangsters. Against a backdrop of lush tropical settings, Layla plots to succeed, wreak vengeance, and find herself—not to mention stay alive.

| Jeanine Kitchel |

Jeanine Kitchel, a former journalist, escaped her hectic nine-to-five life in San Francisco, bought land and built a house in a small fishing village on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Shortly after settling in she opened a bookstore. By that time she’d become a serious Mayaphile and her love of the Maya culture led her and her husband to pyramid sites throughout southern Mexico and Central America. In the bookstore she entertained a steady stream of customers with their own Maya ­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. 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 branched into fiction and her debut novel, Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, launched May 2018. She has written for The Miami Herald, Fodors Travel Guides, Yahoo Voices, El Universal/Mexico City and The Herald/Mexico City along with various travel websites and blogs.

| Interview |


  • Where did the inspiration come from for your current book?

Living in Mexico for fifteen years gave me insight into the country’s multi-faceted culture as well as a closer look at the feared and tawdry business of the cartels. Before Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, I’d always written non-fiction. But I felt I could reach a wider audience by writing fiction and still address some big-ticket issues. Wheels Up uses my insight to catapult my Latina protagonist, Layla Navarro, niece of Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, to the top of the cartel after his recapture. I felt it would be an ironic situation, to place a headstrong young woman in the driver’s seat in macho Mexico. This is a story of triumph against all odds and one of personal transformation as Layal struggles to survive in one of the cruellest institutions the world has ever seen.


  • Do you have a special ritual that you do when you finish writing a book?

A bottle of bubbly with my husband.



  • What has been your favourite read of 2018, so far?

I’m a bit behind on reading since I’ve been non-stop writing, but loved John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries. It takes place in Oaxaca and the Philippines and I’m drawn to all novels about Mexico. It doesn’t fail. Irving is at his best, as always.



  • Could you, please share with us a photograph that tells a story?

This is the dock at Puerto Morelos, the fishing village where we built our house on the beach, situated on the Mexican Caribbean coast, between Cancun and Tulum, Mexico. Crooked lighthouse, hit by a hurricane in 1988 and all.





  • If you could pick three books that have influenced your life, what would they be and why?

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book introduced me to magical realism and simply blew my mind. It’s been many years since I’ve read it, but this is how I discovered Marque. I’d minored in Comparative Latin American Lit in college, and somehow, the professor failed to introduce us to Marquez! I loved the town Marquez created and all that went on in it, magically. (I also love Borges).

Image result for One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger. I was 17 when I read this book, and Holden Caulfield’s voice, basically questioning authority before that was a cool thing to do, and his defiance of his elders and his opinion of so many people as phonies was an eye-opener. I was quite naive at the time, and it made me aware and more wary of the world.

Image result for Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger.

The Great Gatsby,  by F. Scott Fitzgerald. First of all, a great but sad love story. I fell hard for Gatsby, who grew up rough, but faked it until he made it. I also saw how he was beguiled by love and how it also destroyed him. He placed his bet on the wrong “horse” so to speak. Daisy failed him badly.


Image result for The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald


  • If your book had its own theme song, what would it be?

Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. There is that line “Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you. Some of them want to abuse you; some of them want to be abused.” It reminds me of the cartels and the drug trade, and it perfectly explains the novel.



  • If your book was made into a movie who would you like to play the main characters?


Salma Hayek would be Layla Navarro, my protagonist. Ryan Gosling would be Clay Lasalle, the Canadian pot grower and dealer.




  • Do you have any questions for your readers?

Does the corruption of the cartels come out in the novel?

Can the reader understand the underpinnings I am trying to explain– to see how this, one of the cruellest institutions the world has ever seen — has affected not just those at the top, but the entire beautiful country of Mexico?



Lastly, if you could say something to your reader before they start your book what would it be?

Go along for the ride with Layla, her bodyguard, Clay, and Donavon and enter the world of Mexico – not just the cartel world, but the beautiful country with its wide sandy beaches, gorgeous jungles and hardwood forests, colonial cities and small fishing villages. Prepare for a feast of the eyes, and a harrowing story of triumph against all odds.




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