This week I am featuring Chanel Cleeton whose debut novel I See London releases from Harlequin in February.
I See London by Chanel Cleeton
Maggie Carpenter is ready for a change— and to leave her ordinary life in South Carolina behind. But when she accepts a scholarship to the International School in London, a university attended by the privileged offspring of diplomats and world leaders, Maggie might get more than she bargained for.
When Maggie meets Hugh, a twentysomething British guy, she finds herself living the life she always wanted. Suddenly she’s riding around the city in a Ferrari, wearing borrowed designer clothes and going to the hottest clubs. The only problem? Another guy, the one she can’t seem to keep her hands off of.
Half French, half Lebanese, and ridiculously wealthy, Samir Khouri has made it clear he doesn’t do relationships. He’s the opposite of everything Maggie thought she wanted…and he’s everything she can’t resist. Torn between her dream guy and the boy haunting her dreams, Maggie has to fight for her own happy ending. In a city like London, you never know where you stand, and everything can change in the blink of an eye.
This is a New Adult romance recommended for readers 17 and up.
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Interview with Chanel
Why did you decide to become an author?
I’ve always loved books. Reading has always been my greatest passion and books have gotten me through really difficult times in my life. When I was younger I would play around with writing but I never finished any of the projects I started. Being an author seemed so far out of reach.
As I got older, I started thinking about it more and more. When I met my husband and we later got engaged, my life changed rather drastically. I was going down a career path that I loved, but he’s in the military with a ten-year service commitment and no control over where we move. I was working in international politics at the time and really needed to be in a handful of cities. So I gave it up and moved from London to Oklahoma to get married. I tried a ton of jobs but nothing ever fit and honestly I wasn’t very good at a lot of them. But a voice in the back of my head told me to try writing and even though there were a lot of times I didn’t believe I could do it (and a LOT of rejections), I did. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve found something I’m passionate about and I’m so proud to be part of the writing community. It really has been the biggest blessing.
How do you balance writing with other things in your life?
Probably not very well :) I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic and this is no different. I just graduated law school in May and it was really tough to write when I was in school and working. Basically, I just had to make time for it. I wrote every day, even if it was just a little bit. I wasn’t a big fan of law school so writing was a huge release for me. At the same time, though, I had to choose between writing and doing social media because I really didn’t have time for both. So I didn’t have much of an online presence. When my book sold over the summer I had to kick into high gear on the social media side. We moved to South Korea in May so I’m pretty much writing full-time and now have the ability to focus on my writing career. With my release coming up soon, I still struggle between spending time working on marketing and promo and finding time to write. I’d love an extra day in the week J
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
I love watching a story take shape. I’ll start off with an idea (I’m a huge pantser) and as I work I’m amazed as the story unfolds and changes. Often my characters will completely take over and the story will become something else entirely from what I envisioned. Those moments are so special because you really feel like you’ve created something independent of yourself.
What are your favourite books?
This is such a hard question for me!! I’m going to limit it to YA and NA because otherwise I could go on for days J On the YA side some of my favourites include: Dare You To by Katie McGarry, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. On the NA side some of my favourites include: Twisted Perfection by Abbi Glines, Faking It by Cora Carmack, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Rush Me by Allison Parr, A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers, and Unteachable by Leah Raeder.
Are there any books/authors that inspired you to write?
So many! Probably anything ever written by Nora Roberts. She’s one of my biggest heroes. Same with Judith McNaught and Brenda Joyce. I also love Sophie Kinsella. When I was younger I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley books, Nancy Drew series, Baby-Sitters Club, Saddle Club, etc. My love of reading has been the single biggest factor inspiring me to write.
Describe your book in one sentence.
An American girl from South Carolina moves to London to attend an exclusive international university and is caught between the hot British guy who is everything she thought she wanted and the half French, half Lebanese playboy she can’t seem to resist.
Where did you get the idea for I See London, did anything inspire you to write it?
I See London is inspired by the four years I spent living in London and attending an international university. My university was an incredible place and for ten years I’ve been saying that someone needed to write a book about it! I’m so glad I got the chance.
What made you decide to write a New Adult romance novel?
Honestly, I just wanted to write this story. I played around with the idea of making the characters YA age because NA was still a very difficult sell. But when I tried, it just didn’t work. I See London is all about university life and it would have been wrong to write it any other way. Luckily my agent loved the idea and was very supportive of NA, so we decided to take a chance.
What would you say makes your book unique and worth reading?
I think the biggest hook is the international setting. My characters come from all over the world and it makes for a really cool environment. It’s a different take on the university experience. I don’t know that I would have been able to write a book set at an American university because I just didn’t have that experience. London is an AMAZING city and I’ve had so much writing about it. I joke that this book is really my little love letter to London.
Is there any specific message you wanted to convey in the book?
More than anything this book is about following your dreams and having an adventure and I hope that readers experience that when they read it. My heroine, Maggie, is from a small town in South Carolina, she gets a scholarship to attend this university in London, and it opens her eyes to a whole other world. It gives her a chance to reinvent herself and to become the person she always wanted to be. For me, that’s the heart of NA— that age when your life is filled with possibilities and you’re growing into yourself. I think there’s such a spirit of adventure to NA and I really wanted to convey that with this book.
What are your plans for future books?
Right now I’m finishing the sequel to I See London. It’s tentatively titled, London Falling, and will be released by Harlequin HQN in 2014. I’m getting ready to start a secret NA project that I’m SO excited about. I also have something in the works on the YA thriller side.
Do you have any hobbies and Interests unrelated to books?
I love to travel and I’ve been really lucky to go to some amazing places. Besides that, I’m pretty obsessed with my dogs. We have three- two yorkies and a poodle mix- and they are my babies.
Would you ever consider putting these into any of your books?
I See London was heavily influenced by my love of traveling. It’s set in London but my characters take trips to Paris and to Venice. I’ve been to both and LOVE them. The sequel includes a trip to Marbella, Spain which is another favourite of mine.
I have jokingly said that I want to write a children’s book about my pups and their adventures, but yeah, I probably won’t J
If you could meet any one author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Probably Judith McNaught. I am such a HUGE fan of her work and I read her books at a time in my life that was particularly tough so I think she always will stand out as a favourite of mine.
Tell us one interesting fact about yourself.
I don’t know how to whistle.
What is your favourite food?
It’s a tie between Mexican or Lebanese. I’ve been ordering the exact same dish (Burrito Ranchero with Beef) at this Mexican restaurant for 20 years and it would probably top the list. Also, anything from Ranoush in London. I would eat there several times a week and I miss it SO much.
What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
I moved to London at 17 years old. I didn’t know anyone and I just got on a plane by myself. It was a huge chance and it was a risk, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
If you could be any supernatural creature which would you choose?
Wow, I’ve never thought of that. Maybe a shapeshifter? I feel like that could be useful.
About the Author
Originally a Florida girl, at seventeen Chanel moved to London to attend an international university. In the four years that followed, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, learned how to dance, travelled through Europe, and made lifelong friendships. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever. But fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise, when an American fighter pilot with smooth dance moves, swept her off her feet.
Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in South Korea. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel writes New Adult contemporary romances and Young Adult thrillers. Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.