In 2009, Huntsville resident Jenny Cressman was looking for a place where she and a girlfriend could escape winter—a place cheap, hot and sunny. Little did she know that that first trip to Marea del Portillo, a modest resort off the beaten path on the southwest shores of Cuba, would turn into one of many and inspire her to write her first adventure romance novel.
The community and its people resonated with Cressman who quickly fell in love with the place.
“I just started to make connections with the people there and I started to realize that that little community really relied on tourism and so if I wanted to help the community, not just one or two families, then the best thing I could do is start leading groups there,” she said.
In 2010 Cressman began leading groups to Marea del Portillo. The themes of the groups would change; sometimes it could be a yoga-themed group or a writers’ group which included special workshops led by local writer Karen Wehrstein, or even a cycling-themed group led by Cressman’s husband, Gordon Baker. Sometimes the group would be made up of only women.
“Everything just kind of grew from there. It inspired me to start writing and I started writing poetry, I started writing short stories, and then I started writing this novel,” said Cressman who’s been working with Brenda Paterson of GrovePark Marketing out of Bracebridge.
Cressman is excited to have signed a contract for the novel with new local publisher Ripple Press.
“We’re very pleased to be the second book published by Ripple Press out of Huntsville,” said Cressman.
She recently received her first advance from the publisher, which really hit the project home for her. “It suddenly felt more real when I received the advance! We’re now working on the cover design, which is very exciting. I’m so happy to be working with Emilie Stroud of Ripple Press.”
Without giving too much away, Cressman said the novel, for which she’s already written a sequel, is a fictionalized version of that little resort and the village it is located in. It contains historical information about the country and its culture as well as her observations about the interaction between locals and tourists.
The protagonist is a 40-something-year-old Canadian Mennonite woman fleeing an abusive ex-husband. She goes to Cuba on a holiday to get away from her chaotic life and ends up having a torrid affair with a handsome horseman, explained Cressman.
“So there’s, you know, a fair bit of sex and riding horses on the beach at sunset, and things like that, and in the progress of the novel she essentially grows up and she becomes a fuller and more mature person. She realizes that this guy isn’t the best choice for her and she kind of moves on from there, but I don’t want to be too much of a spoiler with what else happens to her,” she says with a laugh.
The novel draws on many of Cressman’s own life experiences and observations. The handsome horseman, who in real life is a much chubbier and endearingly jovial man by the name of Chichi, does offer horseback rides at the resort. Cressman also draws on her experience working at a women’s shelter when it comes to her protagonist’s relationship with her ex. Cressman grew up as a Mennonite and she’s made her main character one as well. “So I’ve added that sort of element too… it’s a lot of different threads that I’m pulling on and I think it makes for quite an interesting mixture.”
Cressman is hoping the book will be out by late November or early December, just in time for Christmas. The cover design is currently being finalized and the title to look for is Cuban Kisses, Cuban Wishes.
Cressman’s travel groups have been put on hold due to the pandemic but she’s hopeful they’ll resume soon.
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