Meet the Newbies: Tom Crosshill

Meet the Newbies is a blog event dedicated to introducing you to the “newbie” published debut authors. In this event, expect to learn more about the authors, their books, and silly fun facts! Check out the full Meet the Newbies lineup here.

Tom's debut novel, The Cat King of Havana, sounds like loads of fun and perfect to read this summer.  Cuba, nerds, cats, salsa lessons? I'm in! Tom himself seems like such a fascinating person with diverse interests, did you know he even did a TEDx Talk video?? Here is Tom Crosshill!

Author Most Likely to Break into a Spontaneous Dance Number
Nickname: The Last Catbender
First Day of School: September 6, 2016
Homeroom: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Grade: Mainstream
Extracurricular Activities: Salsa dancing, unlikely romance, and feline videography
Favorite Class: AP Catrobatics
Favorite Quote/Motto: "Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." ― Marilyn Monroe


1. Describe your book in 5 words.
Salsa-dancing lolcat tycoon in love.

2. The Cat King of Havana has such a unique, fascinating, and complex plot. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Two passions inspired "The Cat King of Havana".

The first was my passion for Cuba in all its complexity. I've spent a year on the island between various trips, and it still seems a utopia one day, a dystopia the next, and somewhere in the middle on your average Tuesday.

The second passion that inspired this book was dance.

I'm allergic to the words "you haven't got what it takes". Utter them in my direction and you might send me into an obsession lasting days, months or even years -- until I've proved you wrong.

This is how I learned English well enough to write fiction in it (my classmates, fellow Latvians, laughed at the idea). This is how I became a physics major in college (physics was the one black mark on my high school transcript). This is also how I learned to dance.

I didn't always have this allergy, though.

Back in elementary school, when I was on the verge of failing gym class, my family told me, "That's okay. You've got other talents. You're not made for sports."

I believed them. Years of clumsiness, bullying, and gym periods from hell followed. In high school, I finally decided enough was enough and joined a martial arts school. For three months of aikido classes, I couldn't do a simple back roll -- something even the clumsiest of my classmates did with ease. But I kept at it, hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

Six arduous years later, I earned my black belt. By that time, I'd realized I didn't need talent to become competent at something. Sheer stubbornness would do the trick.

This insight came in handy when, on a chance trip to Cuba, I took my first salsa class. I loved it -- and I was atrocious. A block of wood on two left feet, with a tendency to collide with any furniture foolishly left nearby. My Cuban teacher was too polite to say such a thing, but I could tell my dance potential wasn't exactly overwhelming.

It didn't matter. I was in love. I wouldn't let a lack of talent stop me.

Salsa took over my life. For the next few years, I danced twenty to thirty hours a week, took classes from all the best teachers I could find, and returned to Cuba to learn more.

Now, four years later, I teach salsa myself -- even as I continue my own studies. I'm not the best dancer in the world, or even close, but I'm doing what I love and having a blast.

With "The Cat King of Havana", I wanted to share my love of dance -- but also to share my allergy, if such a thing is possible.

If you love something enough, it doesn't matter whether people think you've got what it takes. You may never become the best in the world. With endless hours of work, though, you can get pretty good at just about anything.

3. Your main character Rick Gutierrez posts cat videos. If you had your own YouTube channel, what would your videos be about?
Slow-motion videos of kindly grannies knitting wool socks. Wool socks are important, especially if you live in Latvia.

Alternatively, I've been thinking about creating a series of videos for our dance studio, CosaBuena. There are a lot of instructional salsa videos out there, but not that many for Cuban rumba and Afro-Cuban dance. I would have loved to have such a resource when I was starting out.

4. Can you share anything about your current WIP?
My major Work-In-Progress currently is actually my life. I've just returned to Europe after a year in Cuba and I'm figuring out what to do next. Write and teach dance, sure, but I'm really excited about some developments in the tech field -- such as the new VR wave -- and am thinking about ways to get involved. Of course, this will also inevitably filter through to my writing.

I do have a fantasy YA novel in the works, but I find I write better if I don't discuss my projects publicly before they are done!

5. What are three things on your bucket list?
I thought about inventing an answer, but the truth is, I don't have a bucket list. Whenever I think of something I have a burning desire to do, I tend to go ahead and do it -- even if it takes the next 5 years. Learning to dance salsa was my latest obsession. I'm currently deciding on the next!

About the Book:

Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!

At least that’s the plan.

It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.

Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges.

Buy Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble 

About the Author:

Tom Crosshill's fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award (thrice) as well as the Latvian Annual Literature Award. His stories have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers of the Future contest. After some years spent in Oregon and New York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and worked in a zinc mine, among other things.

Tom's young adult novel "The Cat King of Havana" is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in 2016.

Social Media Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook 


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Have you read this book? Why are you excited to read it?  
Would you rather visit Cuba or take up salsa lessons?


  1. Reading this made me feel like I don't have enough cat videos in my life... gotta fix that. Anyway, this sounds like a fun read! I'm adding it to my goodreads TBR! :)

  2. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance to win :)

    Edye | Http://

  3. OMG! A cat video tycoon! Sold!!!!

  4. Great interview! A book set in Cuba?!?! Yes, please! I can imagine a lot of interesting situations in that salsa class.

  5. That was a really fun interview. I haven't heard of this book but the concept seems so cool!

  6. Sounds like an amazing book! Really different to everything I've ever read. I love that it's set in Cuba. Though I can't dance salsa LOL
    Great interview! It was really fun. Can't wait to read this book! :D


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