Leonora Bloom and the Hotel Andante

by Carley Lee

After a tragic fire destroys her home and kills her mother, twelve-year-old Leonora Bloom moves to the Hotel Andante where her father has been appointed Resident Musician. With songs floating around in her head, all Leo wants is to play the piano like Father, but he forbids it. Soon she discovers that his talent isn’t entirely of this world – and neither are the hotel guests. Caught up in a tumult of magic and fairy tales come-to-life, Leo must reach deep within herself and find a way to break a deadly bargain that threatens to tear her world apart. 

About the Author

Carley is originally from the west coast of Canada but relocated to the UK in 2014 where she received an Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. She had the immense privilege of completing her MA at Bath Spa University and writing Leonora Bloom and the Hotel Andante as a Scholar in Residence at the Kilns C.S. Lewis Study Centre. Her biggest regret while living at the Kilns was never finding the door to Narnia, but she did befriend a number of talking animals. In September this year, she made the move back to the wrong side of Canada where she now spends her time channelling her inner Anne of Green Gables while adventuring along the eastern coastline.

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Leonora Bloom and the Hotel Andante by Carley Lee, introduced by Nat Harrison

Music and magic and fairy mischief. Prepare to be utterly captivated as you step inside this mysterious hotel and discover its secrets. From the very first page of Leonora Bloom and the Hotel Andante, I was hooked. I adored following Leo as she scurried down hidden passageways, tiptoed into majestic ballrooms, and raced through the grounds, meeting a whole host of wonderful characters along the way. But the true heart of this story is about family, about sacrifice, and about hope.

After a tragic fire destroys her home and kills her mother, Leonora Bloom moves to the Hotel Andante where her father has been appointed as Resident Musician. By night, Father entertains the hotel’s unusual guests with exquisite music. By day, Leo explores the hotel, finding mysteries around every corner. But all is not as it seems. She is soon caught up in a tumult of music and magic that threatens to tear her world apart.

The story is a perfect mix of adventure, humour, and heart. Every page is filled with promise. The characters and setting are so wonderfully drawn, you will find yourself longing to step through the front door of the Hotel Andante with Leo by your side.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I first heard The Grand Hotel by Regina Spektor as I was winding through the Scottish highlands on a road trip in 2016. The first line is ‘Somewhere below the Grand Hotel, there is a tunnel that leads down to hell.’ The whole song has such an ethereal quality to it, with a gorgeous piano part, it quickly became a favourite, and I couldn’t help asking myself ‘What if it were true? But what if, instead of hell, the Grand Hotel led to Fairyland?’ It became the backdrop of my story and I spent countless hours listening to it on repeat while writing my first draft.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

Every single day I spent at Corsham Court. My Wednesdays travelling from Oxford to Corsham to spend a whole day surrounded by people passionate about writing became something akin to a Sabbath for me – I will cherish the memory of those days forever.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

The first draft will be awful, and that’s okay! Words very rarely fall onto the page perfectly formed. It’s better to have bad words to edit than no words at all (writing is editing, as they say).

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Daydreaming, planning, and research. And then taking what I’ve already written and making the words sing. Notice that writing the first draft is curiously absent from the list!

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I am a walking cliché, but I really love to read. I sometimes do other things like sing and paint and make things… but that’s in between drinking tea and browsing bookshops for another book to add to my concerningly large TBR pile.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Find your kindred spirits! My writing journey has been beautifully shaped by the community of writers around me – they make the darkest days bright with their encouragement, enthusiasm, and passion, even when my own falls short.

What was your favourite book as a child?

This is a very unfair question. How could I choose just one? There are so many books that shaped and changed me as a child (and a grown-up) – The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is one. And, like many children, I was captivated by Narnia and The Hobbit, both of which acted as a gateway to my deep love of other worlds.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

We’ll assume that Narnia and Middle-earth are a given. So if not those two places, then I would love to visit Tamora Pierce’s Tortall – I spent countless hours as a pre-teen desperately wishing I could speak to animals like Daine and train to be a knight like Alanna and Kel. Visiting Lyra’s Oxford is also on my fictional bucket list!