Theft Between the Rains
by Luba Lesychyn
GENRE: International Art Theft Mystery
That’s the substance of the newest urban art theft thriller Theft Between the Rains by Luba Lesychyn.
Drawing on her more than 20 years at Canada’s largest museum, Luba reintroduces many of the affable and quirky characters from the prequel, Theft By Chocolate. Also resurrected is the malicious art thief who has been on the world’s most wanted criminal list for decades.
Theft Between the Rains takes readers behind the scenes at museums and to parts unknown of Toronto. And with water being a character unto its own, Luba uses both humor and thriller elements to weave a page-turning story while simultaneously illustrating how changing weather patterns and flash flooding are impacting metropolitan centers globally.
The establishment’s boutique served as a retail antechamber to the dining area, and it would take every single molecule of self-control to bypass the exquisite jewelry-case-like displays that were making all of my senses dance. Rather than gems, however, the delicate glass cabinets were appointed with rows of truffle delicacies infused with Bombay chai and Tahitian vanilla, Seville orange and sweet curry.
The chocolaty delights sported deliciously creative names like Thai Me Up, Curry in a Hurry, Hot Mess, and Belle du Jour. From there my eyes wandered to wall displays strategically populated with pastel-hued macarons flavored with lavender and cassis, figs and red wine, passion fruit and pistachios. The white floors and walls formed a perfect backdrop highlighting the vibrant wares. I dug in my heels and cantered forward like a horse with blinders on.
Rules of Engagement
When it comes to engaging readers, there’s no single formula. But there are various elements that are commonly used to capture a reader and keep them involved in one’s written word. It’s not always necessary that a writer excel in all of these components, since audiences are different for different kinds of genres, but there are some basics that writers should keep in mind no matter what the genre.
As a writer of a pair of humorous international art theft stories, Theft By Chocolate and Theft Between the Rains, I started first with my main character. I wanted to write about the world in which I had worked for a few decades, that of museums, so I knew my protagonist was going to be a museum employee. She was going to be loosely based on myself, as I would be able to give the character a sense of authenticity. Readers are smart as whips and have so much access to information, news, theatre, culture, etc., so if you’re writing about an assassin, for example, research and immersion in your character is of utmost importance. One can bet that if something starts to feel false, your reader will be on the Internet doing a search to validate their hunch or just drop the book entirely.
So along with authenticity comes emotional connection. This doesn’t mean your character needs to be emotive. Again, using the same example as above, if you’re writing about a cold-hearted sociopathic killer, they need to be portrayed in such a way that makes the reader’s skin crawl, or the opposite, showing an uncharacteristic soft side when they might be dealing with a child. One’s characters must be three-dimensional, and although a writer may be keeping their back story out of focus, or out of the picture entirely, the character needs to be portrayed in such a way that makes them fit effortlessly into the world you have created in your story.
In my own case, plot came second – not in importance, but in development. In fact, one of the most important and intriguing plot lines in my first book wasn’t written in until the third draft. I had enough bones of a story, but when I had a fortuitous encounter with someone who had some insider information about a real-life and never-solved cold case heist that had taken place at the Royal Ontario Museum in the 1980s (where my books are set), I knew I had to find a way to incorporate the storyline into the book. So, I did an extensive rewrite to tie it in with what I had already written. I knew that it would be the hook that would intrigue readers and keep them turning the pages.
Conflict is another important element in storytelling and reader engagement. We often think of conflict in simple terms – protagonist vs antagonist embodied in two different characters – which I have used in my own works – my main character, Kalena Boyko, is challenged both by a nefarious colleague as well as by an art thief. But internal conflict within a character can be just as intriguing for readers. Kalena is often her own worst enemy. At times she loses confidence in herself or lets her imagination go wild and easily jumps to conclusions that get her into trouble. Situations can easily be created on so many different levels that will have readers cheering or thinking, ‘oh, no, I see this isn’t going to go well.’
Settings are another aspect of stories that keep readers engaged. They can be simple pastoral settings or an enclosed room, but if that’s the case, the writer has to convey the beauty or the ugliness, the openness or the restrictiveness, with great precision and with an eye to detail. In my case, my books are set in a museum and one of my goals was to take readers behind-the-scenes, to spaces the public would not normally have an opportunity to see.
In many instances, just describing locations may not be enough to create a sense of awe or wonder. But one has to be consistent. For example, when describing a banal room, one can bring it to life by clearly describing the sound made by the creaking of a huge door – it can transport your reader into what might feel like an eerie atmosphere and leave them wanting for more.
Suspense is another aspect of reader engagement, but depending on the genre, it might not be appropriate. I personally adore literary works and I have a great appreciation for breath-taking language. Unfortunately, not all of us have that skill, and in my writing, suspense has been an important element to keep my readers from putting the books down. It’s vital to understand the rhythm of suspense, whether in a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter ending, and its balance throughout the whole of your work. And a writer must learn when to just have some breathing space in between the suspense. Sometimes this sense of pacing is innate, but many writers need to learn it whether by reading in their own genre, taking courses, or working with mentors who can help a writer internalize this skill and apply it in their own writing.
There are so many other elements that one can address as far as keeping a reader engaged, such as defining the tone of the story, infusing one’s own passion, or effective editing. But it’s key to remind oneself that a writer’s journey has no conclusion and that the learning curve never flattens. On the other hand, that’s precisely what makes writing so enthralling and why writers are so impassioned about their own craft.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Luba Lesychyn is a popular Toronto-based mystery writer, a graduate of the Humber School for Writers, and a respected author in the library readings and events circuit.
In her two books, she draws from her more than 20 years of work experiences at the Royal Ontario Museum (Canada’s largest museum), and her time working for a private museum consulting firm to write humorous, international art theft thrillers featuring amateur sleuth Kalena Boyko. Her newest book, Theft Between the Rains, is a sequel to Theft By Chocolate (about a woman looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places) published in 2012 by Attica Books and launched in Canada and the UK.
Luba currently spends her time writing and virtually touring Theft Between the Rains in which lead character Kalena Boyko returns to find herself pulled into international art theft intrigue when masterpieces missing since WWII start appearing on her doorstep.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Luba Lesychyn will be awarding a print copy of Theft Between the Rains to a randomly drawn winner (US or Canada ONLY) via rafflecopter during the tour.
RAFFLECOPTER:Enter to win a print copy of the book - a Rafflecopter giveaway