Today I’m excited to host author Luba Lesychyn, who’ll be giving some advice for aspiring authors of crime fiction as part of her blog tour for her new book THEFT BETWEEN THE RAINS. Be sure to read on to learn about this exciting mystery novel, as well as a chance to enter Ms. Lesychyn’s giveaway!
Tips for Authors who Aspire to Write Crime Fiction
When I set out to write my first book, Theft By Chocolate, I honestly wasn’t sure in what genre it would fall. I knew I wanted to set it in the place where I worked, which was an internationally renowned museum (specifically, Canada’s largest, the Royal Ontario Museum) and that my capricious lead character’s distinguishing trait would be that she was a chocolate addict and her hunting and foraging for chocolate would continually get her into trouble. So, these elements didn’t initially spell out ‘crime fiction.’
As it turns out, it wasn’t until my third draft that I had a serendipitous encounter with a security consultant who had some astonishing insider information about a cold case heist that had taken place at the ROM. A thief had absconded with a pricey opal collection after figuring out how to circumvent the Museum’s protective barriers commonly used at that time and the incident led to an upgrading of security technology around the world. I incorporated these real-life and little-known circumstances into the book resulting in a richer, chocolate-infused fictional thriller, in what I call a cozy thriller/crime fiction.
Then when it came to write my second book, Theft Between the Rains, I was once again inspired initially by settings, in this case, underground waterways and unusual or little-known sites in the city of Toronto. I didn’t come up with the plot line (what my lead character, museum employee and reluctant sleuth Kalena Boyko would do if art work listed as still missing since World War II started showing up on her doorstep) until afterwards.
So, my first tip for an aspiring crime writer is to accept that a writer doesn’t have to have it all figured out from the moment one starts to transmit idea to page. As noted above, I was inspired by settings and characters and plot threads came later. But one could very well start with a really solid plot and build the rest of the world around it. A first draft is much like an artist’s sketch and it doesn’t come to life until you start to add the various layers of paint.
My next tip is along the same vein. One has to be prepared for the fact that there may be several iterations of the work. Even if you plot out your story chapter by chapter before you start writing the book, which I did for my first novel, it’s a wise idea to leave some time and space after each draft and then go back to it with fresh eyes. Writers get so close to their work and taking the time to step away from it will most probably result in a more tightly-crafted story after a few rewrites.
I would also suggest something as basic as taking writing courses. I initially started writing my novel completely on my own and then I had a chance to get some feedback from an editor at Random House who was a friend of a friend. Upon reading it, he ever so gently, kindly, and diplomatically suggested I take some writing courses (he made a specific recommendation of a local college creative writing program) and it was the best advice I ever received.
Building on that, I very highly recommend working with a mentor, whether it’s someone you know who might be an established writer or, in my case, it was a formal mentor in my creative writing program. She was the author of several mystery books herself and was highly committed to her students. Her mentorship extended beyond the program and she did what she could to help me find a publisher for my first book, and when it was published, she helped me get some exposure for the book. And when I decided to self-publish the second book, she wrote a peer letter of recommendation for a grant to which I was applying (and which I succeeded in getting).
Aspiring writers should also read, read, read, and read more books in their genre (and I wouldn’t hesitate to add to watch films as well) to determine what works and what doesn’t – what resonates with you and what doesn’t. Building suspense is not necessarily as important in other genres and one really needs to get a feel for the rhythm of tension. How one builds excitement within a paragraph, within a chapter, and in the book as a whole is key. If your reader is not anxious to turn to the next page, chances are you’ll lose them quickly.
In that same thread, one wants to make sure the first few chapters have a strong hook. Don’t take too long to begin the conflict. Most readers have a stack of books waiting to be opened and if your story doesn’t grab them in those initial pages, they may very well put it down and move onto the next book in the pile – and I speak from experience of my own reading habits. There will be some readers satisfied with a slower burn, for sure. But especially if you’re looking at attracting younger readers, they’re growing up in a world where everything moves fast and comes in smaller bites. It’s not that one has to keep up a frantic pace. As a matter of fact, one shouldn’t. Changing the rhythm gives a reader a chance to rest and then be surprised or excited when things start to speed up again.
And finally, don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your instincts. Just because many books in a genre are formulaic doesn’t mean you can’t be a maverick. Some of the most memorable books I’ve ever read are those that kept me on my toes, not just from the suspense, but by the fact that they have had a surprising structure to them or that they blended genres or that they approached the subject matter from a perspective that I would never have expected.
Theft Between the Rains
by Luba Lesychyn
GENRE: International Art Theft Mystery
What would you do if you worked at a reputable international museum and art works listed as still missing since WWII began showing up on your doorstep?
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.
Read an Excerpt
“We are coming to yet another fascinating area of the facility. And it is one of the more recent additions to the building,” said Walter.
“Holeeeeeeeee,” said Marco. “This is straight out of some Sci Fi B movie.”
“It is something,” said Walter.
Before us were shelves full of jars – large jars, small jars, roundish jars, square jars – all containing clear liquid and specimens of every conceivable sort. I turned on my phone’s flashlight app, and the illuminated sight before me was truly haunting. Hundreds, probably thousands of fish, sea life, and land creatures floated lifelessly in their ghostly containers. Those whose bodies were turned in our direction seemed to be staring directly at us with beady eyes.
“All of these specimens are suspended in alcohol. If ever there was anything you wanted to learn about aquatic creatures, this is certainly the place to do so. Everything is organized by genus and species. They are whole specimens, and they have been stained to feature various elements. As you can see, the fish turn translucent when preserved, but with the dyes, one can make out the nervous or circulatory systems, for example.”
“Cool,” said Marco.
“I seem to recall we had no choice but to move all this off site?” I said.
“Yes, indeed. Because of their extraordinary weight, they cannot be stored on upper levels without adding costly structural supports. At the same time, if they’re stored below grade, there’s a heightened risk of explosion.”
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. Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Meet Luba Lesychyn
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.