Inside The Author with Luba Lesychyn!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I was hooked on Italian Renaissance studies, but it was Benvenuto Cellini’s The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, an intimate yet exuberant portrait of his life and his interactions with his artist contemporaries, that propelled me to visit Florence and Rome on my first grand tour of Europe. And seeing Keats’ and Shelley’s graves in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome was a bonus.
What is the first book that made you cry?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Excessive editing. However, I have an excuse. I have had so many stops and starts in writing my books, that each time I went back to writing, I had to reread the work from the start each time to put me back into the thick of the story, and editing on each read was impossible to avoid.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have a two-part series, but each book stands alone. I feel like I have resolved the characters’ journeys (although I left the second book open ended enough, just in case – one can’t help oneself). But my new works will be quite different and not related to Theft By Chocolate and Theft Between the Rains or their characters, but still have a mystery aspect to them.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Before I wrote Theft By Chocolate, I took a course on how to write your first novel, so I was required to write back stories for characters and develop a full outline as well as chapter outlines. I then wrote the first draft in a creative writing program where my mentor was editing and critiquing my work as I wrote it. With the sequel, Theft Between the Rains, I already knew most of my characters very well. But I decided to develop the plot as I went along and I felt it allowed much more creativity in terms of the plot line and I was much more open to new inspirations and ideas.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A griffin, because of its strength, powers of sight, and being emblematic of poetic and spiritual inspiration. It would be a win-win to have this half-lion, half-eagle mythic creature in my corner.
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please).
There was a lot of self-indulgent scenes drawn from my own life that added nothing to plot or character development.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I wouldn’t sell my soul to be anything other than my authentic self. I surrendered to the notion that I would never write the next great Canadian novel and I am more than satisfied that only I can tell the stories that I tell in the way that I do. And that’s the best any writer can do.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I had the most fabulous book of fairy tales and it is long lost. I have no idea what it was called, if it was one writer or a collection of writers. I can’t even remember how I got it or who may have given it to me. They were very different fairy tale stories, complex and intricate and I will always cherish the memory of reading them.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Writing in times when coping with personal challenges.
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
Apparently, nothing, as I pondered this question for some time without coming up with an answer. But just because the process might be challenging does not mean it’s not enjoyable or satisfying or the most wonderful thing in the world.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I’m an introvert and shy, but because of my writer’s inquisitiveness, I am able to keep a conversation going better and longer than most – I do find it draining though, because I’m an introvert and shy!
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
When I read Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic, it dawned on me that I could write a light-hearted and entertaining book that people might enjoy.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
In terms of tone, Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding. But I feel like I draw on everything to which I am exposed, especially film.
What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book? Why?
Dr. Zhivago – David Lean created a masterpiece of a film out of a masterpiece of Boris Pasternak’s book and I think it is one of the most epic love stories ever written (and set in a fascinating historical time) and brought to the screen. Honorable mention goes to Romeo and Juliet, the 1968 version by Franco Zeffirelli.
How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?
It was exhilarating and incredibly challenging at the same time. Tragically, my father passed the week it was published and I had to soldier on promoting the book while in a state of grief. My father never got to read it, hear me read it, or see the dedication I wrote to him and my mother. I just have to trust that he sees, from another plane, my life and stories unfolding.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about authors?
The most important characteristics for a writer are determination and persistence. There are so many talented writers, but those who see their work find the light of day are those who don’t give up. I would also add that, although earning an income from writing is a bonus and a gift, if you put pen to paper only with the intention of a financial payoff, it might not be the right profession for you. There’s a reason why writers are called creators and not entrepreneurs.
When it comes to research for your books, are you a hunter or a gatherer? Talk about your research process.
I’m a hunter-gatherer. There are times when things fall into my lap (or should I say head) and other times when I specifically hunt for information. I use the Internet extensively to flesh out storylines, but ideas can be inspired by the most unexpected things, and sometimes by very mundane occurrences.
Could you be housemates with your characters? Why or why not?
A definite no. I have lived on my own for decades and I would have it no other way. They’ll have to stay in my head.
What’s your typical writing routine or schedule?
I can honestly say I do not have a routine. Maybe that’s why there was 8 years in between my two books! But I used to be hard on myself because my writing was not structured into my life, that is until I heard a writer, sorry can’t remember who it was, who said something to the effect that life interrupting a writer’s path is part of what informs that writer’s work. I have an intrinsic conviction that a book is written exactly when it needs to be written and I’ve stopped beating myself up for not being structured with my creative process.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. How do you recharge?
When there isn’t a global pandemic, world travel has always been an important recharger and I particularly love going to yoga retreats in exotic locations like Iceland and Costa Rica. But, on a regular basis, global crisis or not, I practice yoga many times a week and meditate. Also enjoying other art forms like film, theatre, and music feed both my body and soul.
Do you prefer music or silence when you write? Do you have a writing playlist? What’s on it?
This doesn’t make any sense on any level, but I find music too distracting, but not TV. For some reason I can tune out TV more than music, but still benefit from a kind of white noise from the television. But, I definitely spend a lot of time writing in silence.
Which celebrity would you choose to narrate your audiobook?
Cate Blanchett or Emma Thompson. Need I say more?
What well-known author, living or dead, do you wish could be your mentor? Why?
I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than my actual mentor, Canadian writer Kim Moritsugu. She was my mentor when I did my creative writing program at Toronto’s Humber School of Writers. Her advice has always been spot-on, and she has always gone beyond the call of duty and expiration date to mentor me. She’s played such an important role in my development as a writer and she continues to support me.
What is your favorite of the six senses (touch, taste, smell, sound, sight, intuition) to write about, why?
Well, chocolate has been a significant motif in my two books, so I would have to say taste. There’s something very pleasurable about describing the way something tastes and I think I’ve done a reasonable job of it, because I am often told by my readers that they find it impossible to read my books without reaching for some chocolate.
What is a favorite location you’ve written about? Have you visited that place? How did you choose which details to include?
I can’t pick just one. In Theft Between the Rains I wrote about two little-known places in Toronto that are both extraordinary in their own way. The first is an art deco edifice in Toronto, the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. And the second is a ghost subway station in the city. By that I mean a subway platform that was built, but closed down shortly afterwards and these days is only used for film shoots. I had the privilege of visiting both locations during an annual event in Toronto called Doors Open Toronto, where spaces like this, normally closed to the public, are made accessible for one or two days a year. As far as the elements I decided to include in my scenes, I focused on what made these spaces unique and also on specifics that were in some way relevant to or progressed the plot.
Travel back in time (without negative effects for you or the timeline) what year do you visit? Why?
As a former student of the Italian Renaissance, it would have to be 1500 Italy, which is a pivotal year in the High Renaissance and when some of the most creative and artistic minds were alive. It was a time when art and science were not divided as they are in our age. It was a perfect marriage that should never have been dissolved, in my humble opinion.
What is something about your hero or villain that drove their character, but you didn’t specifically tell your reader?
I didn’t spell it out, but I hope it becomes evident to readers that my protagonist, though flighty and capricious, is far more capable than she ever gave herself credit for and all she was lacking was some confidence (which she does develop).
Have you ever resuscitated a project you'd shelved? What helped it work better the second time around?
I haven’t done so to date, but I am on the verge of doing so as I resurrect an old screenplay I wrote some time ago…and I can’t wait. Screenplays are more impressionistic than novels and I am excited to flesh out and add details to the plot, settings and characters in this paranormal love story.
What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?
My idea of literary success is leaving a body of work in which you see a progression of your art and craft and which, in some way make an impact, no matter how small, on the heart and soul of readers and, in the best-case scenario, on the planet in terms of raising awareness and consciousness. Is that too ambitious?
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I’m currently focusing on marketing my newest book, Theft Between the Rains, but soon hope to get to that paranormal love story as well as to a tale of a woman experiencing illness, loss, and searching for her dharma and spiritual connection. I’m going to try to work on both books concurrently as the one work, in particular, will be cathartic.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
Write because that’s what your soul dictates, develop a thick skin, and don’t give up. Every story deserves a reader. And most importantly, don’t worry about the number of readers you might get. Writing is an expressive art form, plain and simple.
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
Links for purchasing my books can be found on the home page of my web site: https://lubalesychyn.com/
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