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Do You Have What it Takes to Run the Gambit?: An Interview with Kayvion Lewis

Are you ready for a gambit? A romantic fantasy? A competition to be crowned the world’s greatest thief? You will need to follow the rules:

1) Never fall in love with your opponent.

2) The only thief you can trust is yourself.

What do you win? The glory of being the world’s greatest thief, of course, and the chance to save yourself, save your family.

Rosalyn Quest has been raised by a family of thieves so old, so talented, that they are legendary, and they live by one rule: trust no one. When Rosalyn’s mother is kidnapped, she knows the only chance to get her back is to win the Thieves' Gambit. But there is a catch: it is a deadly competition. Oh, and the best thieves in the world take part. But the victor is granted a single wish.

Can Rosalyn outwit the backstabbing of the other competitors, including her very own childhood arch nemesis? It gets harder when he makes a play for her heart, and it seems he may be holding the most dangerous of secrets…

Kavyion Lewis tells us a little more about the inspiration behind this thrilling page-turner and the experience of writing her first YA novel.

Please introduce us to Thieves' Gambit….

Thieves’ Gambit is about nine teen thieves from nine different countries who are all invited to compete in an international, underground thieving competition. It’s a round-the-world adventure full of glamorous galas, car chases, backstabbing, first love, archenemies, and of course high-stakes heists. This is the book of my heart, and the adventure I’ve been yearning to go on my entire life.

How would you describe the book in up to five words?

Cinematic, glamorous, deceptive, stealthy, dangerous.

Where did the idea for this book and the world within it come from?

I know it’s a cliché, but the premise for Thieves’ Gambit actually came to me in a dream. I woke up convinced that someone had written this awesome book I dreamt about. After a morning of frantic googling, I realised that no one had, so I wrote it!

We hear that you’ve previously worked as a librarian - was this experience influential in your decision to write, finding your voice and identifying the kind of book you might like to write?

Being around teens while working as a YA librarian definitely helped me maintain the teenage voice. My work also helped me stay up to date with what teens were reading, what was popular, what wasn’t, what kind of books there were a lot of, and what books there weren’t enough of. I didn’t see enough books about kids of colour on wild, round-the-world adventures, so when I got the idea for Thieves' Gambit, I knew that’s what I wanted it to be!

What did your journey to becoming an author look like?

About five years ago, when I was nineteen, a friend and I used to have a joke that one day I’d disappear to travel the world on fantastical quests, and she’d never see me again. She’d poke back asking how I was going to pay for that. “By writing over-the-top thrillers about my own adventures,” I’d say. Somehow that joke turned into reality, when I opened my laptop and just started typing one day. Being in a library surrounded by books all the time may have helped me realize just how much I’d enjoy crafting my own stories too.

Is there a story, author or book from your childhood that started your love for reading and writing?

No specific book sparked my authorial pursuits, but I’d say The 39 Clues series was an early influence that ended up inspiring me later on.

How did the idea of the Thieves' Gambit come to you - was there any specific inspiration? Did you do any fun research to help plot the heist(s) or overall story?

I wanted my cast to pay homage to famous heists and thieves. Being the best in the industry themselves, they would be familiar with the greats that came before them. I spent some time getting familiar with notable thieves and real-life heists I could name-drop, along with little titbits I thought a career thief would know, like the Mona Lisa being worth $870 million, or diamonds only reflecting white light while cubic zirconia sparkles with a prism of colours.

Have you read anything amazing recently that you’d like to recommend to us?

Rainbow in the Dark by Sean McGinty is an underrated gem. The book is about you, (yes, it’s a rare book written in second person) trying to win your way out of a video game-esque world so you can get back to your brother, the only person who makes life worth living. The whole book is a metaphor for living with and healing from depression but done in such an abstract and bizarre yet poignant way that it easily wheedled its way into my heart. I wish this book had more eyes on it. Highly recommend.

Thieves' Gambit is out now, published by Simon & Schuster Children's Books. Thanks to both Kayvion Lewis and Nina Douglas for this blog contribution.


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