I’ve not read Artists and Thieves but I’ve heard a lot about it. What intrigues me about the book is that it was the winner of the 2011 San Diego Awards in the action suspense category. Wow. Linda Schroeder, the author, is on a virtual book tour this month and I’m sure she’d love for you to leave a comment to wish her luck. Just sayin’. ;o)
Linda Schroeder divides her time between the bright sun of California and the high mountains of Colorado. She has a Master’s degree in English and one in Communicative Disorders/Audiology. In addition to her novel, Artists & Thieves, she has published a college text.
Her early interest in English expanded to include language disorders and she began a second career as an audiologist and aural rehabilitation therapist working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults.
Currently, she studies and practices Chinese brush painting, celebrating the vitality and energy of nature. She follows art and art theft blogs and writes her own blog about art and sometimes includes reviews of novels. She is working on two more novels, a second Mai Ling novel about the Diamond Sutra, and a Sammy Chan art mystery about the forgery of a Goya painting.
You can visit her website at www.artistsandthieves.com.
Winner of the 2011 San Diego Book Awards, Action/Suspense category
Where there is art, there are thieves.
Mai Ling is both. Artist by day, thief by night, she recovers stolen art for Interpol. It’s a business, not a passion, until her beloved grandfather reveals a family secret that is also a destiny. He is duty-bound to return to China an especially precious bowl which belonged to his ancestor. Mai must steal it for him.
But Mai Ling is not the only one after the bowl. Four others plan to extract the bowl from a private California art collection. The rival thieves grasp and then lose the bowl until finally Mai is faced with the ultimate dilemma: save the bowl or save herself. Her duty to her grandfather gives her only one choice.
Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Monterey Peninsula and peopled with quirky characters, this stylish art caper entertains on every page.
Welcome to Between the Covers, Linda. Why was writing Artists & Thieves so important to you?
I’ve always admired writers and studied literature in college. I worked with children and adults with language difficulties and when I retired I wanted to get back to the subtle use of language to tell a story. Of course, when someone told me it was very hard to write a novel, I had to do it.
What was the experience like writing Artists & Thieves? Did you have any aha moments?
It was an incredible learning process. I spent years writing non-fiction but had to learn how to craft a fictional scene with conflict, interesting characters, and plot movement. I enrolled in a class at UCSD on how to write a mystery novel and joined a critique group. Both of those experiences were very valuable. I certainly did have aha moments, especially with the characters and their relationships to each other. I took a scene to my critique group and one member said, “I didn’t know Angelo was married.” I said, “Neither did I.” That had just occurred to me in a flash of inspiration as I wrote a scene with him in a jazz club. Those aha moments are what make writing fun.
Can you tell us more about Mai Ling?
Mai is a creative, successful artist who also has the characteristics of a heroine. She is smart, capable of analyzing a situation and successful in getting what she wants. In other words, if she sets off on a quest, she has the skills to complete it. She is also kind, funny, and willing to risk to help others.
What are her strengths and what are her weaknesses?
Mai is a strong martial arts fighter but with enough guile to outwit rather than physically confront her opponent in most cases. She works alone and usually recovers looted art by being more clever than the looter, using disguises, figuring out how to steal back the art without anyone knowing. In this story, she is on a personal quest for her grandfather and is emotionally involved with the art object. That makes her act more rashly than she ordinarily would. And she needs to involve her friend Angelo in order to act quickly.
Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?
Angelo is Mai’s co-star. He is an artist, too, but he is the opposite in temperament from Mai. He is flamboyant, arrogant, usually reacting emotionally to a situation rather than calmly thinking it through. He constructs large, costly “installations” and, in this story, is about to wrap the old Monterey Custom House in golden cloth. His emotional ups and downs contrast to Mai’s cool, level headed approach to life. They are two sides of the same coin.
Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?
This is the opening scene in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Mai, disguised as a teenage Goth, has followed a looter who has stashed a stolen artifact in a laundry bag. Mai pretends she has a blouse to pick up from the laundry and while the owner searches the back room for her blouse, she picks a lock to open a drawer which might hold the artifact.
What about page 65?
This is the first page of a chapter in which Hunter, Mai’s rival in trying to steal the looted bronze bowl, sits on his Harley in front of a flower shop in Carmel feeling he has been duped and decides he has to act fast in order to beat Mai to the bowl. The action happens on page 66.
Now that Artists & Thieves has been published, what’s your next project?
I’m working on a second Mai Ling adventure involving the Diamond Sutra and another novel about Francisco Goya involving a new character, P.I. Sammy Chan. I’m struggling with plot in both but have a good handle on Mai’s and Sammy’s characters.
Here’s a fun question: You divide your time between California and Colorado. Can you tell us more about that and which do you prefer?
California is urban. Very busy, very crowded. But its has live professional theaters, major art museums, a large writing community, and the Pacific Ocean. All that creates an atmosphere in which things happen and people create. San Diego has a busy harbor and the ocean provides a far horizon and the sense of risk and adventure.
Colorado, in the high mountains where we stay, is rural. Rolling grass lands, hay farming, cattle and horse ranches border the Sangre de Cristo mountains with 14,000 feet peaks. We are in the pines. Deer walk casually through our land. We don’t see any neighboring houses and, at night, we don’t see lights except for two in the distance across the valley. It reminds me of the late 1800’s and the western frontier.
I get city life in California, and nature in Colorado. It’s a perfect combination.
How did you get started in Chinese brush painting and do you enjoy it?
I started learning Chinese brush painting because I was working on Artists & Thieves and I had created Mai as a Chinese artist. I figured if I was going to write scenes for Mai I jolly well better learn some specifics of Chinese brush painting. It is quite challenging and comes with brush techniques which must be mastered with a lot of patience and practice. I have a fantastic teacher who is that rare person who actually is a superb artist and a good teacher. I love it. I’ll stick with it. One of my friends in class said, “Since you are learning Chinese brush painting because you wrote a novel about a Chinese brush painter, are you going to learn oil painting to write about Francisco Goya?” No. I don’t think so. One medium is enough for me.
Thanks for this wonderful interview, Linda. Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us?
With the exception of learning to paint like Francisco Goya, I think it is never too late to learn and never too late to try to do something you are passionate about.