Kayvion Lewis’ Thieves’ Gambit has been compared to fan favourites like The Hunger Games, and Ocean’s Eleven. The book follows 17-year-old master thief Ross Quest who has to enter the Thieves’ Gambit as a bid to rescue her mum. And while Ross is great at thieving, the Gambit is a series of dangerous, international heists where killing the competition isn’t exactly off limits… But what can she do if the grand prize is a wish for anything in the world–a wish that could save her mom? We had the honour of chatting with Kayvion:
Thieves’ Gambit has been compared to many fan favorites, such as The Hunger Games, The Inheritance Game, Ocean’s Eleven. What is your favourite way to describe Thieves Gambit?
Thieves’ Gambit is a glamorous round-the-world adventure about nine teen thieves from nine different countries who are all invited by a mysterious organization to compete in a competition to crown the world’s greatest thief. Ross Quest, our heroine, is a seventeen-year-old from one of the world’s most infamous thieving families, who enters the gambit in a bid to save her recently kidnapped Mom. She’s playing against couturie of allies and enemies, including but not limited to: an American gambler who’ll put himself in any danger just to distract himself from his past, a Korean tech girl whose not as ditzy as she wants people to think, Ross’s arch-nemesis from Switzerland’s most prestigious thieving family, a Japanese boy with aspirations to become the perfect thief, a trigger-happy Australian with a serious mean streak, an Indian fashionista who wears weapons like jewelry, an ultra-flexible quiet girl from Nicaragua, and of course the hot British guy who’s got to be hiding something…right?
In a few words… Cinematic, glamorous, deceptive, stealthy, dangerous.
The Gambit is a super interesting idea! Where did that 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 realized that no one had, so I wrote it!
How did you research the tricks thieves use to pull off heists? Did you watch many heist movies etc?
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 tidbits 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 colors.
And where do you think would be the most difficult place to pull off a heist in London?
My knowledge of London is a bit limited, but I’d say center stage during a West End show, in the middle of an act. That would be challenging even for my characters…
The thieves who joined the Gambit come from different countries. Was it difficult making them work together in the Gambit given their different cultural and language backgrounds?
Not very! Though backgrounds and cultures differ, I tried to focus on the traits each character had that were independent of where they came from. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you’re charming you’re charming, if you’re manipulative you’re manipulative, and if you’ve got trust issues you’ve got trust issues. The competitors in the gambit are all very worldly teenagers, so it didn’t hurt that they were already used to crossing paths with people from all corners of the world.
There’s certainly a lack of adventure stories centering on Black teens on the market right now. It can be tricky writing a story about Black or other characters of color that realistically addresses how the color of their skin affects events in the story without completely making the story about that struggle. White readers have the luxury of reading stories of all genres without having to be reminded of triggering experiences that many POC have to address every day. I wanted to give that experience to Black readers. Thieves’ Gambit is a pure escapism book for everyone, but readers of color in particular.
No spoilers but what can we expect from the next book?
More globe-trotting, more high-octane heists, more thief-on-thief drama, and even more deadly games.
And finally, the movie rights have been bought. What are you most excited to see on screen?
I’m super grateful for all the film interest we’ve had, and that Lionsgate has been so overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this project, but to be honest I’m shocked that so many people have seen adaptation material in my work. I never thought of Thieves’ Gambit as being a movie while I was writing, I just wanted to write the wild adventure that was in my head. I guess I think cinematically.
My creative team on the film side has been very inquisitive about the world, pulling more and more details about characters and relationships than I knew I had in me. It’s so cool to think that all these details that might be too frivolous to go mention in-depth on the page might be expanded upon in the movie. In addition, I’m also lucky to have Hollywood supporters who are just as excited for my book’s release as my publishers.