Saturday, August 06, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

I (Vicki) met Ryan Aldred when he attended my first eight week course in Writing Popular Fiction. I am delighted to say that the MS he brought to class for critiquing has now been published. 

By Ryan Aldred

My debut novel Rum Luck came out a few weeks ago. To say I was excited about receiving the first box of books is something of an understatement; I immediately found myself nose-deep in the vanilla pages, calling out to my wife Andrea, “It smells like a book! My book smells like a book!” (What else it could possibly have smelled like, I have no idea.)

As I read my finished novel for both the umpteenth and very first time, I was struck by certain elements that felt particularly surreal: a car that needed to be pushed down a hill to bump-start the engine; a car mirror that had been broken loose by a presumed monkey’s coconut; and the inexplicable appearance of a sign in a window that read “Kittens for rent.”

In short, the peculiar events that actually happened during my travels in Costa Rica.

But some stories are simply too outrageous for a work of fiction. Such as the time when I found myself at a dive bar at the very same moment as the tin shanties across the road – belonging to women of negotiable affections – caught fire, and I found myself amongst those helping them evacuate boxes after boxes of textbooks from their homes.

(Why did they have so many textbooks? I asked myself years afterward. But some mysteries are never solved.)

Naturally, this took place after I’d consumed a conspicuous amount of Imperial. So much so that, when an errant dog took an interest in the commotion, I raised a hand and said “Luego, luego”, having determined with flawless logic that 1.) dogs in Costa Rica only understand Spanish and 2.) ‘Goodbye’ was close enough to ‘Stay’ for my
intended purposes. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.)

There are some of my favorite anecdotes, and yet I doubt I’ll ever find a way to work them into a book. The old saying holds true – truth is stranger than fiction, particularly works of fiction. As one editor said amidst the Rob Ford debacle, “You couldn’t put it in a novel; no one would believe it!”

This is particularly true for stories set abroad. Most days, one does not expect to have one’s belongings rifled through, to be delayed for hours on end, for strangers to continually invade one’s personal space, and to consume strange and unusual cuisines solely due to dire need – and that’s just the flight. If I ever did have an entirely uneventful trip, I would be so fearful of the karmic imbalance that I would no longer leave my house – which would no doubt be crushed by falling ice from a passing jetliner.

One day, perhaps, I’ll be able to revisit those burning shanties. Or the beach bar where a local real estate agent kindly asked that I hack into Interpol to remove a misunderstanding about a small packet of cocaine. Or the fateful night a friend escaped a near-stabbing by rather brilliantly claiming that he had only arrived that day, and so he couldn’t possibly be the jerk who’d hit on Stabby’s girlfriend the night before. (He was definitely that jerk.)

But even then, I intend to revisit reality sparingly – lest a sudden dose of truth render my fiction completely unbelievable.

Rum Luck was a finalist for a 2015 Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, and is the first book in the Bar on a Beach Mystery series. Now available from Five Star. When not writing, Ryan runs a small Canadian charity that provides education in Afghanistan, Uganda and other at-risk regions. His website can be found at, or you can find him on facebook – – or twitter –


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Great post, Ryan. So happy for you. Seems a long time since we met at Bloody Words in Toronto, both of us so nervous to meet with an agent or publisher. And here we are...who says dreams don't come true? All the best with your book. Rooting for you!

Ryan said...

Thanks, Judy! Time really flies, doesn't it? It's been a long journey, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Best of luck with your upcoming book launch!