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All Hail the Queen of the Con

By K.L. Romo

“Conning and scheming and extorting and doing down-right dastardly business is not for the faint of heart… Most people are trusting. Their first mistake.”

Bea knows what she wants—billionaire Collin Case, one of the most eligible bachelors on the planet. She just has to summon her superior acting chops to get him.

In her devilishly enticing debut, STONE COLD FOX, author Rachel Koller Croft takes the art of the hustle to a luxuriously opulent level, with readers catapulted into the scheming mind of a swindler.

Bea knows she’s only the princess of the hustle; the true queen is her mother, whom she left for dead years ago. Bea had grown up bouncing from the home of one millionaire to another, playing the role of the perfect little daughter to her mom’s role of perfect little wife. But Bea knows what she wants and vows to get it.

Now on her own, she’s found the perfect mark: The Case family’s wealth is old money on steroids. But she doesn’t plan to love Collin and leave him, as her mother had always done. Bea is in this for the long haul, with grandeur and financial security the endgame. As she admits, “Opulence soothed me. That feeling of undeniable security was intoxicating.”

Rachel Koller Croft

Bea just has to survive the scrutiny of Collin’s family and friends, especially his best friend Gale—the woman who’s trying to take Bea down. But Gale doesn’t realize who she’s up against. Although Bea uses her acting skills with finely tuned precision, she decides that the game of “cat and mouse was over. Time to go in for the kill.”

Her whole life, the only thing Bea’s ever been sure of is that she doesn’t want to be like her mother. But now, as she navigates the tests put to her by the Case family, she’s terrified that maybe she really is her mother’s daughter. How far is she willing to go to get what she wants?

Here, Croft talks with The Big Thrill about how the idea for the novel came to her, the art of the con, and how screenwriting and novel writing are both similar and different.

What was the inspiration for the story and characters in STONE COLD FOX?

Bea’s voice, the narrator/star of the novel, came to me first. She’s sort of this amalgamation of the dark sides of my best girlfriends and me, which yes, includes some snark, but also these overall internal battles we have in our heads with the perception of women in society and how we talk about them with each other. All the women characters in the novel are dealing with that on some level, and I wanted to make sure they seem authentic. None of the characters are based on one real person but drawn from experiences I’ve had with many people like them over the years, both the good and bad.

Did you do any research about “the art of the con”?

Rachel Koller Croft

Not particularly, because what really fascinated me is the type of woman that sets out to marry for money. And I know that conning is just that—having confidence. Most people will believe anything you say if you say it with conviction. So I don’t think con artists are geniuses at all. They just don’t live by the same code of ethics that most of us do. I think that’s the only difference and why people are so fascinated by them at large.

Wouldn’t we all love to get what we want by any means necessary? Perhaps, but most people wouldn’t because we know that it’s wrong to lie and cheat, and it doesn’t feel good to compromise our moral compass. Con artists rarely have those morals.

Have you ever met anyone with an agenda like Bea’s?

Not exactly, but I run with an ambitious crowd, so I suppose there’s some gentle crossover. I enjoy hanging out with people who pursue their dreams and make things happen for themselves. But like I mentioned, the type that operate within the moral parameters of a civil society.

How are screenwriting and novel-writing the same, and how are they different?

Rachel Koller Croft

For me, the similarities are that for both, you have to dig into character and plot and pacing. A good story is a good story, and I strive to entertain in my work no matter the medium. With screenwriting, I must be very concise and direct because there just isn’t as much real estate on the page as there is with a novel. So with novel writing, I can go deeper into characterization, setting, and overall mood.

And my name is on the book. A screenplay, hopefully, becomes a film that ends up belonging to so many people that work on it, namely and, more publicly, the director. Though there are also many amazing people involved in a book’s making, the author typically drives the creative, which I really enjoy. That said, I love it all and am very lucky to be part of both worlds.

What advice can you give other writers, especially those working on debut novels?

Write a book that you would like to read. It can be very tempting to write to the market or emulate someone’s style because they’re successful, but I think the best policy is to write the book for yourself—at least the first draft. Trust your instincts and finish. Then do another pass.

Next, show it to people whose taste you trust to get a larger view of your story. Then you can start the revision process in earnest. I think that’s key, that moment where you’re no longer writing in the vacuum. Then act on the critique notes that seem right for your story, which is a gut feeling you develop over time that I can’t quite describe, but you’ll know it when you have it.

Rachel Koller Croft

Can you give us a hint about your next novel?

I am so excited about my next novel I could scream. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but I think it will surprise readers of STONE COLD FOX in a positive way. Music is a huge part of the story, and it might even be a bit spooky.

Tell us something about yourself readers might not already know.

Michael Jordan is my hero, and I watch The Last Dance every January to get appropriately amped for the year ahead. His focus and commitment to excellence inspires me to no end.

K. L. Romo
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