Jealousy, revenge, deception, betrayal—what more could you want from a book during the most romantic month of the year?Described as Gone Girl meets Luckiest Girl Alive, Rachel Koller Croft’s debut is the sexy, darkly funny Stone Cold Fox, a page turner about a young woman who’s worked her way into one of the country’s wealthiest families, determined to leave her dark past behind—yet does it all armed with the skills she learned from her con artist mother.
Bea grew up as a sidekick to her mother in forced instruction in the art of swindling men. Now she’s ready to escape her mother’s shadow, and disappear safely into old-money domesticity—and be rich. Filthy rich. She finds her mark in the dull but wealthy Collin, knowing that it’s his family’s approval she truly needs—especially his childhood best friend, Gale. With a storyline filled with rich people behaving badly, it begs the question: who really is the villain here? What begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous pursuit of the grisly truth. Finding herself at a literal life-and-death crossroads with everything on the line, Bea must finally decide who she really wants to be.
Our February guest author Rachel Koller Croft is a film-and-TV writer whose most recent feature, Torn Hearts—a female-driven horror film set in the world of country music, starring Katey Sagal—debuted in 2022 and was given the highly sought ‘certified fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Rachel has scripted projects for Blumhouse, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Freeform, and Comedy Central, among others.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Rachel Koller Croft about the art of conning, screenwriting vs. novel writing, and the character who made her laugh.
What inspired Stone Cold Fox?
I love villains. I always have, even when I was a little girl. Even though I was very afraid of Ursula and Maleficent, for example, I definitely respected their hustle. And I don’t think it’s because I’m a villain myself, but rather, I’m drawn to characters that always go for it because I’m a go-getter, too. So I set out to write a thriller with a take-no-prisoners main character, a woman that knows exactly what she wants and how she was going to get it. And the only thing standing in her way were other women who were just as smart and just as ruthless. To me, that’s catnip as a reader. The snark and humor of Stone Cold Fox is definitely inspired by my best girlfriends and me, but the story came from my own fascination with the super wealthy, the type of women who aim to marry up and how those interests could potentially conflict.
How did you bring your screenwriting experience into writing this debut novel?
Screenwriting has been pivotal in really nailing my understanding of story at large. Hitting the right beats and maintaining momentum and keeping it snappy are cornerstones of screenwriting and they have made me a better novelist for sure, especially where thrillers are concerned. What was exciting and different to me about writing a novel is that I could hang out longer with my characters and dig a lot deeper into who they are, without sacrificing the suspense of the plot. With Bea especially, her interiority was so much fun to write, which I hope comes across for readers.
What type of research did you do to understand the art of con artists?
Like most people, I find con artist stories riveting, and even though Bea is technically a con artist, this last one is really different for her because she wants to be done with it all. She didn’t choose to be raised by a con artist. But she essentially chose to be “Bea” for the rest of her life, once she finally escaped her mother’s clutches, so her methods as an adult have been more about marrying into wealth, and thus the safety and security she’s always craved since she was a child. So it’s less about the thrill of the con for her (mostly) and more about selecting the best place to finally land. I think the art of the con, though, is really just about that at the end of the day – confidence. Probably anyone can be a con artist without a moral compass. I just believe most of us, thankfully, have one. But I also think most people tend to take someone at their word, as long as they’re speaking with conviction, which is why con artist stories are probably so interesting. Just about anybody can be taken for a ride. Wrong place, wrong time. Or, I suppose, the opposite for the con artist in question.
Was it a surprise how the story unraveled for you?
Yes, I’m always surprised when I write! It’s my favorite part of the first draft. I do have an outline, but not a robust one, and that’s intentional because my process tends to lead to discoveries as I’m drafting. Characters come out of nowhere and that always excites me because whenever that happens, my first thought is, hmm, how can I use this person to make things interesting (read: difficult) for my main character. Poor Bea. (It’s fine, she can handle herself.) My favorite character that came out of the woodwork while drafting Stone Cold Fox is Wren Daly, who always made me laugh. And she was actually helpful for Bea in a lot of ways, come to think of it, so I guess some characters aren’t appearing just to raise hell.
Which character did you relate to the most?
Great question! I think I’m a Bea sun, a Syl rising and a Calliope moon. Make of that what you will.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
As a debut, my goal is to establish my voice as a novelist who will always show her readers a good time. Stone Cold Fox will be the first of many books for me so my hope is the ideal readers will find it, love it and want to go with me for the rest of the ride because they know they’ll always have fun reading an RKC novel, no matter where I take them next.
What do you read to get inspired?
As a reader my taste is pretty eclectic. I like to read all kinds of books. Thriller, horror, lit girly fiction, memoirs, dad books like westerns and spy novels. I’m very open-minded as long as I’m entertained. As I get older, I have no problem DNF-ing a book that doesn’t hold my attention. I think you can write a banger of a book that’s challenging and smart and still entertaining. That’s always what I’m on the lookout for as a reader myself.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on my second novel that I am so excited about I could scream. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I will share that music plays a really big part in the story. My drafting playlist for this one has been a true joy to curate for myself.