If your father is a career criminal, who has raised you on the road in his own image, where does that leave you? I’ve always been fascinated by smooth criminals, by those who are clever and talented enough to cross the line between right and wrong and get away with it. Grift Girl Gone came about when I got to thinking … what if you were the child of such a skilled scammer?
Like all stories, it grew as I got serious about how to craft it, but the initial impetus was to tell a tale about the daughter of a career criminal. Not a common criminal, a good one. A smooth one. A gentleman thief if you like. Like the late and great Alan Rickman said as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, “… an exceptional thief.” The initial fascination in this concept for me was that of a smooth criminal who never ‘works’, never holds a job, or is normal in any of the normal ways all of us are. And one who — while he steals — is never violent, never mugs or robs, never threatens. He takes, but without violence. But as I developed the concept, I quickly latched onto the equally strong appeal of being the child of such a person.
If you’ve been raised, from your earliest memories, to follow in your father’s footsteps, how might that play out if your father is a con man? Sure you’ve had some ‘regular’ school, but all your extracurricular subjects were things like sleight-of-hand, scam patter, persuasion, distraction, and dozens and dozens of techniques and frameworks for convincing people to hand money over to you. You weren’t yelled at for stealing in school, but for getting caught. Someone who wasn’t given lunch money, but told to “figure it out; it’s time you started carrying your own weight.”
There were several things about Grift Girl Gone that I had to figure out how to handle as I wrote and revised it. One of the hardest was having to pull back on not just plastering it with wall-to-wall crime. Tabitha could have easily spent every page separating people from the contents of their pockets, but that’s not much of a story. Fortunately, I think, I recognized this and dialed it back to tell a story that wasn’t just a recitation of scam after scam. Another of the big blocks that I came up against was how to shape Tabitha’s tale into something that matches up to something where it’s possible to root for her. Sure she’s stealing, but why, and what for? Simple enrichment isn’t good enough, not for what I wanted to do.
What I came up with was when I started thinking very carefully about the situation a girl like Tabitha would find herself in. If her dad’s constantly moved, always kept himself and her under an ever-changing set of false identities, and never ever talked about the past … she’d end up an enigma. In today’s world, everyone is someone; but what if you’re not because you’ve been so successfully separated from your past? When the only life you know is literally a construction?
For a long time I struggled with whether or not I’d have to change Tabitha’s background, and I really didn’t want to. Having her be the girl who’s been pushed to learn larceny was the core of the character for me, and I didn’t like how I could see things in the story would shift if she had more of a ‘normal’ background. But I kept researching it. Oddly enough, it was some people online who found it ridiculous that someone could be without a real identity in today’s world who helped me figure out how to shape my story. Rather than run from the concept, I embraced it.
What if Tabitha had been raised by a con to be a con, but wanted to get back to something closer to normal. How would she do that, and what would it take? And I was able to piece together a sequence of events I think should be believable for how she’d go about that. And what would put her on that path, and what it would take for her to follow it. Now she’s stuck stealing, but not for simple gratification or out of greed; but as a means to an end. With a goal in mind, she’s doing what’s necessary to get there. She has a past, but has to find it. She has an identity, but it’s one she’ll have to get back to on her own.
I had a lot of fun writing Grift Girl Gone, and I hope you’ll have just as much reading it. It’s available now on Amazon.