Rachel Koller Croft, STONE COLD FOX

Rachel Koller Croft, STONE COLD FOX

Zibby speaks to screenwriter and debut author Rachel Koller Croft about Stone Cold Fox, a riveting, provocative, and twisty new thriller about an ambitious woman who, after a lifetime of conning alongside her mother, wants to put her dark past behind her and marry New York’s hottest and wealthiest bachelor. Zibby and Rachel analyze the incredible protagonist Bea, who is wickedly intelligent, observant, and powerful (but also a bit of a liar). Then, Rachel talks about her fascinating career – from selling luxury floral arrangements to seeing her script and original songs on screen (you can watch Torn Hearts on Amazon Prime – it is the “country horror musical movie” of Rache’s dreams!) to finally publishing this novel. (And, soon after this conversation, Deadline announced that Stone Cold Fox is being adapted for TV, and Rachel will pen the series!!)


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Rachel. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Stone Cold Fox.

Rachel Koller Croft: Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to meet you, Zibby.

Zibby: You too. Tell listeners about your book.

Rachel: Stone Cold Fox is about an ambitious young woman, Bea, who has her sights set on marrying into the one percent via one of New York’s hottest young bachelors, Collin Case. She’s a total bombshell, so she doesn’t believe the challenge will be in getting the ring from him, but probably from his family and inner circle at large, including his childhood best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester, who soon has — basically, she will take Bea down at any cost, including looking into her dark past. Bea was raised by a con artist mother, so her past is indeed pretty dark.

Zibby: In one of the scenes towards the beginning — part of what makes Bea interesting is this life that she’s created for herself which isn’t real. She says she’s gone to Duke, which of course, she hasn’t. You’re so funny, too, in the way you write about it. You’re like, this is from a group of people who still like to talk about where they went to school even though they’re in their forties, which is so funny because I am one of those people who does that. My husband came from outside Sarasota, Florida. He came into this whole community. He’s like, “What on earth? Why is everybody asking me where I went to school? It’s such a random question. I don’t know. Venice High. Does it matter?” I’m like, “It’s just a shorthand.” It was so funny the way you did it. Of course, she’s like, so-and-so didn’t know you at Duke. The frenemy vibes, it was just great.

Rachel: Thank you.

Zibby: Also, just how you poke fun at all of the men and what they’re looking for. They’re power-hungry, sex-hungry, greed, money-grubbing — it’s not the best light to put men in, I will say. Not all men.

Rachel: I will say, even though Bea says certain things about men, a lot of the men in the story are not actually as bad as she’s perpetrating all men to be. She does have some really great stepfather figures in her life. Collin himself is very well-meaning. It’s one of the things that she is actually attracted to him about, is that he’s actually nice to her. On the flip side of that, she’s also had many interactions with men, being so beautiful and just the type of woman that she is, that have been less-than-desirable situations. What I love about Bea is she’s always playing a game and collecting information and figuring out how she can use that moving forward. Even though she could be seen as a victim by some people, I don’t think she self-identifies as a victim at all. She thinks she’s got it all figured out, which I think is really fun to watch, especially when she doesn’t entirely.

Zibby: It was so appealing to see a woman so totally in charge and just using every little thing that she could, every expression. She was just so attuned to everybody. Oh, Gale did this with her face, and so I knew. That was a tell. She’s a face reader. I just feel like she’s very emotionally intelligent and uses that to .

Rachel: Very observant.

Zibby: Observant, that’s probably a better word. Okay, fine, which is fun. I love how you put her in such a position of power, like running the board meeting. It’s not just that she was a society lady at lunch who picked up this very wealthy dude. She’s a powerful woman. She’s got two legs to stand on. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of it, but you know.

Rachel: That’s something that I purposely set out to do for my main character and just make sure — in books and TV, I’m always very attracted to whoever is seen as the villain. I don’t think that’s because I’m attracted to their nefarious ways. I just like characters that are active and kind of have their shit together and know they’re going to make moves in one direction or the other and have this singular goal about what they want. When thinking about Bea and the type of woman that aspires to marry up, I tried to think about how I could subvert that. Bea’s reasons have very little to do with the finer things. Does she like them? Sure. We all do. What she’s looking for is safety and security. That is what Collin and his whole family represent to her because she didn’t have that growing up. She’s funny and smart and not a bimbo, so I thought she would make for a super compelling main character. I liked writing in her head the entire time, even though I loved so many of the other female characters. I did toy with the idea of maybe doing multiple perspectives. I think by staying with Bea the entire time, it made the narrative thread stronger.

Zibby: Totally. I feel like Bea is like Sharon Stone meets a 1980s Glenn Close or something like that.

Rachel: I would agree with those assessments, for sure. Sharon Stone is someone I pictured a lot when writing the character of Mother, as an example. She’s a femme fatale. She comes from a femme fatale. I think people are intrigued by those type of women. I know I am.

Zibby: That would be a good — is this already a movie? Did I miss news or something?

Rachel: No news yet. TBD.

Zibby: It definitely would be a neat adaptation because you could do a lot of stuff with the mother character too, having the two generations of schemers. I think I wrote about it that it’s like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels if the woman had a daughter or something. I was trying to think, who are these conniving women?

Rachel: I know. People have been mentioning Heartbreakers a lot. I loved that movie. Then someone mentioned — I didn’t even think about this when writing, but I feel like it’s accurate, kind of a darker version of My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is already pretty . When you revisit the movie now, you’re like, wow, this is kind of crazy.

Zibby: Totally. That’s so funny. Not like I need to keep comparing it to movies. It’s a book on its own. It stands on its own. The fundamental relationship is flawed, and that’s sad, between her and her mom. Her mom does all she can for her but is completely unpredictable. Unpredictable moms have —

Rachel: — She’s not great. She, growing up, keeps trying. That’s why it’s sort of hard to watch, because I think you always want your mom’s attention and love and care no matter how old you are. As Bea gets older, she’s reckoned with it and very much doesn’t want to be like her mother. That’s also part of her north star. Okay, what would my mother do in this situation? What am I going to do in this situation? Her mother, I don’t think is super redeemable, quite honestly.

Zibby: Yeah, pretty much. I felt so bad when she was like, wait, whatever happened to Grandma Lois? I felt so bad.

Rachel: I know. When she finds an adult that she connects with, it gets sadder and sadder when she ultimately doesn’t have that person in her life anymore.

Zibby: It was sort of a guilty pleasure, just spying on people in your book. I felt like I was devious or something, the whole thing. It was great. In a very good way.

Rachel: No, I’m glad. I take that as a compliment. I wanted all the characters to feel like, even if they’re making wild decisions, just feel like people maybe you’ve met or heard about. I wanted everyone to be really three-dimensional, even the characters that I couldn’t spend too much time with, even though I love them. Wren Daily is one of my favorite characters. She has a few moments where she shines. I can’t go that far down the path with her, but I still wanted her to feel like a person. I just made sure to hone in on those areas where I could give them a little sparkle so the reader can latch on in a bigger way.

Zibby: Amazing. Take me through your career up to here.

Rachel: Oh, wow. Okay. This is my first novel.

Zibby: Turns out this is a job interview. No, I’m kidding.

Rachel: This is my first novel, but I’ve been a screenwriter since 2015. Shortly after I graduated school, I moved out to Los Angeles for the first time. I got a job at a very popular celebrity blog, which turned out to not be my calling. I wasn’t a gossip queen. I’ve always felt really bad, so much so that I actually moved back. I’m from Chicago. I moved back to Chicago for a couple of years kind of defeated. Well, I guess I have to get a real job, which was actually a fortuitous detour for me. I got into sales. I worked mostly for travel and hospitality companies. When I returned to LA later and learned that screenwriting is basically eighty percent sales, I felt super prepared for what was expected of me. One of the companies I worked for in Chicago, I became the top salesperson in the company. They moved me to LA. This was in 2013. I’ve been here ever since.

Zibby: What were you selling?

Rachel: Actually, I sold luxury floral arrangements to hotels, residential buildings, places that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on flowers every year. Bea has some strong opinions about flowers in the book, which may or may not be my own strong feelings about flowers. It was actually a really fun job. Everyone wants to take your meeting because you’re the flower girl. You go in there with pretty photos. If you can beat their current vendor’s price, they pretty much sign with you. It was a lot of fun. It was a startup, so it was a lot of high highs, low lows. It didn’t work out long term for a host of reasons that are too boring to get into. When I started attacking writing as a career, it was shortly after a very gnarly breakup that I had with someone who was also trying to be a screenwriter. I’m very motivated by spite, so I was like, if that guy can do it, I certainly can. I wrote a script. I sold it later that year. I’ve been working pretty steadily ever since. My first movie that was produced came out last called Torn Hearts. It’s streaming right now on Amazon Prime, I believe.

Zibby: Congratulations.

Rachel: Thank you. It’s a country horror musical movie of my dreams. Katey Sagal is in it. I wrote all the lyrics to the original songs. a really, really exciting development. Then now the book is out. I feel like all my dreams are coming true. I planted these seeds over however many years. It’s a grind. I won’t lie. It’s the only thing I want to do. I love it so much.

Zibby: That’s amazing. You did the country horror musical, which is a great combination. What were the other scripts or shows or movies you worked on?

Rachel: This is the thing about screenwriting. I’ve sold a great number of things, but they don’t always get made.

Zibby: That’s great. It’s hard to sell them.

Rachel: Yeah, but I’ve been making my living at it. Now I sold a couple of big comedy features. I sold a couple of pilots. I’m optimistic about what’s going to happen with Stone Cold Fox. I’ve always wanted to write a book. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to write a book. Something as a screenwriter that can frustrate me is I feel like I’m always pitching on other people’s ideas because IP is the thing right now. I was like, I’m going to write my own IP. I kind of want to become this one-woman content house where I write my books, I adapt them, and then ultimately, I want to direct them as well.

Zibby: Look at you. What are you going to call it?

Rachel: I don’t know. I’ve got a few ideas. My husband is in entertainment as well. He’s a producer. We hope to have our own company one day. We’ve got a lot of big dreams happening in our house.

Zibby: My husband’s a producer too. He started his company a couple years ago.

Rachel: That’s great.

Zibby: That’s really awesome. Amazing. I feel like you’re one of these people who’s just going to crank out content. You do it quickly. What are some of the things you want to write next? Have you already written another book?

Rachel: I have written another book. I have a first draft in. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about it yet. What I can share is that it’s music heavy kind of in the way Torn Hearts is very inspired by country music. I’m kind of going into a different genre with this. It might even be a little bit spooky because I do like scary things. That’s what I’m working on now for my second book. I also am dabbling in musical for the West End. I might be writing the book for a project there. Always writing new feature specs, things like that. I have this long Google Doc of ideas. I just look at it when I need to work on a new project and see what sparks. I’m in a really good, inspired place at the top of 2023. It’s very exciting.

Zibby: That is awesome. I have so many ideas too, but then I always forget to write them down. I’m like, of course I won’t forget. It’s such a good idea. Then of course, I forget.

Rachel: I love this app. I feel like not a lot of people know about it. It’s called Google Keep. It’s just lists that you can check the box off when you’re done with it. I use it for all sorts of things. I literally have it on my phone. If I think of something that’s even half-baked, I’ll just pop it in there. It just lives in the thing that says “Ideas.” Some people are very organized. They color-coordinate. I just like to have a long list that I can reference at my leisure. If you’re that type of person, I highly recommend Google Keep. It’s a method that has been working for me and doesn’t require too much perfectionism in that regard. I’m a perfectionist in other ways, but not with that.

Zibby: Mine is scribbled on a notepad. Then I stick it on my bulletin board, if I’m here, if I’m sitting at my desk and I think of something. When I’m out and about, forget it. Google Keep, okay, I will think about that. The question is, you seem like such a nice person, and yet you write about all these devious women and horror, so what am I to make of that? Where is all this coming from?

Rachel: I don’t know. It’s so funny. My birthday is around Halloween. I’ve always liked spooky things. Since I was a little girl, I just gravitate to scary stories and the villains in movies. I don’t know why exactly. To me, it’s just the most entertaining way into a story. I still like light-hearted things. As a writer, I really like exploring the good and the bad of a person because I don’t find that most villains are so cut and dry. I think you can really dig in and see what’s going on behind the evil eye, as it were. It’s so funny because even my husband is like — he’ll read something I write. He’s like, “I sleep next to you. What’s going on in there?” Then I’m always like, “I’m a Scorpio. We’re kind of sick. I don’t know. We just like what we like.”

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, that’s so funny. Maybe somewhere in your past you had a misunderstood villain in your past that you’re trying to —

Rachel: — Perhaps. I find them entertaining and decisive. I feel like a decisive person as well. I think that is why I’m attracted. Not that you can’t have a good-hearted protagonist make executive decisions either. I just find villains tend to take bigger swings. I’m attracted to that as someone who takes big swings myself, but not in a nefarious way, typically.

Zibby: Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know how much I trust you.

Rachel: I have a pretty strong moral compass. I’ve been asked a lot about what I think about con artists and things like that. Honestly, I just think most of us have a good heart. Even if we want to go after something, we’re not going to do a bad thing to get it. It’s just not how we’re routed, as it were. There are some people that just don’t have that. They say whatever they want with conviction, and people tend to believe it. I think that’s really how it all happens. I don’t even think con artists are necessarily genius people. I just think they don’t have that thing the rest of us have, which allows them to kind of do whatever they want. I think there’s a weird wish fulfillment about that. I do like to explore that in my characters. They’re doing things I would never do. That’s fun to write.

Zibby: I feel like it’s all on a spectrum. You can go from exaggerating a story to make it funnier, just these tiny little things — oh, it’s a white lie. Don’t worry about it. Then that seems harmless. Not the story part. I kind of get annoyed when people do that, but it’s fine. All the way to manufacturing a new identity. Maybe it comes from a place of wish — I don’t know. Who knows? It is fascinating.

Rachel: It’s fascinating. I think people are interested. How did that person do that? Why? In Bea’s case, she definitely does bad things, but what she’s trying to do, actually, I don’t think is that bad. She just wants to finally be able to feel at peace and relax. That’s just a product of how she was raised. That’s what her goal is. I don’t think she self-identifies as a con artist anymore because she’s just trying to become Bea forever. That’s her final identity. That’s who she wants to be. Her mother was, just for the thrill of it, constantly switching it up. That’s really not her MO at all. I think the more complex your characters are, the more fun it is to write them. Ultimately, people have a good time reading them.

Zibby: What do you like to read?

Rachel: Oh, my god, I read all sorts of stuff. I just finished The Shards, which I loved, the new Bret Easton Ellis. I thought it was great.

Zibby: That’s so funny because I was going to read that. I was like, oh, no, I’m going to be too scared. Of course, you’re reading that.

Rachel: I know. You know what I’ll say? I’ve read most, if not all, of his books. I found this one, even though there’s some dark stuff in it, to have a much gentler tone and pace. I went to see him speak to Rachel Kushner when they were both in LA. He referred to it as a hang-out novel. I thought that was so cool. It is quite long. I think it’s almost six hundred pages. It’s a lot of description about being a teenager in 1981 in West LA. It’s very atmospheric and vibey. I think you could probably handle it, I guess is what I’m trying to say. It’s not as brutal as — even I had a hard time reading American Psycho, even though I objectively thought it was good. It’s a brutal book. I didn’t think this one was. I’ve been on a celebrity memoir kick, for sure. I did Spare. I just picked up Love, Pamela because I loved her Netflix documentary. I find her fascinating. I also have read Selma Blair’s memoir recently, Mean Baby.

Zibby: I got that, but I never read it.

Rachel: It’s really good. I thought it was really good. I did the Age of Vice, which I liked a lot. I read a lot of contemporary fiction. I’ll read memoir. I read horror. I like westerns and dad books. I’m actually reading The Charm School right now, which I think is from the seventies or eighties. Julie Clark recommended it. We were talking about how much we loved The Americans. She’s like, “Oh, you have to read this Russian spy novel called The Charm School.” I’m reading that. She’s like, “It’s kind of a dad book, but whatever.” It’s pretty eclectic. I like to read most things and see how I respond. If someone says, “I think you’ll like this book,” I’m happy to read it even if it’s not in my usual genre. I just read my first Emily Henry. I’m not a big romance reader. I thought Beach Read was fantastic. I’m always open to trying something new.

Zibby: That’s awesome. You should just take my job on the side. You can read all these books. I’m excited to see you in LA at the store, at the bookshop.

Rachel: I know. I can’t wait. It’s such a great neighborhood. When I saw that’s where you were opening, I literally screeched because I just feel like there needed to be one over there. It’s the perfect lane for it. I think you guys are going to do amazing. I feel like the whole Westside is abuzz.

Zibby: It’s so nice.

Rachel: It’s the best. I love living on the Westside of town.

Zibby: You live on the Westside too? That’s great.

Rachel: I’m in Marina del Rey.

Zibby: That’s awesome. Amazing. I’m excited to see you in person very, very soon. Congratulations on Stone Cold Fox. I bet by the time I see you, you’ll have fabulous news about it because it’s going to be great. I’ll just work on the casting on the side. My brain is like, ooh, Margot Robbie, maybe.

Rachel: I know. I thought of Margot Robbie a lot while writing Bea just because Margot Robbie is so outrageously hot, just objectively one of the most beautiful women on the planet. That’s how I pictured Bea, someone that when she walks by, everybody’s head turns. Who is that? I thought of Margot a lot. She’s a babe.

Zibby: This is fun. I can’t believe this is my job. This is so much fun, just sitting and chatting.

Rachel: You have an amazing job, many jobs. You’re doing so much.

Zibby: Everybody is.

Rachel: Every time , I’m just like — I know. You’re just someone I’m very impressed with. I like following all of your career exploits. It’s really cool to see.

Zibby: Thank you. Thank you very much. This has been great. I will see you very soon.

Rachel: Sounds good, Zibby. Thanks so much.

Zibby: Bye, Rachel.

Rachel: Bye.

Rachel Koller Croft, STONE COLD FOX

STONE COLD FOX by Rachel Koller Croft

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