The idea for The Grift first came to me when I read a small newspaper article about a psychic who had been arrested for fraud in South Florida. Over the course of about a decade, this woman (with help from her husband and a local cop on her payroll) managed to bilk a series of elderly, often ill, people out of their last dollars amassing about $250,000 for herself. Because she had help from the local police and because her clients were often too embarrassed to come forward until theyd lost everything, it took some time to bring the psychic to justice. Even then, it was because of pressure from the families who, as well as being concerned for their parents, had seen their own inheritances disappear.
Reading this story, I was fascinated not by why these people kept giving a psychic thousands of dollars to lift imaginary curses or pray over their money, but by what was going on in the head of the psychic herself. How did she justify such blatant fraud? Was there any part of her that believed in her own game? Was she an entirely evil person? Didnt there have to be a certain amount of willingness on the part of her victims in order for her to succeed? My feeling was that there was a great deal of psychological complexity feeding the psychic/client connection from both sides. The next question for me, and ultimately what led to the creation of The Grift, was what would happen if a psychic fraud suddenly found herself truly gifted with psychic abilities? What if her griftsuddenly became her gift? This, I thought, would make for the ultimate in poetic justice and would also make for a very compelling story.
My primary goal with The Grift, as with every one of my books, was to spin a good yarn. Beyond this, though, I wanted to explore the psychology behind the psychic/client relationship and take a closer look at psychic phenomena itself. This is familiar territory for me. My mother taught me to read tarot cards when I was about nine years old and a few years later, my father taught me to cast horoscopes. Our house was filled with books about tarot, the I Ching, astrology, mediums, and magic, all of which I read (and most of which I kept when I moved away from home), beginning what would be a lifelong, if informal, study of all things other. Astrology, in particular, has always held the greatest interest for me. I once flirted with the idea of becoming a professional astrologer, but I always felt a little strange about accepting payment for the readings I gave and felt uneasy about placing a cash value on what has always seemed to me a deeply personal and ephemeral experience. What, exactly, was the service I was providing, I wondered? This question, and its possible answers, ended up becoming a running theme in The Grift.
Tonally, The Grift is quite different than my first novel, Blind Submission. Where Blind Submission is a light if pointed look at the absurdities of writing, writers, and the publishing business, The Grift is a dark look at the shadowy side of a psychic and her desperate clients. Blind Submission was intended for fun. The Grift was not. Thematically, however, the two novels have more in common than not. The Grift builds on the psychological suspense of Blind Submission. In each novel, the protagonist is tripped up by her own mind and finds herself questioning reality. But whereas Blind SubmissionsAngel is a good girl who gets ahead by becoming a little bad, The Grifts Marina is a bad girl who must redeem herself by becoming good. Of course, its the shades of gray in between the blacks and whites of good and bad which are the most fascinating and into which both novels delve. The central question in both books is about where the line is between illusion and reality. Can one make one's own reality by wishing it so? For that matter, does an objective reality even exist? In a sense, these themes are present and link every one of my books, from memoir to fiction. And they will carry through, I suspect, as long as there is a story to tell.