Professional thief Crissa Stone makes her third appearance in Wallace Stroby’s caper novel Shoot the Woman First.
Did you envision Crissa Stone as female from the beginning, or did the character evolve as you worked on it?
I’d always wanted to write a complete novel from the point of view of a career criminal. I’d done this a little bit in The Heartbreak Lounge and Gone ’til November, where half the story was told from the point of view of a criminal, but I really wanted to stretch out with it a little. The idea of having the character a woman made it more intriguing, because it opened up a whole realm of possibilities. A woman would do things differently: she’d have loyalties and relationships, make alliances, and avoid violence unless she had no choice.
Two characters who play a large part in Crissa’s life are largely offstage in the series—her imprisoned lover and her daughter.
That goes back to the idea of having the character be a woman. I wanted someone who was committing crimes for money, but who was not personally greedy. She’s trying to get her lover out of jail and financially support a daughter who’s being raised by a relative. These are the things she values and, with them, she’s hoping to eventually achieve some semblance of normalcy in her life. She starts to recognize what really matters to her near the end of the second book, Kings of Midnight, and even more so in Shoot the Woman First.
The fact that Crissa has no real home base means she can go anywhere for her next job. Do you like the freedom of choice that gives you?
It’s both freeing and restricting. I’d like to write more about the Jersey Shore, which is where I live and where Crissa’s eventual home base will be. The thing is that she would never work close to home, so there’s only so much I can do with that setting.
What kinds of problems result from needing to learn a new locale for each novel?
The challenge with other locales is getting details right. Shoot the Woman First is set mainly in Detroit. I’d only intended that the first couple chapters take place there, so I decided I didn’t need to go personally. As the book grew, more of the action stayed there, and then it was too late to go. I didn’t want the reality of the city to violate what I’d written. So I had a Detroit expert vet the book, and I incorporated all her fixes and suggestions—and there were a lot.