Mary Elizabeth Summer: CATCH MY GRIFT

Even more debut authors coming your way from OneFour KidLit! Today we’re talking to Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of Catch My Grift. One author, Four questions. Fasten your seat belts!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)

It all started many moons ago when I was in fifth grade and checked a book out of the library called How To Write A Novel. I devoured that book. I took notes on that book. I slept with that book to absorb its teachings. I practically ate that book for breakfast (don’t tell the librarian).

Then I decided I wanted to be an astronaut, realized no one would ever pick me to be an astronaut, decided to be a mechanical engineer and build myself a spaceship, and then came to my senses just in time to graduate college with a major in Creative Writing so that I could write stories about spaceships. And then I wrote a story about a teenage con artist instead.

All joking aside, I started seriously working toward publication about 7 years ago. I wrote two full novels, half of another novel, and a detailed synopsis of a trilogy before writing CATCH MY GRIFT. But I didn’t try to get an agent until I finished CMG. Then I entered a query contest at Cupid’s Literary Connection and snagged my DREAM agent Laura Bradford (seriously, I’d been cyberstalking her for a year before she requested CMG during the contest).

After I incorporated her few suggestions into the manuscript, she pitched it to 13 editors. Seven months later, I got 3 offers! My kick-ass agent then ninja-ed her way through the negotiation process, and I ended up with the amazing Wendy Loggia at Delacorte as my editor. I’m extremely excited to be working with such a talented, experienced team, and I know CMG will be miles better for it. It still won’t be a spaceship, but it will be just as big a thrill ride.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

It’s about a teenage con artist raised by her father in the old-school art of grifting. But she wants out, so she goes to a fancy Chicago private school her dad can’t afford, paying for tuition by pulling small cons for her classmates. Then one day she comes home to find her apartment trashed and her dad missing, and she has to follow a trail of clues her dad left to find him before his mark finds her.

I like to say it’s equal parts law-breaking, clever disguises, family secrets, and snark, with a little bit of romance on the side. There’s also a lot of action, some beautiful cars, and a few twists you might not expect. But to give you an idea of what it’s actually about, the unofficial tagline I’ve got kicking around in my head is: “When you can be anybody, how do you know who you are?”

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Three facts you might not know about me:

1.   Most of my family is at least a little psychic. My dad and mom are kind of a lot psychic. My dad was a remote viewer for the US Army and still teaches people how to do it. My mom bends forks and channels. I have various cousins who are slightly psychic as well. So far, my brothers and I have not caught the wavelength, but you never know.

2.    I’m the exact opposite of the protagonist in CATCH MY GRIFT. I’ve never broken the law—well, never on purpose. I’m an introvert, and I embarrass easily. I cannot lie to save my life. And once I actually did look up the definition of ‘gullible’ in the dictionary to see if my picture was there, and it totally was! I’d be a juicy mark, but a lousy grifter.

3.    For most of my life, I wanted to be an astronaut, went to Space Camp and everything. Oh, wait—we already covered that.

Do you have any writing quirks–places you need to write or things you need to have with you?

Nope. I can write pretty much anywhere, anytime, on anything. Having a full-time job, an involved (and also busy with her own stuff) partner, a punishing television schedule, and a toddler has burned this superpower into me like an irradiated spider bite into unsuspecting human tissue. There are several things I like to have, like coffee, my writing-project-du-jour playlist, and Scrivener. But I wrote the last third of CMG on my phone while standing on a train commuting to and from work, and I’m pretty sure I would scratch stories onto a cell wall with a nail if I had no other option. So I guess that officially makes me an addict. 😉

Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor–er, cat. CATCH MY GRIFT, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.

32 thoughts on “Mary Elizabeth Summer: CATCH MY GRIFT

  1. Mary, I love, love, LOVE this premise. I fell so hard for Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, and it was all about the grift. From THE SPANISH PRISONER to THE STING, I’m crazy about storytelling w/ con artist twists. Eep! This is so exciting–can’t wait to read. Sounds like I’ll be bananas over CATCH MY GRIFT!

    • Thanks, Jenny!I can’t wait for you to read it! I did a ton of research into the different types of cons, and both the wire game (from THE STING) and the Spanish prisoner scam (or Julep’s variations on them anyway) are included in the story. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read Holly’s series yet. It’s on my to-read-soon list, though!

  2. Oooh, a psychic connection! My mother did automatic writing until it freaked my Dad out & he made her stop. She wrote a book called “Coming Out of Your Psychic Closet”. Too funny. I bet she would love to talk to your Dad. (Did they consult him for that movie? The one with Jeff Daniels? Goat something or other)

    Your book sounds great. I was also reminded of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series reading your description (without the curses, of course).

    • My mom does automatic writing as well sometimes (as an extension of her channeling). It’s amazing to watch either of them do what they do. It didn’t occur to me until much later on in life that having people come over to your house with bags of silverware to practice spoon-bending with your parents was weird. LOL

      Here’s my dad’s website if you want to learn more: . And to answer your question, I don’t think they consulted him on the Men Who Stare At Goats movie (though he was aware of the actual program when it was active). But filmmakers did consult with him on Suspect Zero (a movie about a military remote-viewer serial killer). I believe he’s in some of the DVD special features.

      Definitely no curses in CMG (not even the swearing kind, actually, though that wasn’t by design–just wasn’t really a characteristic that made sense for any of the characters). Nothing paranormal at all, except for maybe Julep’s crazy conning skillz. 😉

  3. Your book sounds like so much fun! All the women in my family going back to my great-grandma down to my daughter all have some crazy blend of insomnia and intuition. We just know things we shouldn’t. It’s cool but also kind of disconcerting at times!

    • My brother has that. Drove me nuts when I was a kid. He’d always say exactly the right thing at exactly the wrong time. Grrr. But it can be useful if you use your powers for good instead of evil. 😉

      I hope you like CMG when you read it! I can’t wait to read yours!

  4. Mary, like you I need my coffee, my playlist and my Scrivener (I’m so disorganized that it’s the only thing that works for me). And I wrote my first novel while working on a trading floor at JPMorgan with people screaming trades over my head so yeah, I can pretty much write anywhere too. Go, us! 🙂

      • It was, although the trading floor I worked on was a lot less crazy than the movies. We all had those deck phones and they were constantly ringing, but that just became my soundtrack! 🙂

    • Thanks! I’m always surprised when people remember CMG from Cupid’s contest. It seems like ages ago now, even though it hasn’t even been a year. Has it really only been a year? *boggled*

      One of my Twitter friends Gwen Hernandez does a Scrivener class, which (for me at least) was a much faster way to get a handle on how to use it then reading the manual. (In case you want to check it out: ) I still don’t totally understand the compile/export function, but everything else is a snap. And the features…it’s like switching to a smartphone after using a rotary.

      I’m so excited to be part of the OneFours! Thank you SO MUCH for inviting me!

    • OMG you have no idea about the serial commas. I live in terror that my publisher’s style manual will not allow them. I may have to stand my ground in that battle. It will itch at my brain if I can’t have them. Thank you!!

    • Thank you! And it has been rather a wild ride at times. Don’t get me started about my college years. LOL You’d think I’d have gotten past the whole falling for EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK, but no. I still have way too much faith in people. 😉

  5. The book sounds great–gotta love a great con! Congrats on your success! And I totally hear you on the learning to write anywhere. I have three kids and about a billion things going on all the time, so you just have to do it when and where you can!

    • Thanks, Sara! I think that’s one of the biggest misoconceptions about writing–that writers get to sit at desks and compose for hours on end every day. This is not what happens with most of the writers I know. There are always ten billion things that need attention that have nothing to do with writing. I would love it someday if i could focus on writing for the majority of my day, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Pardon me while I go scribble a snippet of Chapter 12 on a post-it note.

    • Haha. I’d be willing to bet that book’s already been written. But thanks! And I really hope you like CMG. Julep is definitely her own person. She pretty much wrote CMG herself. I’m really missing her in my current WIP–Gilia is not nearly as dictatorial as Julep was. Julep made my job so easy.

    • Thanks, Maggie! Yeah, my parents are pretty wild. Both of them have doctoral degrees (not in parapsychology), and I think they’re at a loss as to how my brothers and I turned out so differently from them. But we all get along pretty well (despite gaping chasms of understanding sometimes), and I’m probably going to get to see most if not all of them in March! (None of us live in the same state as each other, and my mom lives in South Africa, so it’s a pretty rare occurrence to see everyone at once.)

    • You can come to my house and play with silverware! We’d most likely end up with just a bunch of finger-smudged forks, though. I’ve never been able to master the art. But if my mom happens to be in town at the same time, she can show us how it’s done. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s