The Next Chapter

Marissa Stapley's novel Lucky examines the art of the con

The Toronto author spoke with Shelagh Rogers about her latest novel.
Lucky is a novel by Marissa Stapley. (Simon & Schuster, Eugene Choi)

Marissa Stapley is a writer and journalist from Toronto. Her other novels include Mating for LifeThings To Do When It's Raining and The Last Resort. 

Lucky is a novel about a scam artist named Lucky Armstrong. She just pulled off her biggest scam yet, a million dollar heist with her boyfriend. But things don't go as planned and Lucky ends up alone. Her escape hatch is a lucky lottery ticket she bought. It's worth millions, but if she cashes it in, the police will know where she is. With no one she can trust, and nothing to lose, what is she going to do?

The television rights for Lucky have been sold to ABC Disney Studios and Carlton Cuse. Stapley spoke with Shelagh Rogers about how the novel came to be.

Lucky in the lottery

"I was listening to the radio one day and happened to hear a news report where some announcers were having a great amount of fun talking about a lottery ticket with a huge payout. No one had claimed it yet, and time was running out. They were speculating about the various reasons people don't come forward. Sometimes people don't even know they bought the ticket, or they've lost it, which is everyone's nightmare, and it expires.

I was listening to the radio one day and happened to hear a news report where some announcers were having a great amount of fun talking about a lottery ticket with a huge payout.

"But then one of the announcers said sometimes people don't come forward because they need to stay anonymous for various reasons, or because they are wanted by police. I just couldn't get that out of my head. I'm always on the hunt for a good story. I was in between books at the time, and trying to find a new idea. I just thought that was a story.

"And then the con artist component came in — I wanted to create a criminal who wasn't, quote unquote, a bad person." 

The thing about con artists

"There's this identification with a con artist — and there's almost this wish fulfilment that comes when you're watching or reading about someone who's great at doing something. 

"But also, don't we all feel like we've gotten screwed in some way in life, by the government or by someone? And you sometimes just wish you could just get one over and win — and not necessarily hurt anyone. 

There's this identification with a con artist — and there's almost this wish fulfilment that comes when you're watching or reading about someone who's great at doing something.

"I also think there has to be a grudging admiration for someone who can weave a really great story and have people fall for it."

Marissa Stapley on her latest novel, about family secrets and second chances. 2:30

The grey areas

"I have always, as a writer and as a person, been well aware that nothing is black and white; there are grey areas.

"I'm a forgiving person. If I feel wronged, I will get very upset and dramatic — but I don't cut people out. That's because I understand we all have different parts of ourselves. We all have these secret desires. We all are fully actualized human beings. 

"I will consider the idea of what makes a person good, what makes them bad, what does it mean when some of the highest offices are occupied by people who are not good? And why should we be good? 

Is there any point to being good? Should we just all be conning and grafting our way through life and trying to get ahead?

"That's what I kept coming back to. Is there any point to being good? Should we just all be conning and grafting our way through life and trying to get ahead? 

"I really believe that it is important to be good. We're vulnerable because we trust, but we can also be open to the payoff and the reward of sticking to our morals — even if they're murky the way Lucky's morals are — not to give anything away."

Marissa Stapley's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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