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How can four high school students pull off a major heist? Find out! | Laura Pauling

How can four high school students pull off a major heist? Find out!

If you’ve known me for any length of time as a writer and/or reader or have stopped by the blog at all in the past few years, then you might know that I love heist movies and books! Love them.

My post on the story structure of a heist movie in 15 sentences is my most viewed post and shows up on the first page if you google: How to write a heist novel.

I recently read Coin Heist by Elisa Ludwig and loved it! And I’ve read and watched a lot. I considered this one excellent.

I was psyched when Elisa said she’d guest post on the background behind writing Coin Heist! Oh, and watch the video (link at the bottom). It’s pretty cool.


Check out Elisa Ludwig’s book page for purchase links and more information!

Pulling a heist is no joke, and while the process of writing about one is somewhat easier, there are still plenty of challenges for the author at the helm.

I had some preparation for the climactic scene in COIN HEIST as I’d already written the three books in the PRETTY CROOKED series (Katherine Tegen), all of which involve thievery, break-ins, scams, carjacking, computer sleuthing and code breaking.

Even so, getting four teens into the Philadelphia Mint required research—a lot of research. First, I read as much as I could about the Mint, its history and heists at all of the U.S. mints over the years.

Then, because I live locally, I cased the joint on foot, walking in as a tourist. (FYI: It’s a very cool place to visit, but it often gets slept on in the middle of Philly’s historic Old City district.) I wore my baby in an Ergo carrier, which, I hoped, would help me evade suspicion. Meanwhile, I took copious notes on my iPhone.

The tour allows you to watch the coins as they’re being made on the production floor, so after a couple of visits, I got a sense of how to physically stage the night of the heist.

However, I still needed some more information about how the computer hacking portion of the heist would take place. That’s when I called on Michael Viscuso, a computer security expert. (Conveniently, one of my day job freelance gigs happens to be writing for a company called Net Diligence, which offers cyber risk management services.)

Michael walked me through multiple scenarios for how it could go down, and together we decided on the best one for the purposes of the book—something teens could feasibly pull off. I knew I wanted a combination of hacking and real-life stealing, because frankly, reading about someone sitting at a computer, no matter how many risks they’re taking, is kind of dull.

Oh, and the part about the prom at Franklin Institute? I didn’t need to research it. I lived it. My own senior prom took place there, but we didn’t have a cool band like Jason’s headlining. We had a band called the Flaming Caucasians—which was about as terrible as it sounds.

For more information about the making of the book, and a tour of the sites involved, check out this video from Adaptive Studios. 


Thanks Elisa!!!

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3 Responses to How can four high school students pull off a major heist? Find out!

  1. Heather Sunseri June 25, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Soooo, super interesting! I loved the video, too!

    Laura, have you ever heard of the Transylvania book heist? A group of Transy (small university in Lexington, KY) kids decided to steal some rare 1st Edition books from the archives of Transy U’s library. One of the perps wrote a book about it form his jail cell. These were super smart kids who made a horrible decision. I have friends were friends with these kids, and it has a lot of interesting facts surrounding the heist.

    I think the book is called Mr. Pink. Just google Transylvania book heist if you’re curious. 😉

  2. Dianne Salerni June 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi, Elisa!! *waves*
    I think it’s awesome how you researched the book, and I love that the setting involves such well-loved Philadelphia places. I’m sure I’ll connect with you at a KidLitAuthor group event soon so I can pick up a copy.

    Flaming Caucasians. Snort. That name brings back memories. I think I saw them at the Stone Balloon in Newark, Delaware back in the day.

    • Elisa Ludwig June 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Hi, Dianne! Thanks so much for commenting. And too funny that you remember the FCs! Yes, we definitely need to connect up at an event soon, because I need your books too!

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