Susan Rigetti on Cover Story and the Allure of Scammers

Is it doable to reinvent your self? The query has been on Susan Rigetti’s thoughts since 2017. It was then that she, below her maiden title Susan Fowler, wrote a viral weblog put up that thrust her into the highlight at simply 25 years outdated. Titled “Reflecting on one very, very unusual yr at Uber,” the put up described the rampant sexual harassment she skilled as an engineer on the ride-share firm. It sparked a headline-grabbing inside investigation, led by former U.S. Legal professional Basic Eric Holder, that underlined critical cultural issues on the firm, resulting in the eventual resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick. Susan Fowler grew to become a family title, a number one determine in bringing the #MeToo motion to Silicon Valley, and the writer of the critically acclaimed memoir Whistleblower, which informed the total story of what she had endured.

“Folks informed me many instances, ‘In the event you say something about this, you’ll by no means work in engineering once more,’ ” she says, trying again on her choice to talk out. “So I stated, ‘OK, I’ll have to start out throughout.’ ”

Learn Extra: TIME’s Individual of the Yr 2017 Is the Silence Breakers

That new starting consists of the title she’s been ready to assert most of her life: novelist. On April 5, as Rigetti, she’ll make her fiction debut with Cowl Story—a frothy thriller that attracts inspiration from scandalous headlines about different figures who’ve got down to reinvent themselves. The e book chronicles the antics of Cat Wolff, a grifter making her means within the high-powered worlds of tech and media, who, together with her ambiguous European background, lodge residence, and penchant for defrauding banks, is clearly modeled partly on Anna “Delvey” Sorokin. When Cat meets Lora, a naive Elle journal intern who’s aching to turn out to be a author and who has simply misplaced her scholarship at New York College, the 2 instantly see one another as a method to their respective ends: Lora’s writing expertise will assist Cat produce fiction, and Cat’s title and standing in New York will assist Lora get revealed and pay for varsity. Not less than that’s the plan Cat sells to Lora.

The result’s a page-turner that’s hilarious in its dedication to vamping on viral information tales about real-life strivers and cons from Delvey to Instagram persona Caroline Calloway, whose former good friend accused Calloway of exploiting her for her writing—a scrumptious learn for anybody who, like Rigetti, maybe paradoxically, can’t resist a scandal. “I needed to put in writing one thing that felt to learn because it did to scroll via individuals’s social media posts, learn all their weblog stuff, and attempt to piece collectively this narrative of proof,” she says. “I simply need to gossip concerning the e book with different individuals.”

Rigetti, now 30, is a self-described rule follower. She’s fascinated by the processes individuals observe to advance or change their lives. “I’m all the time making an attempt to determine how the world works,” she says. “You need to write a film or a e book—how do you try this? How do you get there? There are all these guidelines.” Her life earlier than Uber was marked by hardship and a willpower to succeed—she grew up in rural Arizona, certainly one of seven kids, with barely any formal training. However she all the time needed to put in writing. Whereas her childhood and adolescence had been stuffed with painful setbacks because of her household’s monetary scenario, she was a hungry reader and taught herself what she wanted to know to get into school. She realized the principles to get to the place she needed to be, and he or she adopted them.

Which is why Rigetti has been fascinated with scammers for so long as she will keep in mind. She loves the film Catch Me if You Can. Considered one of her favourite pastimes is plunging into web holes about cons. “After I examine scammers, I’ve to know the whole lot,” she says. “I can’t get sufficient of it.” She’s not alone: Inventing Anna, the Shonda Rhimes Netflix drama based mostly on Sorokin’s story, and The Dropout, the Hulu collection about Elizabeth Holmes and the lies on which she constructed Theranos, are two of the buzziest reveals streaming proper now—to not point out Showtime’s Tremendous Pumped, which revisits the very story of what Rigetti skilled at Uber.

In Cat, Rigetti has constructed a personality who realized the interior workings of highly effective establishments, from venture-capital funds to style media, and understood how she may manipulate them to fund her lavish life-style. Lora is guided by the precedent that she’s seen play out within the motion pictures: she obtained the dream internship, and he or she believes that if she works laborious sufficient and makes the best connections, then the whole lot else will fall into place. As soon as she meets Cat, Lora hangs on the dazzling girl’s each phrase—even when these phrases don’t actually make sense, and even once they get Lora into bother. It’s Lora’s drive to succeed, fueled by her insecurities about her humble Pennsylvania upbringing, that makes her so prone to Cat’s schemes.

Rigetti remembers what it was wish to be Lora’s age and to really feel like an outsider simply making an attempt to get her foot within the door. The majority of the e book is written within the type of Lora’s diary entries, and Rigetti turned to her personal journals from her youth to sift via susceptible moments and develop Lora’s voice. She observed her youthful self’s fixation on being taken critically. “You’re trying round, making an attempt to determine: How on earth do I match into this?” she remembers. “There’s that feeling of wanting so badly to show your self and to have the possibility to assert your ambition with out individuals considering you’re getting forward of your self.”

As a lot as Rigetti recognized with Lora, she additionally wanted to grasp Cat—this girl who’s preventing to maintain her place in a moneyed world via mendacity, stealing, and adopting a number of identities. Rigetti needed to ask herself: What makes an individual select that life? “Cat finally ends up doing horrible issues, making a complete mess of herself at a younger age, piling on increasingly more till she’s in so deep that that is all she will do now,” she says. “She doesn’t see one other strategy to dwell.”

After talking out towards Uber, Rigetti gave up her profession in software program engineering and pivoted, taking modifying jobs at a startup and the New York Occasions. Throughout that interval, she discovered herself an object of curiosity, continuously confronted by individuals asking her how she seen herself on the planet. Writing the novel was her escape, a touchstone she’d flip to throughout lunch breaks and late at night time. “The entire time I used to be engaged on this e book, I used to be making an attempt to determine: Who am I?” she says.

For one, she’s the middle of a household. She married her husband Chad Rigetti, the founding father of a quantum computing firm, in 2017, they usually’ve since had two kids. She tried her hand at modifying and now could be targeted on writing her personal tales, engaged on fiction and screenplays. And she or he’s made some extent to have extra enjoyable. She makes use of the phrase greater than 30 instances in our dialog—enjoyable is the spine of the e book, the sensibility that she was chasing whereas writing, and what she desires readers to expertise whereas studying. Rigetti remembers, after arising with the thought for Cowl Story, how she pulled her husband out of his workplace to take a stroll and defined the twisting plot to him—every tech-world element a small pleasure. “I used to be telling him: It has PowerPoints! She’ll go to Y Combinator! There’ll be an article about her age to get on this ‘30 below 30’ record!” she says.

Folks conversant in Susan Fowler’s story may be stunned to listen to she’s written a novel poking enjoyable at each newsmaking scandals and the world she helped maintain to account. However Rigetti refuses to let her previous outline her when she has so many different tales to inform and variations of herself to be. She doesn’t purchase into the concept every life has a single narrative or that means. “The place the place it’s fascinating is what it takes to get from one stage of your life to a different,” she says. “The trick is discovering a strategy to show to the world that you’re able to doing one thing new.”

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Write to Annabel Gutterman at


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