Author Interview: Susan Ouellette
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Originally from Boston, Susan Ouellette has walked the halls of CIA headquarters working as an intelligence analyst, where she earned a commendation for her work during the 1991 failed Soviet coup. She went on to work on Capitol Hill for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She's provided analysis on everything from terrorism to weapons of mass destruction. Now, Susan has turned her attention to writing fiction. Her debut novel, THE WAYWARD SPY was just released last month.
MB: Let's start by talking about your new novel. Tell us about THE WAYWARD SPY.
SO: THE WAYWARD SPY tells the story of Maggie Jenkins, an intelligence analyst whose fiancé, CIA operative Steve Ryder, is killed in a terrorist bombing in Tbilisi, Georgia. When government officials suggest that Steve might have been involved in treasonous activity, Maggie smells cover-up and sets out to clear his name. She disobeys direct orders and travels to Tbilisi, Georgia to follow a trail littered with secrets and lies, corruption and deceit, risking her own life to expose a terrorist threat involving the Russian Mafia, Chechen rebels, Al Qaeda and . . . U.S. government officials.
MB: Even though you weren't an actual spy, you've worked at the CIA and had your hand in the world of spy-craft. How has your experience in the CIA and on Capitol Hill influenced your writing, and in particular, this book?
SO: When I worked at the CIA, my purview was rather narrow in that it involved researching and analyzing developments in the newly independent countries that had been part of the Soviet Union. I had little insight into operational activities – the sexy “spy” stuff. When I worked for the Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, I gained a much broader understanding of the CIA and other three-letter intelligence agencies. I learned more about CIA operations, the growing danger of weapons of mass destruction, and the emerging threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his ideological allies. I incorporated this knowledge into THE WAYWARD SPY. Like me, Maggie is an analyst at heart, but she uses her knowledge of intelligence operations to pursue the truth about her fiancé.
MB: Just as movies have deleted scenes, books have bits that get deleted during the editing process, sometimes to the chagrin of the author. In THE WAYWARD SPY, was there anything that didn't make it into the book that you hoped would?
SO: Yes. One of my favorite minor characters who didn’t make the final cut was Constantine, the head of Georgian intelligence. He was a fun character, but as my editor astutely noted, he was superfluous to the plot. Perhaps he will surface in a future book….
MB: Without giving away any spoilers, tell us something about THE WAYWARD SPY that we won't find in the jacket copy or PR material?
SO: This is a tough question because every answer feels like a spoiler. So, I’ll just say that the parts of the story focused on the U.S. Capitol Building and the House Intelligence Committee are 100% accurate. The setting, the personnel (all fictionalized), the atmosphere – those are all authentic representations of what it was like to work on Capitol Hill in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
MB: Let's shift gears for moment and talk about reading. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
SO: I appreciate every novel I read because I know how difficult they are to write. I suppose I don’t pay much attention to what “the critics” say about any particular novel. I’ll pick up whatever looks interesting, unless it has all one-star reviews on Amazon.
MB: What are you currently reading?
SO: I’m currently reading THE BRIGHTER THE STARS by Bryan Prosek. I just started it today, but I’m already hooked. I usually don’t read sci-fi novels, so this book may open a new universe of fiction to me!
MB: I heard a rumor that THE WAYWARD SPY is the first book in a trilogy. What can we expect from the next book in the series?
SO: Yes, there will be at least three books featuring Maggie Jenkins. The second book, currently titled RELUCTANT MARTYR, finds Maggie Jenkins on a quest for justice. Several of the characters from THE WAYWARD SPY are in book #2, but I can’t say much more because of those pesky spoilers. (If you’ve read THE WAYWARD SPY, you might have an idea of what this quest for justice involves.)
MB: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
SO: I’m about to begin the editing process for the second book, so that is my main focus right now. Up next – plotting for the third book.
Thank you for taking time to talk with me. Good luck with THE WAYWARD SPY.
To learn more about Susan and her book, you can visit her website at susanouellette.com. You can also follow Susan on Facebook at facebook.com/SusanOuelletteAuthor, on Twitter at twitter.com/smobooks, and on Instagram at instagram.com/susanobooks/.
You can purchase THE WAYWARD SPY at these retailers.