Welcome to FIVE QUESTIONS. In this feature on my blog, you'll learn about new and exciting books from the author's themselves. You'll hear about the book, their characters, the inspiration behind the book, and other insider details. All through five simple questions.
Today, Susan Ouellette is here to answer five questions about his new horror novel, THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN, which was just released today.
What is your new book about?
THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN is the sequel to my first spy thriller, THE WAYWARD SPY, a novel featuring Maggie Jenkins, an American intelligence analyst who sets out to find the truth behind the murder of her CIA spy fiancé. The Wayward Assassin picks up ten months later with Maggie fixated on finding the terrorist who killed her fiancé. Alone in her conviction that the terrorist is still alive, Maggie’s hunt begins in Russia. Soon it becomes clear that failure to find Zara will have repercussions far beyond the personal, as Maggie uncovers plans for a horrific attack on innocent Americans. Zara is the new face of terrorism–someone who doesn’t fit the profile, who can slip undetected from attack to attack, and who’s intent on pursuing a personal vendetta at any cost. Chasing Zara from Russia to the war-torn streets of Chechnya, to London, and finally, to the suburbs of Washington, D. C., Maggie risks her life to stop a deadly plot.
What makes your protagonist unique?
Maggie Jenkins is unique among spy thriller heroes because she is one of the few female characters in a sea of male spies. Granted, there are spy thrillers featuring female leads, but Maggie is different in that she is not a superhero or a trained assassin. She’s an intelligence analyst, a bookworm content with analyzing rather than influencing events. But when forced by events. she will act, relying on her wits more than weapons and her guile more than martial arts. Maggie is a strong character, but she’s not a robot who can power through every situation. Many times, she wants to give up, let others figure it out. Sometimes it takes supporting characters to give her the push she needs to keep going. Other times, she finds that strength herself. Maggie is real and relatable, which I think is what readers find so compelling about her.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN was inspired by two things. First, and perhaps most obvious to those who read the first book in this series (THE WAYWARD SPY), Maggie’s story ended without closure. There remained unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts for her to address. The second inspiration was a real-life terrorist attack that took place in Russia in 2004, when THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN takes place. Without revealing any spoilers, I’ll add that the event that anchors this story made such an impression on me that I had to write about it. I had to try to make sense out of a senseless act. I had to insert Maggie into that world and have her fight the evil she encountered.
What was the hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene to write came at the end of THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN when one of the most important secondary characters hovered on the verge of death. And it was Maggie’s fault. She knew it and I knew it. (I think we both cried.) In the end, I removed this scene from the story (not because I won’t kill beloved characters. Trust me, I will. I’m ruthless that way.) It simply didn’t work. At some point in the WAYWARD series, I’m certain that this scene will end up in a book. As heart-wrenching as it is, a writer has to do what a writer has to do.
What’s the most interesting or unusual thing you learned while researching this book?
One of the most interesting things I learned while writing THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN is that in Russia, the first day of school is a national holiday called Knowledge Day (or Day of Knowledge). Children dress in their perfectly pressed school uniforms and arrive at school with their families bearing flower bouquets for their teachers. The entire school meets in a large assembly and rings in the new school year together. Learning about this tradition made what happened in the book (and in the real life event that anchors the story) even more shocking.
You can purchase THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN at the following retailers.