The Wayward Spy– Real time, inspired thriller by local lady
By Andrea Gaines
Don’t you love the title … The Wayward Spy. Gives me goosebumps.
The Wayward Spy, a new – and first – novel by a Loudoun woman named Susan Ouellette, was released on March 2.
It is really special when someone as talented and insightful as Susan Ouellette decides to make Loudoun County her home, and publish her first book from here.
In pursuing her dreams to be a writer, “going for it,” as she told the BRL, Ouellette dove deep. With it, she hopes to launch herself into the competitive world of the spy mystery author.
What a thrill it was to talk with her. She’s actually not “spooky” at all, talking to us with her cozy wood stove burning, and a hint of spring in the air.
Who is this wayward spy?
The title of Ouellette’s book is intended to intrigue, obviously, and it does.
The plot line follows the main character as she tries to unravel the murder of her fiancé, killed overseas. When he, a CIA operative, is identified as a “suspected” terrorist, she … smells a rat. And, her mission: to clear his name.
One reader, or critic, who comments on books, wondered aloud if The Wayward Spy’s main character might soon be known as the top female spy of her generation, a la the famous book and movies character in the well-known Jack Ryan series.
And, maybe she will.
Ouellette herself is a former CIA analyst, having spent many years in the intelligence game. As an author, she draws upon both her work in the CIA and her academic studies of international relations and Russia, at both Harvard and Boston Universities.
Ouellette’s work on the failed 1991 Soviet coup, her tenure on Capitol Hill (with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, or HPSCI), and other assignments make her the perfect “spy” to get interested in this kind of writing.
A press release for her new book notes that the author’s “quiet moments in the attic of the U.S. Capitol Building,” helped give rise to her new book’s main character, Maggie Jenkins.
“She has walked the halls of the House Intelligence Committee and the CIA and knows those institutions as very few novelists do,” says Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, former CIA Assistant Director for Analysis and former Staff Director at HPSCI: “Susan Ouellette has written a well-crafted page-turner that benefits not only from her imagination and way with words – but from her experience.”
As Ouellette tells it, when The Wayward Spy was released, she considered her own environment. There are a lot of former and current intelligence professionals in western Loudoun, she noted, “who might be interested in reading The Wayward Spy.”
But, in agreeing to an interview with the Blue Ridge Leader as her book was being rolled out, she was clearly interested in reaching the non-spy audience, too.
“I’m happy to chat,” she said in an email and follow-up phone call. “Today’s the day, the one I’ve been waiting for – for a long time. Thank you to everyone who already has purchased The Wayward Spy.”
Then this spy-turned-writer-turned-book-promoter said, “I hope that [the book] keeps you up reading way past your bedtime! Once you’ve finished the book, I’d be most grateful if you’d post a review …”
Will Maggie go on tour?
As noted, the main character in The Wayward Spy is a woman named Maggie.
As Ouellette explained, she hopes to develop the book into a series starring, as it were, this lovely lady.
“Are you doing local book signings, or other events?” we asked. Will Maggie go on tour? “I hope to do that,” said Ouellette. But, as she explained, in this world of spies and intrigue, and the rest, a lot depends on the business agreements you have already made.”
More intrigue. We like it.
“Do you consider yourself a creature of Washington?” we asked. “Well,” said the spy-turned-author, “I grew up in the Boston area, worked at the CIA for a long time, and on Capitol Hill. But, I’m also a researcher. So, a creature of Washington? I don’t know.”
“But,” she said, “There are a lot of us out here,” meaning … it seems… that our wonderful, tranquil, farmy, historic Loudoun County is filled with spies.
Indeed, as Ouellette related, spies like her love western Loudoun. She herself lived in Purcellville 17 years, and, lives now in Hamilton. “I live on a small farm of 10 acres … and I love it.”