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The Wayward Spy, Loudoun Author's Debut Work, Births a Fresh, New Heroine

Book by Susan Ouellette is Due Out March 2

In her pursuit of a Master’s Degree on International Relations, Susan Ouellette analyzed developments in the former Soviet Union as first an intern, then graduate fellow at the CIA. She then spent three years as a professional staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Service to an alphabet soup of think tanks and even a former acting CIA director heading up the Irish Peace process, followed, where she researched terrorism, splinter groups, weapons of mass destruction, infrastructure vulnerability and corporate competitive intelligence – all from open sources. But it was back in her days on Capitol Hill that she imagined a character not unlike herself fighting the forces of evil and defeating them by her wits alone.

Her first book, The Wayward Spy, due out March 2, blends her love of spy thrillers and her fascination with the real-life inner workings of Soviet intrigue, to deliver a great tale and a tough, resourceful, realistic female character named Maggie Jenkins. We chatted with her about the book. 

Q: Your publisher describes your heroine as an intelligence analyst, not unlike yourself in your early career, who sets out to clear the name of her CIA operative fiancé when he’s killed overseas and branded a traitor. She follows a trail, “littered with corruption and deceit leading straight to a terrorist threat looming where the Russian Mafia, Chechen rebels, Al Qaeda and U.S. government officials meet.” We’d expect nothing else! But I want to know more about Maggie.

Susan: Maggie is a detective. I have her pegged at about 28. She worked at the CIA, and, in this book, is sitting in the House Intelligence Committee. When I first conceived of her, I thought about what trouble she could get herself involved in, then out of. She’s not an operator, she’s an analyst, so she uses her mind.... A lot of people make these women into superheroes and I wanted her to be able to outwit the bad guys, not just walk into a room, find a gun behind the couch and mow them all down.

A: How do you draw from your previous experiences?

Susan: The book is based on my experiences in the agency and Capitol Hill. I started it nearly 20 years ago. It takes place in 2003. I remember sitting at work looking through the giant Congressional Budget book, and my mind would wander. I just started getting ideas for characters and who the villains might be.

[She finished the book in 2003, but it took three agents, massive rewrites and even penning a sequel before the book found a publisher.]

Susan: I believe mine will be the 20th or 21st book that CamCat has put out. I’m thrilled to be with a smaller publisher because I’m kept in the loop and have had a lot of input. They’re doing something interesting with [the audiobook]. The first third of the book will be a free, serialized podcast [in an effort to convince listeners] to buy either the audiobook or the book. 

Q: What about your second book – the one you said is already written. Are they committed to publishing that too?

Susan: They want to see it definitely. Funnily enough, I just got a Publisher’s Weekly review that mentions that it is part of my “series launch,” so who is my publisher to say? [laughs] I think there are at least three here. I don’t really know what the third book is about yet. I’d have to discuss that with my editor: Is it Jack Ryan / female version, or is there a follow-on with entirely new characters?

Q: How did you get interested in the Soviet Union?

Susan: I must have gotten bored with Agatha Christie at some point, and wandered over to the non-fiction section where I started reading about all the operations that the CIA ran against the KGB and vice versa, and I loved the mystery of it and the secrecy. Back then it was framed as good against evil. I just thought it was really fascinating and I was hooked.

See for more, including a video trailer, or pre-order it at

  • Susan Ouellette at her Home in Hamilton