Good day, my bookish peeps. I’ve attended a host of different author talks over the past decade, some in person and others virtual. The one question that seems to keep coming up is “where did you get your inspiration for…?” One of my favorite romance authors read a small article from a historical newspaper and then crafted an amazing historical trilogy based on one line from that article. Some authors find their inspiration comes from something they read in a newspaper or magazine. Others may see or read something that strikes their fancy while traveling. Inspiration seems to hit differently for each author, and as a reader, I find it absolutely fascinating that creativity works this way. I’m honored to welcome back Susan Ouellette, author of The Wayward Target, part of the “The Wayward Spy” series. Ms. Ouellette will be discussing her inspiration with us today. Thank you, Ms. Ouellette, for taking the time to come back for another visit. I can’t wait to learn more about your inspiration for this series. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
One Author’s Inspiration
by Susan Ouellette
One of the most common questions readers ask is what inspired me to write espionage thrillers. It all began with Nancy Drew. Nancy, as every fan knows, was an amateur sleuth, not a spy, but she started me down a path that led to The Wayward Spy series. As a child, I devoured every Nancy Drew book on the library shelf. I wanted to be her, to encounter danger and emerge safe (and victorious) on the other side of a solved mystery. The desire to live the sleuth life led me to the only thing I could think to do—watch my quiet suburban neighborhood for crimes and suspicious characters. I went so far as to keep a notebook filled with observations about the neighbors’ comings and goings. Alas, the closest thing to a crime I encountered was the time someone cut the stems of all the flowers in my neighbor’s well-manicured yard. (The crime remains unsolved to this day.)
After burning through the Nancy Drew series, I moved on to Agatha Christie books. With their international flair, her novels introduced me to a broader world of intrigue. My sophomore year of high school, I read George Orwell’s 1984, an allegory for life in the Soviet Union. And just like that, my passion for books full of intrigue, mystery, and danger coalesced around something new—Cold War spy thrillers. I started with Tom Clancy’s classic, The Hunt for Red October, and never looked back. Forsythe, Follett, Le Carre, Ludlum—you name it, I read it. But as much as I loved these books, I wanted more. I wanted in. I wanted to be part of the spy world depicted in my favorite novels. But I wasn’t sure how to go about getting there.
In college, I took every Russia- and Soviet Union-related class that I could. Hidden away in the dusty, hushed stacks of the campus library, I spent my spare time researching the KGB and the CIA. One day, I happened upon an ad in the employment section of the newspaper (back when there was such a thing). A federal government job fair? Would the CIA be there? Several weeks later, I had my answer and an application for the Agency’s college internship program in hand. The whole process took nine months and included a thorough background investigation, an even more thorough polygraph examination that stretched over two days, and a chat with a CIA “shrink” who told me the polygraph was tripping me up because of my “Catholic guilt.” At last, one June morning, I received a phone call informing me I was to report to CIA headquarters in two weeks.
I was a bundle of nerves that first day on the job. After a lengthy (and somewhat tedious) orientation session, I found myself in an office staring at a file labeled “Top Secret.” I’d finally made it—I was Nancy Drew! Well, not exactly Nancy, but I couldn’t have been more excited if I were. I spent three years at the CIA as a college intern and a graduate fellow learning more about the former Soviet Union than I could have in any classroom. As much as I loved my time at the Agency, I leapt at the chance to work as a professional staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
I thought working for the CIA was cool (and it was) but working for the committee that oversees the entire intelligence community was beyond cool. Our office was tucked in a windowless space in the U.S. Capitol building’s attic. The atmosphere was a mélange of intrigue, secrecy, political power, and American history. I traveled, met CIA station chiefs, attended briefings from top government officials, and led an investigation into an intelligence matter I probably shouldn’t discuss. It wasn’t all excitement, of course. The most mundane part of the job was wading through stacks of intelligence agencies’ budget requests so I could recommend funding cuts or increases to congressional leadership. It was during those moments, with massive dollar amounts blurring on the pages before my eyes, that my mind wandered. I imagined the life of a fictional character with a background like mine who found herself embroiled in a dangerous political scandal. And that is how Maggie Jenkins, the protagonist in The Wayward Target, was born—in a windowless, soundproof, vaulted office in the Capitol building’s attic. It was a long journey from Nancy Drew to Maggie Jenkins, but I wouldn’t change a single step along the way. ♦
The Wayward Target
by Susan Ouellette
April 17 – May 12, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
When a price is placed on her head, Maggie must face the terroristic mastermind to save her lover’s life without betraying her most loyal friend.
Evil Triumphs Only if Good Women Do Nothing
A year after hunting down the terrorist who killed her fiancé, CIA analyst Maggie Jenkins finds herself with a price on her head. In retaliation for chasing and killing an elite member of a terrorist cell, Maggie now is on the hitlist of the mastermind behind numerous terrorist attacks.
With Maggie’s movements severely restricted by the presence of a round-the-clock security detail, it’s up to her boss, Warner Thompson, and CIA officer Roger Patterson to find and eliminate the terrorist who stalks her. But when a shadowy Russian operative surfaces and presents Maggie with intel that might lead her to the man who orchestrated her fiancé’s death, she can no longer watch from the sidelines. Is she willing to risk her growing relationship with Roger, Warner’s career, and her own life to finally get justice and bring down a major terrorist cell?
Genre: Espionage Thriller
Published by: CamCat Publishing
Publication Date: April 2023
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN13: 9780744308723 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9780744308761 (eBook)
ISBN: 9780744308778 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B0BW2KVJMT (Audible Audiobook)
ASIN: B09XY44NWK (Kindle edition)
Series: The Wayward Series, Book 3 | Each is a Stand-Alone
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Bookshop.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes & Noble | B&N eBook | B&N Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads | CamCat Books
Susan Ouellette was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, where she studied international relations and Russian language and culture at both Harvard University and Boston University. As the Soviet Union teetered on the edge of collapse, she worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, where she earned a commendation for her work done during the failed 1991 Soviet coup. Subsequently, Susan worked on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).
It was there in the Capitol Building, during quiet moments, that Susan conceived of Maggie Jenkins, an intrepid female character thrust into a dangerous situation borne of tragedy. Next came the threads of a plot, and from that blossomed her first espionage thriller, The Wayward Spy.
Susan lives on a farm outside of Washington, D.C., with her husband, three boys, cats, chickens, turkeys, and too many honeybees to count. In her spare time, she loves to read, root for Boston sports teams, and spend time staring out at the ocean on the North Carolina coast.
Catch Up With Susan:
BookBub – @susanobooks1
Instagram – @susanobooks
Twitter – @smobooks
Facebook – @SusanOuelletteAuthor
YouTube – @susanouellette-author6477
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