Please welcome Marilyn Larew, author of The Spider Catchers.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My idea of a perfect day would be nothing interrupting my writing time (doctors appointments have been big recently), barbecued chicken for dinner, and a good book to finish off the day.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My signature color is navy blue. My signature word apparently is “apparently.” I have to go through every manuscript and take it out dozens of times.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are inspirations for the mean streets Lee must sometimes walk down and Eric Ambler for the international intrigue she deals with.
Do you listen to music when you write?
No. I’ve tried, but I don’t really listen, so I don’t bother anymore.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted my protagonist to be a strong woman with some connection to the CIA. I wanted my plot to deal with current issues, so I fell back on what I know. My dissertation was on money and banking, and I taught a course in the history of terrorism before I retired. The funding of terrorism, which includes drug smuggling and human trafficking, attracted my attention as an important theme. I put all these interests together in the plot of The Spider Catchers.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
My protagonist, Lee Carruthers, regularly works against gun and drug smugglers, human traffickers, and terrorists. None of these criminal endeavors can be wiped out. They are eternal Hydras, but Lee can occasionally cut off the head of one of the snakes.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Lee is the third generation of her family to work in intelligence. Her grandmother ran a safe house and escape route in Paris for OSS during World War II, and her father sold counterfeit piastres on the Hong Kong black market during the last days of the Vietnamese war to finance Agency projects. She has a masters degree in Islamic Culture from Yale. By the time we meet her, she’s tired of Islamic culture, tired of wearing black suits and covering her hair and trying to be invisible in a man’s world. She is not the invisible type. She’s seen too much and done too much, so she’s cynical and a bit world-weary, but underneath it all she still believes.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I’m finding this question hard to answer. Strong female protagonists are relatively new on the thriller scene. As you see, all the writers who influenced me. Lee is probably the lineal descendent of Emma Peel of the TV series The Avengers, always ready to take action. She also has a lot of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher, the Melbourne flapper, in her. Phryne has a clear-eyed view of the rot that lies under the surface of modern society.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Jane Austen must come first. Although I suspect in her day she sat quietly watching the human comedy, I think her dinner table conversation would be delightful. John Buchan must be another guest. His work shows all the prejudices of his time, but Greenmantle is a superb World War I adventure tale. I’d like to seat Eric Ambler next to him and watch the sparks fly. Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee series led me to a lifelong interest in Chinese history. His famous collection of Chinese erotica would be an interesting topic of conversation. Perhaps I’ll seat him next to Jane Austen. Finally, Charles Todd (the Inspector Rutledge series), a unique mother-son collaboration, whose portrayal of the effects of World War I on British society, will also be an interesting contrast to the work of John Buchan. This seems to me to be an interesting combination of nationalities and time periods. I don’t think it would be much trouble to keep the conversational ball rolling. Besides I’d like to meet each of them.
What’s next for you?
I’m in the process of revising the second book in the Lee Carruthers series, Dead in Dubai, which I hope to bring out late this year or early next year. It takes me to the fabulous Emirate of Dubai, which I hope my readers will find as fascinating as I do.
Marilynn Larew was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and after a living in a number of places, including the Philippines and Japan, she finally settled in southern Pennsylvania, where she and her husband live in an 150 year old farmhouse. She has taught courses about the Vietnamese War and terrorism at the University of Maryland and travelled extensively in Europe and Asia. She likes to write about places she has been or places she would like to go. She has published non-fiction about local history, Vietnamese history, and terrorism. The Spider Catchers is her first novel.