Interview of Marilynn Larew

Author of The Spider Catchers and Dead in Dubai

1. When did you decide to seriously write a novel and why?

I don’t think anybody decides to become a writer. You’re walking along minding your own business one day when it seizes you from behind, and bam! you’re a writer for good or ill. Whether you have to get up at five am and write before getting the children off to school and you to your day job, or whether you have some hours during the day free to work, as I do, you write because you can’t not write, and you hone your skills hoping one day to become a published author.

I wrote my first novel after I finished defending my history dissertation. Most graduate students swear they’ll write a searing expose about how awful graduate programs are. Not me. I wrote a mystery featuring a hard-nosed female private investigator. It received some interest, but ultimately it wasn’t published, so I turned to academic pursuits. It wasn’t until I retired that I had time enough to write another novel.

2. Will you tell us a little about The Spider Catchers and Dead in Dubai and why they are a must-read?

The Lee Carruthers series is for fans of fast-paced action, plots ripped from today’s headlines, and exotic locations. Lee is a CIA analyst stationed in Paris to follow criminal money and terrorism funding. In The Spider Catchers, she is sent to Fez, Morocco, to find a colleague was gone missing after reporting she’s found a new stream of terrorist funding. With every question Lee asks, she is plunged deeper into a dangerous mix of terrorist funding and human trafficking. Ultimately she finds herself held captive in a terrorist camp in the Algerian Sahara. In Dead in Dubai, Lee is sent to Dubai to find out why a CIA officer is dead. She follows a trail of diamonds to a battle between two international arms dealers for market share and winds up nailed in a wooden crate aboard a ship bound for Karachi. Hint: she’s not rescued by the Marines.

3. What is your favorite part of the writing process and why?

I really love to write dialogue. If I had my way, my books would consist of nothing else. My first draft has almost entirely dialogue, and then I run through again and put in description, characterization, and “he said” and “she said.”

4. Can readers expect additional novels? If so, what fantastic city will you choose as the setting next time?

I was working on a third Lee Carruthers story, set in Hong Kong, when Aftermath muscled in and would not go away until I wrote it. Aftermath is about Annie Carter, a Baltimore PI, working in1980 in the wake of the Vietnamese war. It’s due out later in February. Whether that’s going to be a series or not I don’t know. It hasn’t spoken to me yet. The Lee Carruthers Hong Kong book about the democracy demonstrations is nearly finished. A fourth Lee Carruthers book is in the pipeline. It takes place in Istanbul, but it remains to be seen how much damage last year’s attempted coup did to the plot.

5. What would the main characters in your books say about you?

My characters will tell the world that I’m fixated on accurate historical detail, because I’m trained as a historian. In The Spider Catchers, I spent hours working out airline schedules in Morocco. I finally had to make them up because the real schedules didn’t fit my plot. They’d also say that I try really hard to keep them from getting into trouble, without much success fortunately, because that’s no way to write an interesting book.

6. Where do you gather inspiration for writing? And do you believe in the Writer’s Muse?

Where I get my ideas is a mystery to me. I realize that saying “they just come” is some kind of a copout, but it’s true. I have a general idea of where I want to place my book, probably because something interesting has been going on there. Then I put Lee Carruthers there and stand back to see what will happen. It’s not really that simple, but that’s basically what I do. I’m not sure I believe in a Muse, but if I have one, she’s in my subconscious.

7. Do you have a writing mentor or hero? Why did you chose him or her?

I don’t have a writing mentor. I read a lot of mysteries, and I read them to see what works for that author. I guess because I’m trained as a scholar I depend upon texts to teach me. The closest person I have had to a mentor is the woman who read The Spider Catchers and told me to go out and learn how to write a novel.

8. What has been the toughest and greatest critique or advice you’ve received prior to publishing your first novel?

The toughest and greatest advice I got before publishing my first novel was given me by the woman I mentioned above who told me to go out and learn how to write a novel. She also suggested some books for me to read, and I read them. The first dozen how-to books you read are really useful. The next dozen are just repetition, so I stopped reading them and went back to writing.

9. What plans do Marilynn, the author, have for the next five years?

My plans for the next five years? To read a lot more books and write a lot more books.

10. Outside of writing, what are your favorite past-times?

Besides reading, I love to travel and to collect foreign cookbooks. I enjoy reading them, but sometimes I cook from them as well. I used to enjoy gardening, but I don’t so much anymore since my knees have gotten creaky.

Marilynn Larew is a retired historian who taught for many years in the University System of Maryland. Besides American history, she taught the History of the Vietnamese War and the History of Terrorism, topics she uses in her writing. She likes to set her plots in places she’s been or places she’d like to go. She’s lived in Baltimore, but she just had to imagine Morocco and Dubai. She lives in southern Pennsylvania in a 200-year-old brick farmhouse with her husband Karl, who is also a historian and author.

The most unusual piece she’s ever published is an article about Vietnamese military history in 300 BC.

Marilynn belongs to the Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and the Chinese Military History Society.


The Spider Catchers
Dead in Dubai
Web site:
Facebook: Marilynn Larew