Valerie Plame: From CIA Operative to Novelist

Oct 12, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Terry Ambrose

Info on winning a copy of Valerie Plame’s new novel at the end of this post.

Valerie Plame loved her job as a covert CIA operative until her cover was revealed by the Bush administration in 2003. Now, a decade later, the lady who once worked very hard to remain invisible is working just as hard to shift gears to the role of high-profile thriller author. Valerie is a rare breed in the field of writing fiction because she never saw herself in that role.

Valerie Plame

She said, “I loved my career and was proud to serve my country. I derived a great sense of satisfaction from my job. I have always been alarmed by how women in the CIA are treated in popular culture. They are generally depicted as obtaining intelligence through sexual favors or accomplished gun-play. The female characters tend to be one-dimensional and, to my mind, almost always verging on cartoonish. I wanted to change that perception and create a female character that was intelligent, strong-willed and much more realistic than what we have seen thus far.”

In fact, Valerie wasn’t really interested in writing fiction until she was approached by the editor of her memoir, Fair Game, about the project. Not having experience as a fiction writer, Valerie teamed up with thriller writer, Sarah Lovett. The two bring very separate skills to the project. Sarah brought the experience of how to create characters and plot, Valerie brought an inside look at the intelligence world and what she calls “spy craft.”

“I enjoyed working with Sarah Lovett, who is a thriller writer because she understands the pacing and craft of writing. I bring the trade craft and how things work behind the scenes. I wanted the writing to be realistic about the operations, including how people get in and out of a country,” said Valerie. “Sarah and I have very different writing experience, but it was a really good working relationship. We tossed things back and forth. We knew we had to have a villain and Sarah knows how to develop characters and I wanted realistic characters. Most people are intrigued and curious about the CIA and its worldwide operations, so this series will allow readers a glimpse behind the curtain.”

The question foremost in many readers’ minds will be, how much of Valerie is in her protagonist Vanessa? “In some respects, Vanessa is a reflection of my younger self when I served in the CIA, with all the faults that hindered me and attributes that helped my career. Like many in their 20s, I was absolutely sure about some things and still evolving in other areas. I love Vanessa because she thinks she can make a difference in the world and is willing to take risks. She sometimes rubs others the wrong way because she is assertive, sometimes brash and so focused on getting the job done that she doesn’t always recognize when she has ruffled feathers. Vanessa is not fantasy–her world and actions are real, with all their attendant complications and consequences. When writing Blowback it was sometimes hard to get ahead of the real-life headlines, from assassinations of nuclear scientists to the ever present danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue states.”

Blowback follows closely the writer’s doctrine to “write what you know.” Valerie is one of those thriller writers who do not have to research heavily to know how this dark side of our world operates. She said, “My experience in the CIA was focused on nuclear counter-proliferation. It revolved around nuclear facilities and how other nations might proceed with bomb design. I continue to think it is one of our most critical national security issues.”

Valerie is currently riding the high of a popular new release, but the past decade has been one that has been very difficult at times. “There were dark times for a while,” she said. Now however, Valerie and Sarah Lovett are working on the second book in the series, Burned. In Burned the high-stakes game between Vanessa and her nemesis continues. According to Valerie, “The second book is even better than the first. The characters are better, the plot is stronger, and the stakes are higher.”

More information
For more information about Blowback, visit Valerie Plame’s website at We’re also delighted to be able to offer a copy of Blowback in hardcover format.

To enter to win a copy of Blowback, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Blowback,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 19, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Terry Ambrose is a former bill collector and skip tracer who now uses that background to write mysteries and thrillers. His debut mystery Photo Finish was a 2013 San Diego Book Awards Finalist. You can learn more about Terry on his website.


  1. How interesting! Sounds good! Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. How interesting, and what a contrast moving from a covert world to gaining visibility as an author. Best of luck with your book, Valerie.

  3. I finished the “Blowback” last week, and really loved it. It has all the elements a thriller requires, especially a great protagonist that grabs one immediately, especially a female I’m also glad to see that Sarah Lovett is back writing; I really enjoyed her earlier series. Looking forward to book number two.

    • Oops, above post has a couple of errors. “the” should be deleted before “Blowback.” And there should be a period after “female.” (And I am a retired textbook editor.)

    • Hi Margaret, thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you liked Valerie’s book. It was a fascinating interview w/insight to the real spy world (just like Blowback).

  4. This was most interesting! And thanks for the chance to read what sounds like a fascinating book!

  5. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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