It was as I sipped tea inside the headquarters of Pakistan’s legendary ISI spy agency, listening to the Generals spin their lies, that I first toyed with the idea of writing a thriller.
I was in Pakistan on a reporting assignment for NPR. It had already been a memorable trip. I’d driven up the Khyber Pass at sunrise, to watch refugees and smugglers cross over the border from Afghanistan. I had interviewed the governor of northwestern Pakistan in his pristine colonial mansion, as peacocks and servants strutted the jewel-green lawns outside. And now, as the country’s spy chiefs sat lecturing me and blowing smoke rings over my head, it occurred to me: this would make a hell of a scene in a novel.
It took me another three years to pluck up the courage to start writing one. Finally, after a particularly bad day in Baghdad (we’re talking a really bad day, so bad I wrote an essay about it for Newsweek), I decided to take the plunge.
The book that resulted, ANONYMOUS SOURCES, stars a feisty reporter named Alexandra James. Alex is very like me, if you set aside her flaming red hair, her endless legs and her bad habit of shooting dead her sources. (For the record: I have not shot a single one of my sources. Yet.)
My latest novel, THE BULLET, features a different sort of protagonist, a quietly elegant professor named Caroline Cashion. Ways that Caroline is like me: she lives in Georgetown, she loves 19th century French literature, she has a weakness for rye whiskey. Ways that she is not: she’s a brown-eyed brunette, she hates coffee, and she’s addicted to chorizo. Oh, and she has a bullet in her neck. Turns out there’s a bit of a story there…
Mary Louise Kelly has spent two decades traveling the world as a reporter for NPR and the BBC. Her assignments have taken her from grimy Belfast bars to the glittering ports of the Persian Gulf, and from mosques in Hamburg to the ruined deserts of Iraq. As NPR’s National Security Correspondent, she reports on wars, terrorism, spy agencies and rising nuclear powers. A Georgia native, her first job was working as a staff writer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kelly was educated at Harvard University and at Cambridge University in England. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their two children.