Marilynn Larew interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jun 16, 2017, 8:22 AM by David Alan Binder

Marilynn Larew interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from her website:  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 lives in southern Pennsylvania in a 200-year-old brick farmhouse with her husband Karl, who is also a historian and author. Besides Aftermath, she has also written two volumes in the Lee Carruthers series, The Spider Catchers and Dead in Dubai.

She belongs to the Sisters in Crime, the Guppies [a chapter of SINC], and the Chinese Military History Society.



Twitter: @marilynn_larew

The Spider Catchers

Dead in Dubai


1.   How do you pronounce your name? 

Larew is one of many variant spellings of LaRue. My husband’s people were French Huguenots who fled to the Netherlands to escape religious persecution. I think that’s where they picked up the spelling. They migrated to New York in the 17th century when it was still New Amsterdam.

2.   Where are you currently?

After living in many states and two foreign countries, I’m finally settled in southern Pennsylvania, just across the Mason-Dixon Line from Maryland.


3.   What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

The most important thing I’ve learned in my writing experience so far is “you’re making this up, you know.” I was trained as a historian and have had a great deal of difficulty shedding that way of thinking. I keep trying to make everything absolutely accurate. I had a terrible time with airplane schedules in The Spider Catchers. Casablanca is the airport of entry in Morocco, and every time you want to go somewhere, you have to fly to Casablanca first—for instance, if you want to fly from Fez to Tangier, you have to go from Fez to Casablanca first and then on to Tangier. I finally learned just to make up the airline schedule to suit my plot.

4.   Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

Since I’m self-published, I obviously see the benefits of going that way. The major benefit I see is control – control of everything from the cover and good editing to a quick release date. Too many of my friends who are traditionally published have complaints in these matters.

a.    Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?

My books are published by Artemis Hunter Press, and since I’m self-published, the press is located where I am—in New Park Pennsylvania.


5.   Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

The best thing a new writer can do is read, often and all sorts of things. Writing courses are also available at local colleges and online. They can be very helpful. There are also a number of “how to” books; one of the most helpful is Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

6.   What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

The most surprising thing I’ve learned is about editing. Picking up typos is a good deal more difficult than I thought it would be. Perhaps the best way to find them is to put your manuscript into your Kindle. They really pop out at you there.

7.   How many books have you written?

I’ve written three so far, two in the Lee Carruthers series: The Spider Catchers and Dead in Dubai. The third is Aftermath, a standalone (so far).

8.   Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

These suggestions are too well-known to be considered tips, I think. The first thing that you can do is read your manuscript aloud. This will alert you to clunky sentences and flat dialogue. The most important thing you can do is find a reader you trust and follow his or her advice. You don’t need to follow it all, but if you’re honest with yourself, much of that criticism will be accurate. If you’re going to be a writer, you have to learn to take criticism

9.   Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Take your story to the top and then shove it over. When your plot needs help, take a left turn. Have your heroine be captured by the Bad Guys. Have her love interest walk away for reasons he can’t or won’t explain. Have one of the Bad Guys suddenly turn into a Good Guy. Do anything your reader won’t expect.

10.                     What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

Lee Carruthers is not a CIA officer. She’s an analyst, but her boss keeps sending her into the field to do the things that are not in her job description. She’s not really trained as an agent, but she’s had to pick up street smarts to stay alive. I also think that the foreign location she works in makes my book a little different.

11.                     What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I’ve done blog tours before. This time I’m putting one together by myself. I’m doing interviews for bloggers like you rather than having someone put together a tour for me. That makes my blog appearances slightly different this time. Of course, I post on Facebook groups. I’m getting ready to buy some more publicity. The last thing I bought was a small listing in the New York Review of Books. I haven’t seen any sales from that. It was in a ghetto of fiction and nonfiction books by independents or published by small presses, and I’m wondering how many people went through it. I did have a good location, in the lower left end of the page, and since my cover is distinctive, it should have been eye-catching.

12.                      What is the one thing you would do differently?


I would start writing seriously a lot sooner. I worked on some short stories when the children were small, and I wrote a book about a hard-boiled female private eye after I finished my dissertation. That got a certain amount of interest but ultimately didn’t fly. Too bad. If it had, I would have written one of the very first books that genre. I waited until after I was retired to begin the serious work of learning how to write a thriller. I’m sorry I waited so long. If I hadn’t, Lee and I would be much farther down the road.


13.                     What saying or mantra do you live by?

Tomorrow is also a day.