A CIA analyst on maternity leave wrote a novel about a housewife who becomes a Russian spy


Many women say they’re going to write a novel on their maternity leave, but Karen Cleveland actually did so during a yearlong maternity leave from the CIA, where she worked as an analyst. (Cleveland is also a Fulbright scholar.)

“Need to Know” (Ballantine Books), out Tuesday, is a page-turner of a novel about a CIA analyst with children, a house in the D.C. suburbs and a loving husband who turns out to be a deep-cover Russian agent. Now she’s got an impossible choice to make: loyalty toward country — or her imperiled family?

The idea for her novel had been in the back of her mind for years.

“When you work for the CIA, you hear a lot of things about the potential for foreign agents to get close to you. I met my husband around the same time I started working there, and at first he seemed a bit too good to be true,” says Cleveland, who lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two sons.

“So it was on my mind. Luckily, [unlike in the novel], my husband just is a great guy.”

As for the “process” of writing a novel on maternity leave, there was not much time for the luxury of a regular routine.

“My routine was pretty much to fit in writing whenever I could,” says Cleveland. “When my older son was at preschool and younger son was napping, or when they went to bed at night. I didn’t have long periods of time, it was here and there. I’d be at playgrounds with them and I’d be plotting scenes in my head, then would write everything out at night.”

This report previously appeared at NYPost.com.

Don’t miss: 5 ways to keep the government from spying on you

Editor’s note:

Here’s a teaser for the novel on Amazon: “In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family—and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.”





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