Friday, April 3, 2020

Neil Broadfoot; No place to die.

Today I am interviewing Mr Neil Broadfoot to find out how a writer of action packed thrillers is managing  to write during lockdown.


How is your creative mind coping with the lockdown?

Not too badly… so far! I’m getting a lot of ideas about lockdown-set thrillers and the like, but not anything down on paper. Yet. I’m lucky in that I’ve been editing the next Connor thriller, which is out in September, so that’s given me something to focus on.


What do your rather fabulous dogs contribute to your writing process?  Or are they a constant distraction?

The dogs are great, and rarely a distraction, unless I’m late with dinner! I invariably fall into thinking about books and plots when I’m out walking them, so they’re a great help from that perspective, and Skye (the eldest) has taken to sleeping beside me while I work – which is great, but the snoring can break the concentration a bit.

Morning or afternoon writer?

I’ve got three dogs and a six-year-old, so I write when I can! If I had a choice, I’d prefer the evenings though – after more than a decade in newspapers, when the shift started at 3pm, I find I’m more productive at night.

If you met Connor in a pub, would you enjoy his company? What attracts you to writing about him?  Is he ever going to get a lady where it is not complicated? Does he like Marmite?

Ah, to be able to go to the pub and have a pint! I’m not sure how I’d get on with Connor, he can be fairly intense. But he’s honest, and I appreciate that, and it would be good to have a conversation with him that’s not isolated (sorry, bad pun!) to my head. I doubt it would ever be simple for him on the ladies front, ultimately, he just wants a quiet life, but reality just doesn’t work that way. As for Marmite, I’ll ask him the next time we’re talking!

Do you think it’s easier to write fiction with a journalist’s background?

Easier? Not really. But a background in journalism definitely helps shape the approach to writing. I often joke that writing is a job that never feels like work, but the bottom line is, it is a job. Being a journalist trains that into you – there’s no time to wait for the muse to arrive, you’ve got a wordcount to hit and you hit it. It also takes a lot of the ego out of the editing process, when you get a manuscript back that’s scrawled with notes, you see it as a job, not an insult to the writing.  

                                                        I have inter viewed all three of these at once.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

I suppose procrastination is a form of writer’s block, and yes, I suffer from that. But because I never plan any of the books, I’m, always keen to get back to what I’m working on and see what’s going to happen next, which helps motivate me to power through. And, as I said, this is ultimately a job that I have to get done. 

As a journalist, have you stumbled on a really good true story that ethically you cannot tell?

No comment, your honour. Coughs yes coughs

                                        Neil probably flung somebody off the top of this..

Are you a sadist? Do you really enjoy putting Connor in to difficult situations and watching him  trying to get out?

Hah! No (at least, I don’t think so!). But thrillers are based on drama and conflict, so I need to put Connor in tough situations to see how he gets out of them. But, as I don’t plan, I have no idea what sort of trouble Connor is going to get into when I start a book, so it’s as much a surprise to me as to the reader!

What’s next for you and Connor?

I’ve just delivered The Point Of No Return, which is out in September. Then it’s on to  the next Connor thriller, which is a book I have to write. I was doing an event last year and a woman asked if I was going to tell Paulie’s story next. I said I would and she told me to hurry up as she really wanted to read it but wasn’t sure how long she had left (she must have been in her eighties). So I’ve got to do that, and quickly! But it’s the book I’ve been building to with Connor, the idea for it came to me when we first met Paulie in No Man’s Land. 

                                                  Neil and some other crime writey bloke called Craig….
                                                        Photo from the Edinburgh Reporter

You do write some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read? Is this from personal experience? 

Thank you! I boxed a bit and did martial arts in my misspent youth, so I guess that informs the part. But mostly it’s about choreographing in your head – who’s going against who, what weapons are being used – and then just trusting the scene to form. It probably also helps that I watched waaay too many action movies growing up.

And if fight scenes are as difficult to write as sex scenes….and  what about that first line?

I have no idea where that line came from! I was working on another Connor story completely when it just popped into my head. I tried to ignore it, but it kept insisting, so I went back and did the one thing I promised I would never do and wrote a sex scene (sort of). And from there, No Place To Die just sort of fell into place.

In your WIP are you referencing the pandemic at all. My next  book is set June  2020 so everybody is short staffed!

Good question. I’m just about to start my next book and, like a lot of writers, I’m trying to figure out how to reference this. Part of the problem is we have no idea what the world is going to look like in six months to a year’s time. I want to reflect a believable world in my books, but what world will that be. I’m open to suggestions!

                                      Douglas whose jokes have been known to  drive people to murder
                                                           And he took his own photo!

                                                       What’s the strangest thing you have ever come across in your research?

Apart from Mark Leggatt and his nuns? Douglas Skelton. Without a doubt. But he is a great source for background – he helped me out with the Ice Cream Wars for the last book, and the information he came up with, based on his work in true crime, was invaluable.

                                                                                       The last book!

Ideally, free of children and dogs ( which is not ideal I know),  what books would you like to be in  extreme lock down with?

Ooooft, good question. I’ve a teetering TBR pile so I’d take a few of them to try and catch up. For books that I could go back to again and again, it would have to be Craig Russell’s Lennox series and The Ghosts of Altona, Complicity by Iain Banks and Derek Farrell’s Death Of… series, which is whip smart and funny as hell.

And of course a question you have been asked many times, why Stirling ?  Have the tourist board ever had a word with you?

Like just about everything else connected to my writing, Stirling was a complete accident. I was in town for Bloody Scotland when the idea of dumping a body up at the church just occurred to me. I took the idea for a walk and soon enough, Connor was born. I’ve not had any contact from the tourist board, but I guess I’m putting Stirling on the map, just maybe not for the right reasons.

                                                 pretending to be somebody else....
                                                           (Photo from STV)

You do find ingenuous ways to kill folk, and more ingenious body deposition sites.  What inspires that?  Watching the news? Your former work colleagues, stupid  people?  Fellow crime writers ?

Well, working with and knowing Douglas Skelton definitely feeds my homicidal rage. Joking aside, I’m not sure where it comes from. Mostly, it’s just a bolt from the blue, and random ideas forming into a fairly gruesome idea. I’ll see something- like the church in Stirling or The Scott Monument in Edinburgh, and I’ll think those magic words, “What if”. After that, it’s just a case of following the story and seeing who will die and why.

 I've blogged about these four before.... they explode nuns. What more do you need to know?

And finally, if you raced Connor in the 800 metres, who would win?

Connor, no doubt. My knees are shot!    

Caro Ramsay In Lockdown with Mr Neil Broadfoot.


  1. Thanks, Caro and Neil. Just added NO PLACE TO DIE to my TBR stack. Good thing ebook stacks never fall over...

  2. I feel as if I've just witnessed a reunion among old friends when only one was advertised as attending. Well done! I wonder, though, what's Skye's take on Marmite?