Thursday 26 March 2015


Torquil MacLeod's Meet Me in Malmo was featured on the blog yesterday. To date he has written 4 books in his Malmo series featuring Anita Sundstrom.

Torquil was the latest author kind enough to tolerate a few questions from me.......

Q. Is the writing a full-time occupation? What is or was the day job?

Writing has become a full-time occupation in the last year as it gradually replaced the advertising copy-writing I had done for the previous 36 years in agencies in Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle – and then latterly as a freelance.

Q. Did you suffer many rejections on the way to becoming published?

My first book – Meet me in Malmö – was rejected by every agent I sent it to.  One of the few who bothered to offer a comment was a London agent who said how well I wrote about Malmö but had obviously never been to Newcastle (which is described in the book).  I was rather taken aback as I’d lived and worked in Newcastle for 30 years.  Eventually, it was taken on by a hardback publisher – that was through direct contact.  It took about two years to get that far.  After the short run of the hardback sold out, the publisher declined to reprint it, so eventually I got my rights back and decided to self publish it as an e-book.  I've done the same with the follow-ups.

Q. Any un-published gems in the bottom of your desk drawer?

A novel I wrote about a copywriter who gets into all sorts of appalling scrapes, most of which are not of his own making.  I thought it was brilliantly funny and sent it off to get professional advice.  When it came back, the report concluded it wasn't remotely amusing!  It went straight back into the bottom drawer.  I have a few film scripts that could be converted into novels – that’s how Meet me in Malmö started.

Q. What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

When the e-book of Meet me in Malmö got into Amazon UK’s top 50 – for a day!

Q. What’s a typical writing day consist of?

I’m not very disciplined.  I’m easily distracted so I tend to work in bursts.  When I was freelancing, it was a matter of fitting in the odd hour or half hour of novel writing around my work.  Now my most productive writing is done later in the day because I've usually spent the morning faffing around.

Q. Do you have a target word count for each day or do you write for a set number of hours, or do you have a specific point in the story you want to get to?

I want to write at least a thousand words a day.  On a good day, it’s a lot more; on a distracted day, less.

Q. Are you a plotter? Do you have a beginning, middle and end all mapped out before you start, or does the story unfold of its own accord as you write it?

Definitely not a plotter.  I sometimes have the beginning or the end, and then work from there.  I’ll have a vague idea of the story-lines as I like to work two into each book (except for Meet me in Malmö, which has one main plot).  I go in with the attitude that if I have no idea what’s coming next, hopefully the reader won’t either.  It also makes the story more flexible, so it can go off in directions I wasn't expecting.

Q. Do you have to do much research for your books? How does a Scotsman living in the North of England end up writing Scandi-crime?

I like to visit the locations I use.  And as my elder son has lived in Malmö for over a decade, that has made life easy.  And through him and his family, we have a lot of Swedish friends in southern Sweden – one of whom is a blonde, female detective.  That’s also useful!  Some readers like to look up the locations I use on Google Earth, so I have to make them accurate.

I first visited Sweden in 2000 and thought it would be a great place to set a film.  I was working with a producer on various projects at the time.  Back then, Henning Mankell and the Scandi crime invasion hadn't yet reached the UK.  When the films came to nothing (as they tend to do), I decided to turn one of two Swedish ideas I had into a book. 

Q. Any plans in the future for some non-Sundstrom books? 

Last year I brought out an historical crime book called Sweet Smell of Murder.  It’s the story of a feckless actor who finds himself in deep trouble in the Newcastle of the 1750s.  It’s more of a Georgian romp with murders and spies thrown in.  The manuscript had gathered dust in that bottom desk drawer for 20 years, so I decided to give it an airing.  At the time I had ideas for another twelve.  I would certainly like to write another one or two.  I’m too old now to complete them all.

Q. In Meet Me in Malmo and I might be barking up the wrong tree totally, our retired Inspector Gazzard – it wouldn't be a hat-tip to a certain famous North East footballer with a similar moniker? I've never heard of it before.

No.  Inspector Gazzard was named after one of my oldest school friends.  But I like the idea of Inspector Gazza.  Maybe Inspector Gazza could investigate all the things that have gone wrong at St James’ Park in recent times.

Q. Who are you reading and enjoying?

I love history and I try to introduce snippets that people might not be aware of into the Anita Sundström stories.  As part of the research for the latest book, Midnight in Malmö, we went to Berlin.  As a result I've just read Antony Beevor’s Berlin: The Downfall 1945.  “Enjoying” is probably the wrong word as it’s a brutal read.  Though it’s the wrong way round, I want to move onto his Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege

Q. Last 5 books you've read?

Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor
The Highland Lass by Janet MacLeod Trotter (she’s my sister and a prolific novelist)
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré
The Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard

Q. Is there one all-time favourite book you wished you had written?

I always loved George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books.  Not only are they funny and stuffed with wonderful history, but also I just love the cheek of pinching someone else’s famous literary character and running away with it. 

Q. Favourite activity when not writing?

Nowadays it’s spending precious time with my grandchildren who, unfortunately, live nowhere near us.  And I've spent a lifetime supporting sporting lost causes – Scotland rugby and football, Newcastle United, and the England cricket team.

Q. What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

I've started on an Anita Sundström short story set around a typical Swedish Christmas.  Too early to judge whether it’s going to work.  Then, later this year, I’ll begin the fifth Malmö Mystery.  In between, I might return to my feckless 18th-century actor.

Q. What’s the best thing about being published?

It’ll be nice to have a physical paperback in my hand with a cover I like (the hardback one didn't do the book any favours).  I think I’ll feel a real sense of achievement.  Put it this way, if my old English teacher were still alive, he wouldn't believe it.

Q. What’s the worst?

I’ll let you know after the paperbacks come out.

Q. If I pop back in a couple of years’ time – where do you hope to book with the writing career?

I hope to have produced another couple of books by then.  At least it’ll keep me from getting under my wife’s feet.

Many thanks to Torquil for his time.

You can find out a bit more about him over here on his website. 

His Malmo series of books were originally self-published, but are being re-released in paperback by McNidder & Grace, starting with the first today.

The following three will appear in print later this year I believe.

Paperback available in June

Paperback available in August
Print version - TBA


  1. Interesting interview as ever! Thanks both of you. The publishing journey is definitely note an easy one! Much success!

    1. Margot cheers. I'm enjoying this interviewing lark! Agreed - regarding the difficulties in getting into print. Thick skin an essential.

  2. Col, thanks for yet another inspirational interview. I think, the important thing is to hang in there and keep writing and churning out stories and novels.

  3. Yet again - great interview, and he sounds lovely! Definitely interested in these books.

    1. Go for it would be my advise - biased of course

  4. The comment about Newcastle was very funny. I think that is why there are varied opinions on how well an author does the setting. People just have different experiences in the same place. Nice author interview.

    1. It must have been quite a slap around the face, I wonder how well the agent in question nearly 300 miles away knew the city. We all see different things though in the same book, you're right.