Competition Special - Interview with EC Scullion

Please note this competition has now closed.

We've got a treat for Thriller Women readers over the festive period to thank you for your support over the three months since we launched this blog. We hope you've discovered lots more authors for your to-read list and have picked up some writing tips and insights into writers' lives along the way! 

Over two weeks you'll have a chance to win our co-founders novels, starting today with EC Scullion's Intruders. Keep an eye on her Twitter feed for details of how to enter! Next week Penny Batchelor's novel My Perfect Sister will be the prize.

The ebooks of Intruders and My Perfect Sister are available from Amazon and Kobo. Buy the paperbacks from all good booksellers or from our Thriller Women list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Want to know more about where EC gets her thrilling ideas from? Here's Penny's interview with her where she delves into the exotic places she's lived for her work at the Foreign Office and how she researches the perfect robbery!

PB: You and I share the same publisher, RedDoor Press. What was your route to becoming a writer and getting your publishing deal?

EC: I have been writing since I was a teenager and had written three novels before Intruders, none of which were particularly good. Intruders was the first novel I felt truly proud of, but the UK fiction market is very competitive and, despite submitting to a broad range of agents, it was rejected all round. Feeling a little deflated, I enrolled on a six month writing a novel Faber Academy course in an attempt to hone my skills as a fiction writer (the novel I started on the course still needs to be finished). I was toying with the idea of self-publishing, but not knowing much about how to do it properly, I thought I would submit to a few smaller, indie publishers first. I was thrilled when RedDoor said they wanted to work with me.

PB: Your first novel, Intruders, is an adventurous crime thriller. What gave you the idea for the characters and plot?

EC: I work for the UK Foreign Office and I have been really lucky in having spent the last twelve or so years living and working abroad, mainly following my husband around on foreign postings. When we moved to Montevideo, in Uruguay,in 2016, the house we lived in was on a secure residential compound, surrounded by an eighteen hole golf course: very different from what I was used to. There was a secure door in the middle of the house, which I would lock every night before I went upstairs to bed. I knew at that stage that I wanted to write a thriller, and locking that door at night finally gave me the spark I needed. I started to think about why someone would want to break into a house in that situation, and what they would be after. So the idea for Intruders was born! I knew I wanted to write about characters who were shady by nature, but not necessarily bad people. My favourite character in the book is called Becca, who is a talented pickpocket with an interesting past. 

PB: You’ve moved around a lot in your adult life. I love the places Intruders is set in, reading the novel is like armchair travelling. How has travelling inspired your writing and do you have a favourite place in the world?

EC: Travelling has been a huge influence to me as a writer. I adore seeing and experiencing new places and languages. My first foreign posting was to Beijing in 2008. I had never been to the Far East before and it was a complete culture shock but I loved every minute. It inspired a novel I wrote set in the British Embassy there. After my husband and I got married, he was then posted to Thailand in 2013, so I’ve seen a lot of Asian countries. We were then posted to South America, firstly to Uruguay and then later to Panama in Central America. Not many people get to do as much travel - I know how lucky I am - but it means that I can’t just write a novel set solely in the UK anymore! Whenever I go somewhere I like, I start trying to find ways to wedge it into a book. I have a tendency to want to put places into a novel even when it doesn’t fit the story though - so I definitely have to reel myself in sometimes. I think my favourite cities are Mexico City and Bangkok, and my favourite countries are Chile and Costa Rica. I’ve been to Sydney and would love to see more of Australia.

PB: Without giving away the plot there’s quite a bit of criminal activity in Intruders. What research did you do?

EC: Location-wise, I didn’t have to do a lot of research because the book was set in places I had already been to; it was mainly a case of connecting the dots. In Uruguay my Spanish was dreadful, but eventually I spoke enough to get by, and I consulted a native Argentine Spanish speaker to ensure I had the Spanish dialogue right in the book. I watched an awful lot of videos on YouTube about how to break into a safe - it’s amazing what you can find online! I also researched different types of locks, and I was advised by my editor that my main character needed to have some knowledge of that side of things, hence Tom Holt ended up as a former security consultant. I also used to run laps around the housing compound that we lived on, looking at possible ways in and out, and paying attention to what security measures were in place, so all that contributed to the story. I wanted it to sound as authentic as possible.

PB: Actually writing a novel is only part of the job. There’s editing, promotion and other things as well. What’s your favourite part of being a writer and which parts do you find harder?

EC: My favourite part is writing the first draft, just getting the words down and living the scenes in my head as I go. That’s the part that thrills me the most - I get a buzz from writing an exciting scene or dialogue exchange. Editing I find much more tough - not just because it usually involves getting rid of a scene or a phrase that I’m fond of. I had to cut Intruders down by about 20,000 words and it was difficult to know what you should stay and what should go. I am not naturally good at self-promotion so I find that part of being a writer quite strange at times, but it’s an essential in this day and age in order to sell your books, unless you’re uber-famous!

PB: Intruders was published during lockdown in the UK. How did this affect your launch plans and what did you do?

EC: I am based in Italy at the moment as both my husband and I work at the British Embassy here. It was my plan to come back to the UK in June to have a big launch for family and friends at a bar/restaurant. I had booked flights but it soon became apparent that this was not going to happen - so I decided to go with a Facebook live launch event, similar to your own! It was quite well-attended, and I think it went pretty well, but sitting in my living room on my own with a glass of champagne was not exactly what I had envisioned for a book launch.

PB. What do you think you would have thought and said as a child if you were told you were going to be a published thriller writer?

EC: I don’t think I would have believed it! 

PB: Intruders is the first in a series. What exclusives can you tell readers about what’s to come?

EC: Oooh, well! I have planned a trilogy, so that’s what I am working towards. I have finished the next book, and the story picks up where it leaves off in Intruders. Many of the characters are returning, and I have a new lead character who is a young but ambitious journalist. The action is set in the UK, but also in Chile and in Panama City. I’m so excited to begin writing the final part.

PB: Which thrillers have you read recently? Do you gravitate to either crime or psychological or do you like all novels in the genre?

EC: In fiction, I read all sorts! I enjoy psychological thrillers but I’m not sure I could write one myself - I don’t think I could come up with a convincing or original plot twist! I also enjoy gritty police procedurals. The only genre I’m not comfortable reading is horror - I’m such a scaredy cat. I can’t watch horror movies either! I recently read Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J Golds (Red Dog Press). It’s quite a short novel but I thought it was really impressive.

PB: You have a busy life juggling working, family life and writing. How do you do it?

EC: Haha. Basically I don’t sleep much and I don’t watch much TV. I write in the evenings, usually when I’m half asleep, when both my kids and my husband are already in bed. Because I’m a working mum, it’s the only time I have. That’s why it takes me about two and a half years to draft a novel! I would love to write full time - that’s the goal.

PB: How would you like Thriller Women to expand in the future?

EC: It would be nice to start doing events or having live sessions with authors. I watched Will Dean interview Stu Turton online recently and I enjoyed the format of writers interviewing fellow writers.

PB: And finally, if you have any free time when you are not working or writing, what do you like to do?

EC: When I get time, I like taking photographs a lot. I have an Instagram page (@emcscully) which has lots of photos I’ve taken in the last four or so years travelling.

Quick fire round:

PB: Your favourite thriller author of all time

EC: James Ellroy. I met him once at a book signing and he was truly a force of nature.

PB: A thriller you were disappointed at when seeing it adapted for the screen

EC: That’s so difficult because I never get to watch as much TV as I would like. I’m always the person who’s never seen the shows everyone is talking about! I was disappointed with the ending of Game of Thrones - not technically a thriller but still thrilling. From a storytelling perspective it just fell very flat for me. It could have been spectacular. I spent a few weeks afterwards planning my own ending for it in my head!

PB: And one you thought was better?

EC; I recently watched the Rebecca remake on Netflix - the critics didn’t like it but I thought it was great!

PB: Your favourite place to read

EC: Under a parasol on the beach or by a pool.

PB: A book in your TBR pile you haven’t got round to yet

EC: Oh so many! I keep meaning to start The Chain by Adrian McKinty

PB: Your favourite snack and tipple whilst reading?

EC: In Italy, they have these snacks called Fonzies. They are like a cross between Nik Naks and Cheesy Wotsits and they are so moorish!

Thanks EC!


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