Guest Post with Heleen Kist

Author bio:

Heleen Kist is a Dutch quintilingual Stanford-educated globetrotting career woman who fell in love with a Scotsman and his country, and now writes about its (sometimes scary) people from her garden office in Glasgow. She is a recognised expert in international business and small business finance and has put this knowledge to good use for her debut novel, In Servitude.

[For the author’s professional credentials in business see LinkedIn]

Setting out on a mission

No matter how content you are in life, you occasionally need something new and exciting: a light to pierce through the clouds of the mundane. A life-affirming frisson, if you will. To shake things up, I’ve challenged myself to undertake some daunting tasks in the past, like stand-up comedy, but writing a psychological suspense novel has been the hardest thing I’ve done so far.

When I decided in January 2017 that I would write a novel, I did not have an inkling of what the story would be. Living in Glasgow, with the reputation it has, it was obvious there should be an element of crime. But what did I know about crime, beyond what I’d read in novels or seen on TV? Thankfully, very little.  And in a way, I wanted to keep it that way. But I did wonder: how easy would it be for an ordinary person to not just become a victim of crime, but to become the perpetrator?

Over the course of the next 2 months, while I took part in the James Patterson Masterclass online, I made a point of being extra observant, asking myself ‘Could this be a story?’ whenever something unusual caught my eye. Then a friend told me about wanting to open a vegan patisserie. ‘Wouldn’t that make a lovely setting?’ I thought. I also quipped that if it didn’t’ work out, it could always become a front for money-laundering.

And so was sewn the seed for In Servitude.

What ‘Write what you know’ meant for me

You see, in my day job I am somewhat of an expert in small business finance. I’ve set up venture capital and loan funds for local and national government, I was on the Board of what is now the British Business bank and I’ve sat on the Access to Finance expert group for the UK government. I’ve consulted to Scottish and European financial institutions.

So once the idea of financial crime took hold, I had the spark I needed.

I grabbed an old roll of wall paper from the garage, spread it out on the dining table, stopping the sides from curling with the first things that came to hand – potatoes – and drew the whole plot out: the twists, the red herrings, the sub-plots and all.

Then to write it all out. I won’t lie: it was hard.

But because I had a full outline, I just went about it chapter by chapter. Mentally picturing the whole scene unwinding like a movie before I started to type. The dialogue came easy: I could hear the different characters speaking inside my head. The plot had already been laid out, so it was down to capturing the action and the settings in a compelling way.

Never truly free

I was careful to keep the ‘accounting skulduggery’ simple and accessible–financial matters aren’t everyone’s bag. And ultimately, In Servitude is not really a story of financial crime. It was the vehicle to write about how we’re all beholden to another in some way. A family drama with plenty of betrayal that shows that we’re never truly free.

I’ve been delighted with the fantastic reviews and reader feedback I’ve had. As a debut author it all seems quite wondrous. And yet it reiterates my theme: I’m now expected to write another…!


Do you owe your family your life?
When her beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, Grace McBride’s carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory had been sucked into illegal activities at odds with her seemingly charmed existence. What’s worse: Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice and forced to take over the shady dealings.

Determined to keep her fingers clean and redeem her sister’s reputation, Grace plots to extricate herself—and those Glory held dear—from the clutches of Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her moral certitude is challenged when familial pressure mounts and Glory’s past intentions remain unclear. Grace grows convinced Glory’s death was no accident, even if no-one will listen.

Seeking justice, she finds betrayal.

Excerpt 1:

Blue pulled at the lead. I let him off once I’d scanned the area and noted no loose dogs. Only a lone figure loitering. His eye line crossed mine as he also examined the park, and paused on me long enough to raise a creepy sensation.

I moved to a bench by the play park and pretended to tie my laces. When I straightened up, the man was striding straight towards me. I searched for Blue, hoping for a semblance of protection, but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was anyone else.

Before I could stop him, the man sat down next to me. He whistled and shouted, ‘Here boy!’ then faced me with a disturbing grin. As if he knew the dog wouldn’t come. I jumped to my feet and looked around. What had he done?

On the second blow of silent air through my dry mouth, Blue appeared from behind a tree thirty yard away. Safe. He showed no interest in me or the man, instead sniffing out the ground’s many treasures.

I turned back to the intruder. Standing over him gave me an edge—at least I thought it did—and I raised my chin and my voice when I asked, ‘Do I know you?’

He chuckled. ‘Nah, hen. I’m only the messenger.’


His smile faded. ‘We’re not very happy about you closing the café for so long. You need to open up again. There’s a delivery coming on Thursday.’

‘What do you mean? How do you—’

His eyes turned to ice as he grabbed my wrist in a flash. ‘We’ll be very disappointed if you’re not there to receive the goods. Ken what I’m saying?’

He rushed off, his dark coat billowing behind him like a cape, almost engulfing Blue who circled his legs, tail wagging, until he turned towards the road.

Excerpt 2:

A tailor’s dummy stood beside me, draped with colourful scarves that reflected the sunset in shimmering patterns, as if calling for my attention. I ran both hands through the soft fibres, creating dancing shadows on the wall and releasing a smell that punched me in the lungs, calling up a memory so vivid that I became light-headed.

Glory’s young voice.

‘Look at me! I’m Scheherazade!’

Loose strands of long red hair enveloped her face as she twirled around, her hands waving multi-coloured strips of fabric in fluid, hypnotising motions along her eleven-year-old body. She bounced towards me, covering her nose and mouth, batting her eyelashes in cartoon-style seduction. ‘Oh Aladdin, my hero! Shall I dance the dance of the seven veils for you?’

‘Stop it, Glory.’ I grabbed the so-called veils she’d been dangling in front of my face, too close. ‘Plus, that wasn’t Scheherazade. I’m fairly sure the dance of the seven veils was Salome.’

Glory shrugged and kept the choreography going. ‘I don’t care. It’s exotic! And foreign! And marvellous!’ Each phrase was punctuated by a defiant jiggle of the hips.

‘And a little blasphemous,’ I said, failing to suppress a large grin.

‘Okay, miss party-pooper. Your turn to do something with this.’

She heaped the mix of polyester, silk and cotton we’d rescued from our parents’ store onto my head and sat on the ground. Bright blues beaming in anticipation.

‘Fine, Salome. You think you’re so sexy. Well, you’ve got another think coming.’ I wrapped layer upon layer over my shoulders and across my waist, waiting for the inspiration that came so easily to her.

Once I could move no more for the bulk, I plonked my elbows on my side and stood legs apart like a superhero, bellowing, ‘For I am…Heidi!’ My heart leapt as her unrestrained laughter filled the room. ‘And I am on my way to meet my own man…’ I paused, basking in my sister’s approval, while I searched for that goatherd boy’s name—or any goatherd name. She roared as I broke into song instead. ‘High on the hill lived a lonely goatherd, yodelay-hee yodelay-hee yodelay-hee hoo!’

‘Oh Grace, you’re so funny,’ she said, then launched into yodels that merged into mine. And I wished it would last forever.

Publication date: 23 August 2018

RRP: £1.99 eBook; £9.99 Paperback

Pages: 338

ISBN: 978-1-9164486-1-2

Genre: psychological suspense / domestic noir

Amazon: Also available at Blackwell’s & Waterstones.




Twitter: @hkist

Amazon Author Page

There’s been a Murder Author interview with Dr Steven Veerapen

Steven Veerapen was born in Glasgow and raised in Paisley. Pursuing an interest in the sixteenth century, he was awarded a first-class Honours degree in English, focussing his dissertation on representations of Henry VIII’s six wives. He then received a Masters in Renaissance studies, and a Ph.D. investigating Elizabethan slander. Steven is fascinated by the glamour and ghastliness of life in the 1500s, and has a penchant for myths, mysteries and murders in an age in which the law was as slippery as those who defied it.

1. How did you get started writing?

I applied for a funding opportunity to write a nonfiction biography of Lord Darnley. I wasn’t successful, but I didn’t want to let the idea go, so I thought I might see if I had it in me to novelise the story. I was used to writing from studying English, so I knew I could do it at length – but it had always been academic stuff.

2. What drew you to write a novel?

I guess it was a lifetime of reading novels and a career teaching. I mainly reach Renaissance literature, and I think everyone who studies history would like to go back and see what it was really like to live then. Without time portals, novels are the only way of doing that.

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

Daphne du Maurier is my favourite writer. I learned a lot from her work about zooming in and out of perspectives until I found a style that worked for me. Robert Harris is also very good in illustrating how to do this well.

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

Yes – my agent approached two publishers and received polite rejections. The trick is to persevere, even in the face of rejection. When I found a publisher, they were keen to accept the whole backlog I’d written.

5. There are many interesting characters in your novel – do you have a particular favourite one?

I think Simon Danforth, the detective character, is my favourite. He’s pompous and has some ugly sixteenth-century views, but he still tries to be a decent person.

6. What kind of research have did you have to undertake for your novel?

A lot of reading up on sixteenth-century Scottish history: politics, culture, and law. I’m lucky in that my PhD thesis was on Elizabethan law, speech, and writing – but Scotland was a different country. They did things differently there.

7. Are the characters in your books based on any in real life?

No. However, some quirks and behaviours I’ve seen in other people make their way in. Of course, those quirks only come from my perceptions of those people.

8. If you could set a series of novels in any decade, which would you choose and why?

I would consider looking at crime in the American gilded age or the British Edwardian period. The sixteenth century is where I’m comfortable, though!

9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

Simon Danforth is very superstitious – I have a phobia of looking at a clock directly at 12:00 as I was once told it brings bad luck!

10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned?

At the moment I’m writing a nonfiction study of the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and her brother. After that I’d like to try a spy thriller set in England and Scotland when Mary was a captive.

11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Agatha Christie. I’d like to ask her directly about her eleven-day disappearance and get guidance on how to write a crime-solving couple, like Tommy and Tuppence. I prefer historical crime novels to current stuff – probably because when I was wee my mum kept books on Jack the Ripper all over the house!

12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?

Edit. I’m terrible at editing my own work, as I make lots of changes when I’m trying to sweep through for typos. I write so quickly I often miss out words, so if you’re not great at editing, try and get someone else to do it. In terms of writing, be clear on your narrative perspective. I struggled with this at first but have learned that I cope best following one character’s thoughts rather than being omniscient. If you want to leap into someone else’s head and let the reader know what they’re thinking, start a new chapter!

A new historical crime series, featuring Simon Danforth.

The Abbey Close

Paisley, 1542.

As the armies of Henry VIII and James V prepare for battle, Catholic exile Simon Danforth must decide his loyalties.

Cast out of England, he is drawn by private grief to a secretive Scottish Abbey, and the mystery of a missing girl who worked there.

Though Paisley and its Abbey refuse to give up their secrets, they do give up their dead.

In the tense and suspicious atmosphere of a nation at war, Danforth, in an uneasy alliance with his dogged colleague, Arnaud Martin, uncovers murder, madness, and sexual desire infecting the sacred house and its neighbouring town.

With the fate of his adoptive country hanging in the balance, does he dare to uncover the unimaginable truth?

Some secrets may be better left buried.

The Royal Burgh


King James V is dead, and Scotland is thrown into turmoil.

As the country is torn asunder the nation’s criminals flourish.

Out of favour with their master, Simon Danforth and Arnaud Martin escape the discontent in Edinburgh and travel to Stirling, hoping to find peace.

Instead they find murder, and must pit themselves against a shadowy killer.

Investigating the brutal death of a mysterious, beautiful woman, Danforth finds himself locking horns with a master criminal whose identity is shrouded in secrecy, but who has his own private army of enforcers.

With Martin bent on revenge against the doctor who let his sister die, can Danforth unmask the killer and stop his friend turning his own hand to murder, or will the flames of vengeance consume them both?

The Cradle Queen

Linlithgow Palace, 1543.

As Henry VIII turns greedy eyes northwards towards the baby Queen of Scots, the ghosts of Scotland’s bloody past rise from the grave. With the queen a child, her mother a captive, and the governor a puppet, the future of the realm hangs in the balance.

Commanded by their master, Simon Danforth and his friend, Arnaud Martin, join the household of Queen Marie of Guise.

But the glories of royal service are quickly tarnished for the loyal Danforth and lovelorn Martin.

Marie’s glittering household hides a deadly secret. When a series of murders takes place, recreating grisly deaths caused by Scotland’s kings, Danforth is compelled to take to the political stage. What he finds makes it clear that the crown itself is under threat.

Faced with a seemingly invisible murderer and drawn to a strange young woman, Danforth must decide where his own future lies: in loyal service or in marriage – duty or love.

Caught in a web of deception, Danforth must unmask the assassin before the crown is stolen – or will chasing ghosts lead him to the grave?

The Abbey Close – Simon Danforth #1 (2018, Sharpe Books)

The Royal Burgh – Simon Danforth #2 (2018, Sharpe Books)

The Cradle Queen – Simon Danforth #3 (2018, Sharpe Books)

Fire and Faith – Simon Danforth Omnibus (2018, Sharpe Books)

The Queen’s Consort: The Story of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley (Sharpe Books, 2018)

Twitter @ScrutinEye

Amazon Author Page

Bloody Scotland 2018 Blog Tour with Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. He was educated at Eton College (1985-1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990-1994), where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”.

1. How did you get started writing?

I wrote a short story at my secondary school which won a prize. That gave me the confidence to continue writing fiction. I published a couple more stories while studying at Edinburgh University.

2. What drew you to write a novel?

When I was 25, I was interviewed for a job by MI6. The whole experience was so fascinating that I felt it was crying out to be dramatised. So I wrote A Spy by Nature.

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing? 

Apart from John le Carré, the writers I most enjoy and admire are John Updike, Martin Amis, Richard Ford and Graham Greene.

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest? 

I was lucky in that I found an agent quite quickly who was able to sell A Spy by Nature to Penguin. But the book was turned down by several other publishers.

5. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one? 

I enjoyed writing about Kit Carradine, the hero of The Man Between. Miles Coolidge, the grotesque CIA officer in Typhoon, is another favourite.

6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels? 

I like to visit the places I am writing about, to smell the air in Shanghai, so to speak, to taste the food in Istanbul and walk the ground in Odessa. For The Man Between I made two separate trips to Casablanca and Marrakech in order to try to recreate the atmosphere in Morocco.

7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life? 

There’s a little bit of me in Kit Carradine and Thomas Kell, but otherwise I tend not to draw on real people when creating characters. The only time I’ve ever done that was in The Hidden Man. Ben Keen’s journalist wife was based on somebody I knew very well at the time.

8. Do you have a particular favourite place you like to set your novels?

I’m increasingly drawn to setting my books here at home in the UK. London is a great city to write about. My next novel will feature a character born and raised in Edinburgh.

9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa? 

Maybe that’s for other people to judge! It would be impossible for any novelist not to reveal something of their own personality in the stories they tell and the characters they create.

10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.

I’m working on a new idea, but it’s too early to go into any detail. I don’t want to jinx it!

11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

It would have been fascinating to meet Raymond Chandler, but I’m not sure how he would have felt about collaborating on a book. He wouldn’t have needed any help when it came to writing.

12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?

Don’t give up your day job. You’ll need the money.

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

A gripping new standalone spy thriller from the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year and ‘the master of the modern spy thriller’ (Mail on Sunday).

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok – a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.


A Spy by Nature (2001), ISBN 0-14-029476-7, the first Alec Milius novel

The Hidden Man (2003), ISBN 0-14-029477-5

The Spanish Game (2006), ISBN 0-14-101783-X, the second Alec Milius novel

Typhoon (2008), ISBN 0-14-101802-X

The Trinity Six (2011), ISBN 0-312-67529-1

A Foreign Country (2012), ISBN 0-00-733783-3, the first Thomas Kell novel

A Colder War (2014), ISBN 0-00-746747-8, the second Thomas Kell novel

A Divided Spy (2016), ISBN 0-00-746751-6, the third Thomas Kell novel

The Man Between (2018), ISBN 0-00-820031-9, published in the US as The Moroccan Girl (2019)


Amazon Author Page



Facebook Author Page