An Interview With Daniel Clay – The author of Broken

Before you wonder what is this post about, please look at this trailer first!

With nine BIFA nominations (more than any other film this year), including Best Director, Best Film and Most Promising Newcomer for Laurence, Broken is one to look out for. It’ll be out in UK cinemas in spring 2013.

BrokenThat’s my brief introduction of BROKEN, the upcoming movie by Cillian Murphy. Broken was first shown at Cannes 2012 but it will be available for public somewhere in 2013. I have been waiting for this movie since last year.

I am not going to talk much about the movie and what is it about because I am going to let the man who wrote the book (which then becomes the movie) does the talking, Mr Daniel Clay 🙂

Maybe I should share how I end up with this fabulous interview. On November 6, 2012, I was a bit surprised and delighted at the same time when I saw a name I knew so well (because I have been looking for his book since I knew Cillian will play its adaptation) popped in my pending for approval comment…Daniel Clay, the author of Broken, left a comment on my blog post!! How cool is that? I shouted it out in my twitter before I had the nerve to answer his comment! To be honest, that comment was the highlight of my blogging life. He left his comment here> Musing On Book and Movie : No Movie is Greater Than The Book.

I was so thrilled when he told me he will send me a copy of Broken (yaaaiiii) and do a Q & A. He is such a nice gentleman 🙂

Now…I really will let Daniel do the talking (or in this case, writing). Hopefully, you will enjoy reading this as much as I do.


Daniel Clay
Daniel Clay

First of all, Congratulation for having your book turned into movie, Daniel. I think it’s a great achievement for any writer out there. I always wanted to know the process behind filming a book and how the author feels about it, and it’s such a great honour to finally have the chance to ask it directly to an author whose book had been turned into movie. Thank you for giving me the opportunity, Daniel 🙂

Here are my questions:

  1. The first thing I want to ask is who came to you to propose the idea of turning your book into a film? And what was their main reason for doing it?

It was a couple of producers at a production company called Cuba Pictures (@CubaPictures), which is a division of Curtis Brown, the literary agency who had just taken me on as a client with Broken – as soon as my agent had started sending Broken out to publishers he’d also passed it across to them and they approached me long before Broken was even published as a novel (although it had already secured publication deals in the UK, US and Canada).  I think it landed with them at the perfect time as they were just wrapping up their first major project, a film adaptation of Jonathan Trigell’s Boy A (if you’ve not seen this film or read the book it’s based on, I think they’re both fantastic), so were on the lookout for something and my novel just happened to appear out of the blue and fit whatever it was they were looking for.

  1. You told me that Broken had been rejected 30 times until it was finally published. How did you feel when your book finally not only attracted publisher but also movie producer?

The feeling I remember most was a huge adrenaline-rush that just couldn’t seem to go anywhere – it’s weird, because you know in the back of your mind that the first offers are  just small steps on a very long road and there are still all sorts of things that could go wrong before you have your book on the shelf or the film of it in the cinemas, but it was still a fantastic feeling each time it happened.  Definitely two of the best phone calls I’ve ever had!

  1. Did you get yourself involve in the production? Like writing the script or proposing certain actors for specific characters or anything else related to production.

No, not at all.  I think the people at Cuba Pictures had a strong idea of who they had in mind to do different things (Mark O’Rowe, for instance, who wrote the script, had worked with them on Boy A, and Rufus Norris, the director, was working with them on a stage production of Vernon God Little).  They kept me updated all the way through with what was happening with the script and funding and who was in line to play different parts, but that was the extent of my involvement, plus one day on set while they were shooting:  It was one of those situations where they never offered and I never asked, so I’ve no idea if being involved was ever an option or not.  I think I was right to stay out of it, though – my main ambitions in life are all tied up in writing novels, so best that I focus on that.

  1. Did the movie creative consult you during the filming or you were left blindly till the shooting was over?

I wasn’t consulted at all; the film is as they wanted it to be and other than handing them my novel to work with, I didn’t have any input.  I can imagine that sort of scenario would give a lot of writers nightmares, but it felt the right way to approach it for me – I’m not a script-writer and I’m not a director, so it was best to stay out of the way.

As for being left blind until shooting was over, I chose not to ask any questions – I think if I had asked, they’d have been very open with their plans and what they were up to, but I always knew they would have to make some pretty big changes to the novel’s plot for the story to work as a film, so I just wanted to sit down one day in a cinema and see their vision of the story exactly as they wanted it to be.

  1. Is the story in the movie exactly the same as the book? Or they changed a lot of it?

As you can probably guess, they’ve changed a lot.  It’s strange, because some of my favorite scenes from the novel aren’t in the film, and some of my favorite scenes from the film aren’t in the novel.  That made seeing the film for the first time quite a disorientating experience, but I love the fact you can read the book and then get a different experience from watching the film – or see the film and then get a different experience from reading the novel (as everyone who sees the film without reading the novel most obviously should!).

Skunk and her father

  1. How did you feel about the movie? Satisfied, annoyed or it could actually be better?

I don’t mind admitting I was over-awed by the quality of the movie and the experience of seeing it for the first time at a cast and crew screening – to sit in a cinema with a couple of hundred people who (to differing degrees) had devoted significant chunks of their professional lives to making the whole thing a reality was something I’ll never forget, especially as I felt it was so beautifully shot and brilliantly acted.  As for whether it could be better, no; for me, it’s pretty much perfect just as it is.

  1. Do you think they have chosen the right actors for each character in your book?

Yes, definitely, though none of the cast are quite as I pictured the characters when I was working on the novel – except, maybe, Denis Lawson (who plays David Buckley; facially he is scarily close to the character I saw in my head) – but, more importantly, there isn’t a single actor or actress who doesn’t look right to me when I see them on screen.  I feel extremely lucky to have had such a talented cast attached to the film of my debut novel.


  1. As you know, I am a huge fan of Cillian Murphy. Did you have a chance to meet him personally?

Yes, my wife and I met Cillian on set.  The film was shot over something like six weeks in a place called Barnet, which is in north London (the book is set in Hedge End, which is a couple of hours’ train journey from there and where I live).  The film crew had their base in a disused office complex and had also rented some houses in the cul-de-sac where most of the film’s action takes place.  We spent the morning watching some scenes being shot in the office complex and met Eloise Laurence (Skunk), Clare Burt (Mrs Buckley (she’s actually Eloise’s mother in real life)), Denis Lawson (Mr Buckley) and Robert Emms (Broken Buckley) – plus Rufus Norris, the director, and Dixie Linder, one of the producers.  It was our first ever time on a film-set and I remember being shocked by how many people were there – not so much in terms of actors and extras, but technical, production and editorial staff – and how much equipment there was.

That was nothing compared to the afternoon session in the cul-de-sac, though.  The houses they’d rented had virtually been redecorated from top to bottom – family photographs on the walls, bedrooms properly kitted out, everything you can think of, really, all as if these characters actually existed and were living in this quiet suburban cul-de-sac.  The scenes being shot that afternoon featured Eloise as Skunk again, Bill Milner (as Jed, her older brother), Zana Marjanovic (as Kasia, who is Skunk and Jed’s au-pair) and Cillian (who plays Mike, Kasia’s boyfriend and Skunk’s teacher at school).

  1. What do you think about him, before and after you met him?

Before I met him, I thought he was a great actor, though I hadn’t actually seen much of his work – (I mostly knew him from 28 Days Later, which I thought he was superb in).  His name definitely leapt out at me the first time I heard he was interested in being involved; even as someone who doesn’t really take much notice of who’s in a film, I knew enough to understand it was a very big thing to have someone with his reputation wanting to be involved; that was well over a year before filming started, so there was quite a length of time between knowing I might meet him and actually meeting him.  On the day, he wasn’t scheduled to be around until the afternoon, and although it felt like a very down-to-earth set with no one being given any sort of star treatment, you could definitely sense a bit of a buzz building amongst the crew around the time he was due to arrive.

As for actually meeting him, I found it a bizarre thing to walk up to a total stranger and feel as if I already knew him just because I’d seen him in a few films and read a few interviews with him.   That’s how it felt, though – as if I’d just recognized someone I’d met several times before: I felt quite sorry for him, being honest, me and my wife charging towards him like we were all long lost friends – he was probably thinking, uh-oh, call security, but one of the producers was taking us over so that probably put him at ease!

Once all the introductions were out of the way, he was incredibly easy to talk to – very down to earth, friendly, really pleasant.  I don’t know – it feels really cliché to say it – but he just came across as a normal person you might get chatting to in a pub while you’re waiting to be served.  My wife probably wouldn’t agree with that, though – she practically elbowed me out of the way so she could start talking to him first…

Broken UK cover image

  1. I know that Cillian loves reading, did you ask him how he feels about Broken (the book) and also about Broken (the movie adaptation)?

I never ask if anyone’s read the book (I’ll encourage anyone and everyone to go and buy it, though!, and am more than happy to chat to people who come up and say that they’ve read it, it just feels wrong to put someone on the spot with a question like that) – but Cillian came straight out and said he hadn’t read it but planned to as soon as shooting was over – he says he has a rule never to read the book a movie he’s shooting is based on until the shooting is over; I think he feels the differences between the book and the script might cause problems with how the character should be played.  It was a strange conversation to be having about the character he plays, because I’ve written versions of the novel where that character died and other versions where that character survived; I shan’t give away which fate made it into the published version, or whether things turned out the same for him in the film.

As for Cillian, I’ve no idea if he has gone on to read the novel or not, but I hope he enjoyed it if he did.

I don’t actually remember if we talked about his feelings for the film, which probably means we didn’t, but he’s been in the press over here a lot over the summer for different things he’s been doing that are totally unrelated to Broken (he’s been getting rave reviews for a one man stage-show called Misterman) and he always seems to mention Broken and how proud he is of it.  And he should be, I think, because he and everyone else who worked on the film have created something that I think is very special.

  1. Last, but not least, can you promote the movie to anyone who hasn’t heard about the movie or the book.

Well, anyone and everyone really.  I think, in either format, it’s one of those stories the vast majority of people can identify with even though the events depicted are more extreme than any of us will hopefully ever go through ourselves – we’ve all been through that process of growing up and falling in love and having to reassess how we look at the world through events we can’t directly control ourselves, and I think for the vast majority of us that time in our lives is a bewildering cocktail of funny, sad, beautiful and painful to look back on – underneath the plot, that’s the mixture of emotions I was going for when I was writing the book, and I think that’s what they’ve pulled off with the film – the couple sitting in front of me in the first public screening I attended spent eighty minutes laughing and ten minutes crying.  Someone tweeted from another screening that they’d never felt an entire audience willing one character to… well, I shan’t say – you’ll have to wait till you see the film yourself!  And, maybe in the mean-time, check out the novel…


Thank you again Daniel 🙂

It’s so nice to finally know what author’s thought of a movie based on his/her book. I am happy that the movie received 9 nominations. The trailer has made me more eager to see the movie and read the novel.

It has been a memorable time swapping emails with Daniel. For me, it’s always heartwarming when meeting a person so far away and still manages to be very polite and nice. I sure hope we can still swapping emails for things other than this Q&A 🙂

Daniel also runs a blog called where he gladly helps new authors through  constructive feedback.

Updated on December 29, 2012

I have just received the book 🙂 …. thank you soooo much Daniel.


  1. Excellent interview, Novroz! This sounds like an excellent book and movie. I liked what Daniel had to say about being over-awed by seeing his book adapted to screen but feeling disoriented by the differences between the novel and the film.

  2. This is fantastic!! I will come back and read it again in details later but congrats on the interview Nov and thanks Daniel for being so gracious to grant my friend Novia an interview! I’ll be sure to try to find this film here, hope it’ll be available on iTunes soon.

    1. Thank you Ruth…Fantastic is the right word for this moment, I am blessed to have met (even though only through Internet) such nice author and am looking forward to reading the book.

      I can’t wait for the movie…I know it won’t be available here 😦 but I’ll get it somehow 😉

        1. He is 🙂
          He told me it will arrive here somewhere this week. He is really nice and I do hope I will like the book. He told me to be honest and I will be honest when I write my book review.

  3. That was really great of Daniel to take the time to answer all of your questions so thoroughly. It gives a very interesting author’s perspective of the process of having one’s novel turned into a film. I haven’t heard of the book or film previously, but I hope they both achieve great success. I would imagine once the film is out, book sales should rise significantly.

    1. Yes, he is REALLY nice. When I received his email, I was so pleased to see how detail his answers are. It’ll make a long post but I think it worth every minute reading it. He was really into it and I appreciate that a lot.

      That’s what I was trying to find out when I made my questions, author’s perspective of seeing a movie adapted from his books. I once read that Stephen King felt disappointed with The Shining (I share the same opinion as him) and it’s interesting to know that Daniel, despite the differences between the movie and the book, still enjoys the movie.

      I hope so too, best wishes for both the movie and the book 🙂

    1. Hi Dennis 🙂
      So good to see you here again. Your dada is also an author, right? Maybe one day Tim Roth can play on the book adaptation too 🙂

  4. Thanks for this interesting interview with Daniel. It was very kind of him to speak so openly to you about his novel and final adaptation to the big screen. And is clearly noticeable that he’s proud of the good work done by Rufus Norris and the whole cast, wich it’s amazing.
    I haven’t read the book nor seen the movie, but definitely I’m looking forward doing both. And as Cillian did, I’ll try to see the film to read the book aftewards.

    1. You’re welcome and thank you for reading it Dulce 🙂

      I am the person who enjoy reading first and watch it afterward…So I might do the other way, not the Cillian way 😉

  5. This is such an awesome post! I couldn’t help but picture you actually sitting face to face with Mr. Clay! And I love how detailed his answers were. I could tell he’s a genuinely nice person, because not every author would be willing to do an interview with someone who is not a professional. You’re right, this is such a highlight! I’m so happy for you!

    1. Thank you Lan 🙂
      Yes…he is incredibly nice! The fact that he left comment and then said my real name instead of just my nick name had shown how nice he is…and to top it all, he was willing to do this interview and send me his book…what a heartwarming moment for me.

      When I received his email, I was so happy that he wasn’t answering the questions as simple as possible…he really wrote everything I wanted to know.

      a highlight…indeed!! 🙂

    1. I have read somewhere that Cillian always avoid things that can make him has other perspective of the character he was playing.

      Thank you, Audrey 🙂 that was one of the greatest blogging moments for me.

      1. I have occasionally fantasized that one of my books got turned into a movie. I would want the people involved to have read the book so they wouldn’t portray the characters in a way that was incompatible.

        1. I understand your point…but in Cillian’s case, I think he wants to create his character based on the script. The problem then lies whether the script stay true to the book or not.

          1. I think so too…but I do understand how a writer feels about.
            I am one of tough viewer when it comes to movies adapted from my favorite books.

    1. Because the main focus was about the movie. I haven’t read the book yet when I send him the questions. I am planning to ask him again for another interview regarding his book as I have finished reading it now

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