Author Work Space: Ben McPherson

1We live in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Scandinavia is a fascinating place to write about crime: these are safe societies, but occasionally the most terrible things happen. I’m an outsider here, and I enjoy that. At the moment I’m writing mainly about my home country of Scotland, and about London, but one day I want to write about this place. There’ s darkness to it that seeps into your soul.

I can work pretty much anywhere, but there are two things I need: coffee and space. If I don’t have one or the other, I struggle. Fortunately, Oslo is great for both.

Each morning after walking with my son to school I go to a café, where I write from nine until one. Then I go home and make myself something to eat. I write for another two hours in the afternoon, then collect my son from school. That’s Norway: your working day is short, and you’re expected to spend a lot of time with your family. This can only be a good thing for a writer — it forces you to be efficient, to hit the ground running, and not to sit on your hands waiting for inspiration. It also gives you a life beyond your computer.

2I don’t normally encroach into other people’s space, but when I’m trying to figure out my structure things get complicated. This is me — or my stuff at least — at a café in Gothenburg, Sweden, as I try to figure out a tricky second act. Everything is on small pieces of paper, so I can move it around.

I normally write at the computer, but when I’m struggling to find the emotions behind a scene, or when the scene has a large number of characters or points of view, I like to write out a draft in longhand and then revise it back into the computer.

3There are days when it would be irresponsible of me to take my work to a café. This is me restructuring A Line of Blood late at night on our kitchen floor, days before submitting my final draft to my editor. Note the bare feet!

Beside me is a chart of my structure designed to hang on the wall. It’s made from a 1950s map of the world, backed with brown parcel paper. The coloured paper notes are a detailed breakdown of the plot, along with the characters’ emotional states and a record of what I would like readers to be feeling at that point in the book.

I plan to spend less time in cafés from now on. We’ve just had the room next to the kitchen painted. It’s going to become my office.

Ben McPherson was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was eighteen. He studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for many years in film and television in London.

In 1998, after working a forty-eight-hour shift, he went for a drink at the Coach and Horses in Soho and met the woman he would go on to marry. Similarities to the characters in A Line of Blood end there.

Ben now lives in Oslo with his wife and their two sons. He is a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway’s leading quality daily newspaper. A LINE OF BLOOD is his first novel.