How did your setting of your story impact on your writing?
To me, whether the main setting is a city, town or rural location, it is like an extra character. You can’t imagine Morse without Oxford, Harry Hole without Oslo, or Chief Inspector Maigret without Paris. The location often reflects the main character, and vice versa. In my case, Malmö is almost the brand. It also anchors the stories, even if the characters wander off to other places – like Switzerland and Berlin in my last full-length novel, Midnight in Malmö. And describing Malmö is also a way of introducing readers to a Scandinavian city. As I don’t live there, I see it from the outside; it’s a different view from that of indigenous writers. But the city impacts on your writing because the story has to reflect what goes on in the chosen location. In Malmö’s case, it is a melting pot of nationalities and, since the Öresund Bridge linked it to Denmark in 2000, it has become very cosmopolitan. Other locations would throw up different types of plots. This, of course, creates other issues, which can also be used as stories.
Which location did you enjoy writing the most in your story?
When it comes to locations within Malmö, my most enjoyable was the most obvious – the extraordinary Turning Torso which was the largest building in Scandinavia at the time. On visits to the city, I had seen the tower growing, so it was perfect to use the completed structure in my first book, Meet me in Malmö.
I spent a number of childhood holidays camping in Normandy and Brittany. My parents had French friends in the area as well. With my own family, I had various trips to France and, at one stage, even contemplated living there. It was not to be and when our elder son ended up in Sweden, our attention was turned to Scandinavia. I particularly liked Normandy for the countryside, the castles, the history and the booze sections of the local supermarkets.
What part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong?
The British in general seem to be slightly suspicious of the French. Part of that comes from the belief that the French can be unfriendly. I’ve found that if you make an attempt to speak a little French, however poor it is (in my case very poor), they happily respond.
I completely agree with Torquil’s comment on the unfriendliness of the French. The solution is to attempt to talk to them in French (even if you don’t speak it at all), then they’ll propose to switch into English and everybody is happy.
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