MARTIN Patience was in a worn-down café in Beirut when he realised he’d made a breakthrough with the characters in his new novel.

“What makes a great story is not the plotting, it’s about who it’s happening to and how they make you feel.

“I was in this worn-down coffee shop and I realised I knew them because I knew what drink they’d all order. To get to that level and depth of understanding took a long while.”

The Darker The Night, Patience’s new book set against the backdrop of an independence referendum, is an idea years in the making.

READ MORE: Meet the author whose crime thriller trilogy is set in an independent Scotland

The journalist, originally from Waterfoot, East Renfrewshire, worked as a foreign correspondent for the BBC and has been posted in Jerusalem, Kabul, Beijing, Lagos and Beirut.

He’s now based in Washington DC working with National Public Radio. His new book focuses on the death of a civil servant in the days leading up to a Scottish independence referendum. 

As someone who’s been all over the globe and seen numerous countries go through such pivotal moments, what was it that drew him to independence?

“I’ve lived in a lot of countries and I often think you cover critical junctures in their history whether it’s big elections or wars”, he told The National from his home in the US.

He added: “I studied history so I’ve always been fascinated by how things can change and how rapidly they can happen more so than we think.

“I read a magazine article about 10 years ago, based on a political murder in South America and it stayed with me.

“It was so dramatic and I thought, that could work in Scotland but not in a General Election because I’m writing a thriller so I thought having the whole fate of the country is what offered that drama.”

The writer isn’t the only author to pick independence as a political backdrop for his novel.

Frankie Boyle’s Meantime is set in the aftermath of the 2014 vote while The National previously spoke with Gordon Smart, whose detective novels are set as though Scotland already voted Yes.

As for Patience, he was in Nigeria when he finally decided it was time to get serious about the idea which had been “bubbling” away in his mind.

“Funnily enough it was Theresa May who called a General Election and this big report I’d done on migration wasn’t going to make the 10 O’Clock News”, he explained.

“I just realised this idea had been bubbling up in me for years and so I wanted to have something that I thought was within my control.

“If you speak to writers and novelists they think the fact I thought writing a book was in my control was madness”, he adds, laughing.

A key contrast between Patience’s work on the news and his work on his book was that he was not constrained by facts, he could have fun with the story and let it flow exactly as he wanted.

He continued: “As journalists, we are rightly constrained by accuracy. Writing like this means you can imagine characters and talk about events that could potentially happen and have fun with that.

“I did struggle with two things though; one was describing scenes because obviously in TV you can see it so you just comment on it.

“The other was my characters. To get to the right level of depth and understanding took time.”

The book has all the elements of a classic crime thriller which continue to prove immensely popular among readers.

READ MORE: Outlander: How hit TV show continues to fuel love of Scotland

It looks like Patience may have some way to go however before his eight-year-old son is fully convinced.

He explained: “He told me that nobody wants to read about a fat, Scottish policeman. He’s got strong opinions and clearly holds his father in high esteem.

“Do you know what he might have a point because the reality is with the writing business, most authors write books and they don’t sell very many.

His son might be more optimistic than he lets on though, given he’s hoping for one percent of the royalties from the book’s profits.

“I’ve written a book and have zero expectations. I just wanted to do something for me.”