Wednesday, 28 October 2015


I am delighted that HELEN MACKINVEN is joining me on my blog today, as part of her Blog Tour. Helen's book - The Talk of the Toun - is being published by Thunderpoint on 29 October 2015. 

So Helen, what inspired you to write fiction in the first place?
I’ve always been a natural storyteller and prone to exaggeration so fiction lent itself to my love of sharing a good tale.

What gave you the idea for Talk in the Toun?
While studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing one of the assignments was to write an A to Z on any subject. My classmates wrote about their interests such as music but I was initially stumped over what my ‘Mastermind’ specialist subject would be. Then I realised that I had no trouble writing about my childhood memories so I used this theme to complete the assignment. The piece received my highest grade and I felt it reflected my writing ‘voice’ so I decided to use it as a springboard into a fictional scenario of growing up in 1980s central Scotland in a working class environment.

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
I try to capture an authentic voice using Scots dialect.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Each to their own madness so I wouldn’t describe this as particularly strange but most of my creative writing is done at night. I like to have a bath, get my jammies on, climb into bed with my dog Jess lying by my side and tap away on my laptop in silence.

Are you a plotter or a pantser  Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
A bit of both. I start with a rough idea of where I would like to go but I’m flexible with the plotting and happy to follow the characters down new paths as the story unfolds.

What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Staying focused and avoiding the distractions of social media.

Who are your favourite authors?
I enjoy reading Scottish contemporary writers and admire the work of Jackie Kay, Anne Donovan, Janice Galloway and Karen Campbell.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
A Game of Two Halves in reference to the first 35 years of my life and with hopefully 35 more still to play out…

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Be more adventurous, travel more and don’t believe you’re fat – you’ll wish you were still that ‘fat’ one day!

What are your plans for your book's publication day?
The publication day is also the date of my launch in the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow so I will be there celebrating with family and friends who I hope will join me in a nearby pub after the event for a drink or two…

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Do your own thing – there are no rules! But I’d recommend having an insatiable appetite for reading as research to develop your own writing, connecting with other writers online and in person, taking notes of ideas and conversations overheard, reading your work aloud to check for rhythm and to weed out clunky phrases and not binning your teenage diaries like I did!

And lastly, why should people read The Talk of the Toun?
If you remember the angst of being a teenager at the stage in life where big decisions can shape your destiny then you’ll enjoy reliving the emotional turmoil of growing up and exploring who you are and where you belong. It’s also great for wallowing in 80s nostalgia in the decade that style forgot. If you once danced to Spandau Ballet while wearing pixie boots, a frilly white shirt with huge shoulder pads, had your hair backcombed and wore electric blue mascara then be warned - you’ll experience flashbacks!
About Helen MacKinven

Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction, with a particular interest in exploring themes such as social class and identity, using black comedy and featuring Scots dialect. She graduated with merit from Stirling University with an MLitt in Creative Writing in 2012.
In her day job Helen MacKinven works with numbers, travelling all over Scotland to deliver teacher training in maths. By night, she plays with words writing short stories and developing ideas for her next novel. Helen's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals, such as Gutter magazine.
Originally from the Falkirk area, Helen now lives in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire with her husband. She has two grown- up sons but has filled her empty nest with two dogs, two pygmy goats and an ever-changing number of chickens.

Find Helen MacKinven on her official Facebook page and follow Helen on Twitter - @HelenMacKinven

The Talk of the Toun
Published by Thunderpoint (29 October 2015)

An uplifting black comedy of love, family life and friendship, Talk of the Toun is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in the summer of 1985, in working class, central belt Scotland.
Lifelong friends Angela and Lorraine are two very different girls, with a growing divide in their aspirations and ambitions putting their friendship under increasing strain.
Artistically gifted Angela has her sights set on art school, but lassies like Angela, from a small town council scheme, are expected to settle for a nice wee secretarial job at the local factory. Her only ally is her gallus gran, Senga, the pet psychic, who firmly believes that her granddaughter can be whatever she wants.
Though Lorraine’s ambitions are focused closer to home Angela has plans for her too, and a caravan holiday to Filey with Angela’s family tests the dynamics of their relationship and has lifelong consequences for them both.
Effortlessly capturing the religious and social intricacies of 1980's Scotland, Talk of the Toun is the perfect mix of pathos and humour as the two girls wrestle with the complications of growing up and exploring who they really are.

Read my review here.

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