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Monday, 16 November 2015

Talk of the Toun - Author Q & A with Helen MacKinven

 ‘She was greetin’ again. But there’s no need for Lorraine to be feart, since the first day of primary school, Angela has always been there to mop up her tears and snotters.’ 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 1980s 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. "Fresh, fierce and funny...a sharp and poignant study of growing up in 1980s Scotland. You'll laugh, you'll'll cringe" - Karen Campbell

Author: Helen MacKinven
Title: Talk of the Toun
Publishers: Thunderpoint Publishing Ltd
Publication Date: 28th October 2015
Link: Uk: Amazon   US: Amazon

Q and A with Helen MacKinven

Welcome to Sincerely Book Angels blog Helen, it's a pleasure to have you with us.

Did you always want to be a writer? 
No, I’ve always been an avid reader and natural storyteller but it wasn’t until my late 30s until I decided to challenge myself to write a novel.

What other jobs have you had? 
I worked in a café and library as a student while I trained to be a primary school teacher but I left the classroom to work as a Road Safety Officer, working mainly in schools. I then went to work with an environmental charity as the national training officer helping schools working towards their Green Flag and I now work as a consultant, again travelling all over Scotland but this time training teachers in a maths programme.

How did it feel when your first novel was published?
Surreal! My dream had always been to see my book on the shelf of my local book shop and I couldn’t resist taking a ‘shelfie’ in front of the display to record this very special moment.

Have you ever had writer's block? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, and for me the best way is not to force it if I’m stuck with the novel. I take a break then try to experiment by writing a piece of flash fiction as often it triggers a bigger idea that can be fleshed out and used in the novel.

What motivates you to keep writing?
I like to create stories which will hopefully entertain and interest readers.

Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa? 
No, although I feel as if I can hear them talking and can visualise them as real people they remain on the page and I can leave them there. But if I’m in an unhappy mood I’d find it difficult to write an upbeat scenario.

What are you reading at the moment?
An excellent black comedy called The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey about a Dublin undertaker who finds himself on the wrong side of the Irish mob.  It’s set in Dublin so it reminds me of Roddy Doyle’s books, a writer I greatly admire.

If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits?
Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper which could be Angela and Lorraine’s theme tune.

Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book? 
The actress Barbara Rafferty from the TV show Rab C Nesbitt would be great as Senga, the gran in the story.

What is your next book about? 
Although lots of folk have asked me to write a novel following the lives of the same characters, particularly Senga, I’d like to try something very different to Talk of the Toun. I’ve done research and made notes so I’m ready to start writing a story set in a Lanarkshire town after the Scottish referendum result which also features a local historical event related to the Leningrad Siege. 

Thanks for visiting us Helen and good luck with the book.

Book Angel x

About the Author

Helen Mackinven
I write contemporary Scottish fiction, with a particular interest in exploring themes such as social class and identity, using black comedy and featuring Scots dialect. I graduated with merit from Stirling University with an MLitt in Creative Writing in 2012. 
My short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals, such as Gutter magazine and one of my novels was shortlisted in a UK-wide competition by Hookline Books. My debut novel, Talk of the Toun, will be published by ThunderPoint in October 2015. 
I blog at and you can find me on Twitter as @HelenMacKinven

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