Interview with author, Helen MacKinven

It is with great pleasure I welcome author, Helen MacKinven to my blog, to talk about her writing and soon to be published novel, Talk of the Toun.
Helen Mackinven
Talk of the Toun book

1)CAN YOU TELL THE READERS OF THE BLOG ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING?

For the last ten years I’ve been writing contemporary fiction and exploring the use of the Scots dialect in dialogue to create an authentic voice for working class characters. I enjoy writing flash fiction short stories and my debut novel Talk of the Toun, is the third novel I’ve written but the first to be published. In 2011, I took a career break to go to Stirling University to do an MLitt in Creative Writing but now I’m back on the road with my day job which involves traveling all over Scotland to deliver maths training for teachers, After watching one too many episodes of Escape to the Country, I moved to a three hundred year old cottage in a small rural village in South Lanarkshire to live with my husband. I have two grown-up sons but I have filled my empty nest with twelve chickens, two dogs and two pygmy goats.

2) YOUR NOVEL IS BEING RELEASED IN OCTOBER – WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Talk of the Toun is an uplifting black comedy of love, family life and friendship and 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 increasingly under 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 alley is her gallus gran, Senga the pet psychic, who firmly believes her granddaughter can be whatever she wants to be.
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 dynamic 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 humor as the two girls wrestle with the complications of growing up and exploring who they really are.

3) WHAT WAS THE INITIAL IDEA FOR THE NOVEL?

One of my assignments for the Mlitt was to write a 4000 word A to Z on any topic with an average of 153 words for each letter. I chose to write about the first 18 years of my life and felt this assignment conveyed a strong sense of my writing voice. After this course, I wanted to use some of what it is like to grow up in the 1980’s in central Scotland.

4)HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO WRITE?

It took about nine months for the first very rough draft and a further seven months of editing to get it ready for submission. For this novel I tried the ‘freefall’ writing which is defined as ‘a method some writers discover spontaneously, but many have to (re)learn: the technique of writing from the larger Self beyond the reach of the ego and its censors’ and is likened to writing without a parachute.
This was a very different style from my usual method of revising as I go along as I used to get so caught up in fine tuning every sentence the momentum of the storytelling died.
This time I stopped beating myself up and decided to write without worrying about getting it right on every level and write freely without the fear of failing.

5) WAS IT A SMOOTH PROCESS?

No! The editing took longer than I thought it would and although I was fairly happy with the overall structure of the first draft I wasn’t certain the ending worked. I was torn between tying it all up, or an ambiguous conclusion and I battled over which type of ending would be most satisfying for a reader. Thankfully, my two beta readers, independent of each other, both gave me similar feedback about the ending and even ways to make it more effective. This gave me the reassurance and confidence to make the necessary changes.

6) WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR NOVEL?

Apart from an entertaining read, I’d like readers to reflect in how their religious and social background is part of their identity but it doesn’t define them and dictate their choices for the future.

7) IF YOU HAD ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU COULD PASS ONTO A NEW WRITER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Don’t write to please others write for yourself and create the book you would want to read.

8)CAN PEOPLE PRE-ORDER YOUR NOVEL NOW? WHO IS IT PUBLISHED BY AND WHERE WILL THEY BE ABLE TO BUY IT?

Yes, and it’s published on 29th October but can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

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