BLOG TOUR: Talk of the Toun by Helen MacKinven

I am delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for Talk of the Toun. My thanks to Helen and the Publishers Thunderpoint for sending me a review copy.

Talk of the Toun is published 29th October 2015.

‘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 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.

My Thoughts:

This book is a wonderful evocative story of time and place. A flashback to growing up in 80's Scotland, jam packed with references and nostalgia, I loved every word.

Although not a teenager myself in the 80's, the references were not lost on me. I used to play Ker Plunk and also wear Rimmel Lipstick in the shade of Heather Shimmer. This book is full of humour and at times I was simply roaring with laughter. I love the wit and sometimes the irony with which this author writes. The humour is there for all to see.

I initially thought I would struggle with the use of the Scottish Dialect, but I didn't. I think it is the only way this story could and should have been told. The characters came alive in my head, I could hear their voices, their accents and feel their awkwardness of their formative years.

Although not all funny, this book contains a level of grit and a sense of some of the struggles of that time, coming from a working class area and trying to do better for yourself. I cringed when reading this at some of the terminology that nowadays would be culturally unacceptable. However it was the 80's then, and that was how things were.

This book was brilliant and I loved every single word and every single page. I was sad to leave the characters at the end. I felt like I had truly gone back in time and could imagine myself right there at the centre of it all.

This book is going to be on the list of my favourites this year. The girl did good!

I was thrilled when Helen agreed to take part in a Q & A for the blog and you can see her answers below. I wish her every success with the book, and thank her for taking the time to visit us today.

1)      Where is your favourite place to write and is there any particular time that works better for you?

I prefer to write in bed and at night after I’ve had my dinner and a bath. The habit started when I wrote my first novel while working full-time so it was the only chance I had to write. Although I now only work part-time I still prefer to get into my jammies and stay cosy in bed to do creative writing rather than sitting at my desk (the base of an old Singer sewing machine with a pine top) where I spend office hours when I’m working from home.

2)      Where did the idea for Talk of the Toun come from?

The idea for the novel came from one of the assignments I did for my MLitt in Creative Writing. The task was to write a 4000 word A to Z on any topic with an average of around 153 words for each letter. I chose to write about the first 18 years of my life and felt that this assignment conveyed a strong sense of my writing voice.  After the course, I wanted to use some of these short pieces as a stimulus to write a fictional story of what it was like to grow up in the 1980s in a working class town in central Scotland.

3)      Are there any Characters that you would like to develop further in future, or a particular theme you would like to write about?

I see this book as a standalone coming-of-age story so I don’t feel a burning desire to follow any of the characters but who knows if that will change, especially if readers are interested to follow their next moves. The theme of identity and giving a voice to working class characters is definitely something which I plan to explore again in my next novel.

4)      Are you currently writing anything else?

I’ve made notes and written a few thousand words of a new novel. It’s set in the Lanarkshire town of Airdrie after the Scottish referendum result but with a local historical event related to the Leningrad Siege weaved into the narrative. Only time will tell if I follow the idea through and it becomes a full length novel but I’d like to give it a go.

5)      Which Writers inspire you?

 I admire authors such as Jackie Kay, Janice Galloway, Anne Donovan, to name but a few, I could go on but you get the idea, they are writers of Scottish contemporary fiction who bring the world I know alive and help me understand it better. I want to try to do the same, give a voice to Scottish working class characters that don’t often feature in fiction.

6)      Which book would you most likely give as a gift or recommend to other people?

 I kept a record of all the books I read last year and if I had to pick a favourite it would be The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and so far this year it’s The Good Son by Paul McVeigh and I’d recommend both of these books as being well worth a read.

7)      Could you share with us something that other people don’t necessarily know about you?

I have two pet pygmy goats .They are twin boys named Jack and Victor after the characters from
            Still Game which is one of my favourite                     comedy programmes.

8)      If you could have written any book from the past, which would it be?

To have written a book that goes on to be described as a ‘classic’ and have people still talk about long after it was written must be an amazing achievement. Out of the modern classics I would love to have written Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

9)      What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to read and enjoy going to book festivals, theatre and art exhibitions. I love going on city breaks and try to visit a couple of new places each year to add another pin on my map of Europe. Apart from the goats, I have two working cocker spaniels and eleven chickens and I enjoy spending time with my pets.

10)   Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Talk of the Toun published on 29th October can be ordered online from Amazon                            

I blog regularly at and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @HelenMacKinven

       Thank you!

About the Author

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 grownup sons but has filled her empty nest with two dogs, two pygmy goats and an ever-changing number of chickens

Thanks for stopping by today, I would love it if you would visit some of the other stops on the tour.

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