On Being Scottish: A Guest Post by Kenny Boyle, Author of The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock

I’ll let you into a secret. I’m desperate to read The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock by Kenny Boyle as I have heard such wonderful things about it. Sadly my TBR is so tall I simply haven’t had chance yet. However, that doesn’t stop me inviting Kenny onto Linda’s Book Bag and I’m delighted to share a cracking guest post from Kenny today. First though, let’s find out more about The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock.

Published by Lightning on 3rd May 2022, The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock is available for purchase in all good bookshops including here.

The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock

An aspiring writer from the Southside of Glasgow, Wendy is in a rut. She tries to brighten her call-centre job by shoehorning as many long words as possible into conversations with customers. But her manager isn’t amused by that and, after a public dressing-down, Wendy walks out.

Jobless and depressed, she finds consolation in a surprise friendship with another disgruntled ex-colleague, wild-child painter Cat, who encourages her to live more dangerously. It’s just what Wendy needs and it’s also brilliant for her creative juices. But a black cloud is about to overshadow this new-found liberation, as well as to put Wendy on the wrong side of the law.

Fresh, insightful and funny, as well as unflinchingly honest about the tougher side of life, Kenny Boyle’s debut novel takes us deep into the psyche of a likeable misfit who treads a fine line between reality and fantasy – and just wants the world to see her true self.‍

On Being Scottish

A Guest Post by Kenny Boyle

I’m Scottish.

And that has already probably conjured some images in your head. Scotland is portrayed so stereotypically around the world that even the mention of our country makes people outside of it jump to certain assumptions. So, be honest, when you read “Scottish” did you think any of these:

A big drinker?
Brusque, straight talking, and no nonsense?
Bad at showing emotions unless it’s anger, aggression, or over the top hospitality?
Maybe living in poor socio-economic conditions?
Maybe a drug user?
Or… perhaps… ginger?

Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you thought any of those things. Scotland has a bit of an identity issue when it comes to how we’re perceived around the world. It seems if you’ve got a Scottish character in literature, film, or tv they’re probably going to fit into one of two general brackets. Either you’ll have a gangster, drug dealer, drug user, hard man from Glasgow who comes from a terrible, gritty, kill or be killed background and is always drunk; or you’ll have a charming, kilt wearing, tartan clad, warrior who comes from an undefined place in the highlands… and is always drunk.

A lot of this worldwide reputation springs from our seminal works of fiction. Scottish writers write really good crime books, really good social realism books, and earth shatteringly good books about how hard it can be for the working classes in our country. Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain rightly won the booker prize. Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and their contemporaries write crime novels that define the genre. Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting took the world by storm. These books are incredible, and their influence and importance can’t be overstated. But perhaps their very success has led other authors to tend towards these kinds of stories rather than delve into the bottomless well of other stories our country has to tell.

Respectfully, I’d like to disagree with Renton from Trainspotting. It’s not “s**** being Scottish.”

Or at the very least it’s not always.

We Scots seldom get to be loving, accepting, or vulnerable on screen or in print, and if we are we have to do it in a different accent. You can only be presented with those stereotypes for so long before you start to internalise it. We begin to feel as though nothing good, pure, or transcendental can happen here. That life is grey and we will be forever underdogs.

I’m here to tell you: Scotland is beautiful.

I don’t just mean our scenery, which undoubtedly is breathtaking. I don’t just mean our wildlife, which is stunning, vibrant, and free. I mean the people. We’ve been at the forefront of positive social change for decades. We’re the birthplace of world leading scientific innovation. More than that, the most loving, empathetic, and bravely vulnerable people I have ever known were Scottish.

It’s incredible being Scottish. That’s the Scotland I know. That’s the Scotland I write about.

My debut novel, The Tick and The Tock of The Crocodile Clock was released this year. It’s a modern retelling of Peter Pan set in Glasgow and the Trossachs and, though it focuses on the story of two young Glaswegian girls in their early twenties and deals with some very serious mental health themes, I was aware at all times that I wanted to tell a story that revelled in the cultural beauty of Glasgow rather than painting it as a foreboding or sinister place. The protagonists, Wendy and Cat, are a poet and artist respectively. Their antagonist doesn’t come in the form of a gangster, drug dealer, or murderer but instead in the form of our capitalist system that insists they grow up too quickly and leave whimsy and art behind. The girls rebel and go on a spree of mischief, which ultimately results in Wendy going too far, stealing a priceless work of art, and being forced to go on the run from the law. It’s a quintessentially Scottish story… after all, J.M Barrie was Scottish, and Glasgow is home to Glasgow School of Art and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland among other things, both of which are world renowned centres of creative training… but perhaps it’s not the kind of Scottish story you’ll have heard often.

In my upcoming radio play Knock Of The Ban-Sìthe, which will be broadcast on BBC radio 4 on the 18th of August, I explore a different side of Scotland entirely. I‘m from the tiny village of Cromore in the Outer Hebrides, which has a population of fewer than fifty people. The culture and way of life on my island are so different from the mainland that even fellow Scots find it hard to understand them until they visit themselves. At midwinter we barely see the sun. The darkness and isolation are a prime breeding ground for ghost stories. Knock of the Ban-Sìthe is a story steeped with our often forgotten mythological Scottish creatures, and interspersed with our often maligned Gàidhlig language.

Crocodile Clock and Ban-Sìthe aren’t what you might expect when you pick up a book or tune into a radio play that is Scottish. But Scottish they are, and they represent stories from Scotland that get overlooked amidst all the tartan, boozing, and grit.

If you’re going to read one book from Scotland this year then… make it Young Mungo, who am I kidding, it’s incredible.

But if you’re going to read two, perhaps consider picking up one of the stories lesser told. There’s more to us than you might realise. There are new stories just waiting to be discovered. Waiting for you to discover them.

****

Thanks so much Kenny. Of course, Your post has made me even more determined to read The Tick and The Tock of The Crocodile Clock as it sounds EXACTLY my kind of book.

About Kenny Boyle

Kenny Boyle is an author, actor and playwright from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Kenny trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is a recipient of Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s New Playwrights’ award 2021. He plays the lead role of Rob in feature film Lost at Christmas.

His debut novel The Tick and The Tock of The Crocodile Clock is available now in all good bookshops and his debut radio play The Knock of The Ban-Sìthe will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the 18th of August at 2:15pm.

For further information, visit Kenny’s website, follow him on Twitter @KennylBoyle or find him on Instagram and Facebook.

4 thoughts on “On Being Scottish: A Guest Post by Kenny Boyle, Author of The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.