Here's how I know I am getting old.

Tuesday morning and I'm at Stirling University.

Once upon a time I was an undergraduate here, back in the days when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister and Bill Forsyth still made movies. The days when Jack McConnell had no ermine in his wardrobe and Tommy Sheridan had yet to be featured on the pages of the News of the World (but both were student politicians at Stirling University).

The reason I've come here again is to talk to a lecturer who is a bit younger than Jack, Tommy and myself. In fact, back in 1982, when I first set foot in the Pathfoot Building where today I'm meeting Liam Murray Bell, he was all of minus four. That's right. Minus bloody four.

Bell, currently lecturer in creative writing at Stirling as well as a novelist in his own right (or write, to quote John Lennon), is 28. I probably have trousers older than that. We're meeting because his second novel The Busker has just been published. It's a story about a seriously deluded Glaswegian protest singer, a wannabe Bob Dylan for the Occupy generation.

It's also a novel about homelessness, squatting, falling in and out of love and about what exactly teenagers get up to in the woods behind Hyndland Station on a Friday evening. The latter at least, Bell admits, may draw on personal experience. "The setting of the woods is very much where I spent my teenage years," he says. "I had to scale down the group of friends a little bit because the woods used to be heavily populated with teenagers. It's not, I should hasten to add for my mum's sanity, all true." Hmm, wonder which bits those are then? The underage drinking, the pornographic discussions, the female nudity?

The Busker grew out of Bell's fascination with the Occupy movement. He wondered why the movement hadn't inspired singers as had happened with the protest movement in the 1960s. Then again, maybe it's just as well. "If somebody had emerged in a Dylan-type way there would have been an almost instantaneous biteback against him or her. They would say 'this person is selling out'. Like that ex-MP Louise Mensch on Have I Got News For You talking about them all going and getting Starbucks. Of course they went and got Starbucks. Come on. But it's that way any kind of weakness is pounced upon."

Who "they" are, as he says in the book, is a little unclear these days. The government? Governments? Multi-national corporations? Who is in charge? Bell's an observer rather than a participant, but talk to him and it's clear he has sympathies with much of what Occupy stood for. "The thing that always annoyed me from the powers that be -whoever," he adds, smiling, "they may be - was that Occupy didn't have a single goal. Why the hell did it need a single goal? If you're trying to protest about the way society is going and about cuts to welfare and changes to the squatting law and care for the elderly and the NHS why do you have to focus on one of them? Why can't you make this broad sweep? It struck me as a little disingenuous to say that was their weakness. That was their strength."

Bell, who's 28 (did I mention that?), was born on Orkney and grew up in Glasgow but now divides his time between Hastings, where his wife is based, and Stirling, where he teaches creative writing. Which raises the question, can you actually teach someone to write?

"I was asked that in my interview for here by Kathleen Jamie. I've always been interested in the question because for me it's the same as asking 'can you teach someone to play the violin?' And the answer is yes, but only up to a point. You're teaching techniques and strategies but you're not teaching ideas. You can never teach ideas and you can never teach the discipline of it. That's got to come from somewhere else."

When did writing become a thing for him then? "I always played about with different things but the first time it became a viable career choice ..." Is it actually a viable career choice, Liam? "No. Good point. The first time I imagined it could become a viable career choice was when I was 18 and doing my Advanced Higher. I wrote a short story. We did a workshop and the writer Val Thornton came in. She was editing New Writing Scotland at the time and she wrote at the end of mine 'I'd like to publish this'. That kind of encouragement was huge."

Soon after he went off to university. In Belfast. "I was just fascinated by the politics," he says of the choice. "I was attracted by the fact that it was similar to Glasgow and, yeah, it sounds a bit flippant, but I wanted to go to university in an interesting place. So that was the main attraction. I think there was also a slight thing of being a Scottish writer, as I rather grandiosely thought of myself at the time. I didn't want to go to England and become an English writer and I felt in terms of developing a voice there was maybe more of an affinity across the Irish Sea."

It turned out Belfast was a great city to be a student in. In the wake of the Good Friday Agreement the city was opening up. Even the Rev Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness were becoming bezzie mates and laughing together on Ikea sofas.

"It all felt fresh and new. There was a buoyancy about the place. There still kind of is," Bell recalls. That said, the city's recent troubled history would rear up from time to time. He remembers going to play football for the uni team on estates with murals of UVF gunmen on the wall. "Me and the guy who played up front would talk before the match. 'You're not to call me Liam and I'll not call you Paddy.' We changed our names for 90 minutes."

When it came to write his first novel, So It Goes, he decided to write about Northern Ireland, but not the new place he know. Instead, he looked back to Belfast's more troubled back story. The tale of a girl growing up in 1980s Belfast, it's a violent and often ugly story, somewhat removed from the city Bell was living in. "It's showing how a domestic life, a quote-unquote normal life can transition into that. It was a big concern for me not to use the violence as a kind of empty background. It was important that it felt real and it felt day-to-day and the violence slowly took over her life."

The book was written in Guildford where he was doing a PhD. He'd tried to write in Belfast while working in a call centre but that didn't fly. Guildford couldn't be more different than Glasgow and Belfast. "It's a very insular community. They're not unfriendly but I always get : 'why would you move here?' The idea of them moving to Scotland is completely beyond the realms of what they would imagine doing."

The Busker skips between Hyndland Station, London record company offices and Brighton squats. He's clearly engaged with the ideas of Occupy, but would he take it further? Has he ever squatted himself? "I've not," he says, though for research he did go and visit a squat in Camden in a disused garden centre. "A fantastic place. You had the ghosts of vines and stuff. It was big and draughty but they'd made it quite nice and they were kind enough to talk to me about Occupy itself so that was fascinating."

Does that lifestyle appeal? "I don't know if it does. David Cameron talks about lifestyle squatters and I think maybe that appeals, but I'm not sure that's a thing anyway. I think the idea of it, particularly after Occupy London, appeals. The idea of taking over buildings that are otherwise sitting empty ... but I've never done it."

For the moment he's writing about it instead. What's the novel for in these early days of the 21st century, Liam? "I think it's to help us engage with the world around us. I don't know if that's ever really changed and I don't know if it should change."

Fiction, then, is ageless. Would that we all could say the same.

The Busker is published by Myriad Editions, priced £8.99