The thing is in conversation Deborah Andrews makes acting sound such fun. You join us as she is telling me about her short-lived acting career back at the start of the 1990s when, not long out of college, she’d get jobs appearing in murder mystery weekends at hotels around the country.

“We used to work out in Balmaha,” she recalls. “There was this one time… It was summer and it was the annual horse fair. And the hotel was on tenterhooks because the year before there’d been a stabbing.”

“But what they’d forgotten to do was let the police know that during the murder mystery a gun would be fired.

She’s told this story before. She’s enjoying telling it again.

“So, the horse fair … People had been drinking during the day. It was stowed out in the bar. People were in high spirits. We were doing the murder mystery. The gun was fired and an American tourist happened to be passing outside, heard the gunshot and rushed to the phone box to call the police.

“They arrived at the hotel but because people at the hotel knew the murder mystery was happening they thought the police were part of it. They started to try to pull their clothes off while singing the Z Cars tune.”

We’re both laughing now.

“I was telling this story recently and one of my close friends the actor Kate Dickie said to me after, ‘it was worse than that, Debs. Don’t you remember? People were grabbing their arses and knocking their hats off’.”

Doesn’t that sound like a way to live? Aren’t you already humming “an actor’s life for me” as you read this?

And yet, if you read Andrews’ debut novel Walking The Lights, which draws on that very acting background, fun isn’t the first word that springs to mind. This is a novel about lack of money and lack of work and a sense that you are not in control of any of it. Balmaha trips aside, Deborah, you make acting sound a challenging gig?

“I didn’t stick with it myself. I realised that it didn’t suit my personality, that sense of sitting by the phone. I couldn’t bear it. That sense of lack of determination over your own career. Some of my closest friends are actors and it’s tough. Even for the ones who are doing well it’s a tough, tough choice.”

Andrews has spent a career making her own tough choices, it should be said. In person she’s a petite, soft-spoken 45-year-old with an impressive self-starter’s CV behind her. After training at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (as was) she eventually opted for a career behind the footlights directing plays and running workshops. In 2002 she set up her own theatre company Solar Bear and established the first year-round Deaf Youth Theatre in the UK. Plenty of self-determination on display there then.

Now she has added another string to her bow with her first book which has already been nominated for the Not the Booker Prize.

She’s always written but she returned to it in earnest at the turn of the century, going to evening classes at Strathclyde University to develop her short story writing. It was a time when theatre wasn’t being as creatively rewarding as it had been.

“You set up a company in order to facilitate your own work and then the company itself becomes its own beast and you end up serving that. And so much of my time was spent in an office.”

Writing the novel, Andrews realised, gave her the chance to be director, actor and costume designer all in one. “You’re creating the whole world.”

Walking the Lights draws on the author’s younger years in Glasgow but it is not by any means a roman a clef.

“People have branded it semi-autobiographical and it really isn’t.”

For a start her protagonist Maddie has a few more problems than Andrews ever had. Over and above the endless wait for the phone to ring Maddie also has to deal with abusive relationships, excessive drug taking, mental illness and the worry of paying the rent.

It’s been described as a slacker novel, much to Andrews’ chagrin. She hopes it’s a little more complex than that.

It is also a vision of Glasgow a generation ago. It’s more researched than remembered, she says. “You would think because I lived through that period it would be easy but it’s not at all. I didn’t keep any old diaries from that time and the ones I did were just useless because they’re just full of feelings.”

Andrews was born in Windsor and grew up in Cookham and a council estate in Maidenhead, the daughter of a teenage mother. She was a reader from an early age. The idea of theatre settled in her early too, though she also loved painting and dance.

“For a while it felt like I could have gone in any of those directions,” she says. “And you do wonder about kids now who come from the background I come from. What opportunities will htey have in terms of funding to study?”

She was offered a place at the RSAMD in 1990. The year of culture in Glasgow. There was a sense of adventure about coming to the city, she says. “I didn’t’ realise until I got here the Scottish-English thing,” she adds, laughing.

She was 19 at the time, pretty sure she wanted to be an actor. She travelled up on the National Express, knowing nothing about the city but the address of where she was to stay, the YMCA at the Red Road Flats.

What was the Glasgow she found? “Oh it was amazing. Do you remember it in 1990? It felt like a crossover time in my mind.

“The city was abuzz when I first came. We would go to the Tramway a lot. Steve Slater’s programming was always excellent. You would get homegrown stuff and visiting European stuff. Big, magical promenade performances. Robert Le Plage. Incredible stuff.”

It wasn’t all theatre. She’d go clubbing at Club X, the Sub Club (“of course”) and places like Volcano and Archaos.

But beyond play, the play was the thing.

Theatre, storytelling in general in fact, has always been about transformation for her. “That sense of art as a tool for change I felt was really strong in Glasgow. I’ve always felt that theatre here was strongly part of the culture. We’ve got places like the Citizens Theatre, the Arches, which is sadly no more, the Tron Theatre.

“It wasn’t somewhere where the middle classes or the upper classes would go for a frivolous night out and an opportunity to dress up and be seen. It was crucial to the understanding of who we are as a people and how we think of ourselves and how we represent ourselves.”

Note the use of “we” and “our” there. These days Andrews is living and teaching creative writing in Lancaster. She is also working on the difficult second novel.

It’s clear, though, that she misses Glasgow.

“It’s funny coming up here,” she says. “It still feels like home now. I was here for 24 years, longer than I was in England. It’s quite strange that I have to define myself as either.”

Walking The Lights by Deborah Andrews is published by Freight Books, priced £9.99.