Kerry Hudson walks into one of the poshest hostelries in London looking as if she owns the place.

Heads turn as this tall blonde sashays across the foyer of the St Pancras Hotel and makes her way between the cafe tables. It feels more like the opening scene of a film than the start of an author interview, but while this isn't a movie, there's little doubt that this young writer is going to be a star.

An Aberdonian by birth, born into a proud line of fishwives, 31-year-old Hudson has defied a poverty-stricken upbringing and written a novel that those whose parents forked out for fee-paying schools can only look upon with envy.

Demure in a silky champagne shirt, there's no visible sign of the hardships she has endured, nor of her roots. She has only the faintest trace of a Scottish accent, her well-spoken voice a blend of various parts of England, where she has spent much of her life. Hudson's uprooted but colourful childhood, as she moved with her mum and little sister between DHSS bed and breakfasts, rough council estates and welfare cheques, forms the backbone of her powerful autobiographical debut, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma.

It's more like a song lyric than the title of a literary novel, but as Hudson says with a throaty laugh – the legacy of a lifetime's dedication to nicotine? – it is a playful nod to the misery memoir genre.

"Because my background is so similar to Janie's, that's definitely a comparison that's going to be made. So I thought it's better to just acknowledge it and get it out of the way and we can all move on! Because it's not a misery memoir at all. I like to think it's quite joyful in places and quite happy as well."

Certainly there is a brio about the novel that brings a smile to your face. Yet while written with a swagger and impressive confidence, were it not for its irrepressible young heroine this would be a dismal record of life on the sidelines, of a family perpetually one step away from disaster.

Hudson was aware how grim her story might first appear. "I had to keep saying to people 'it's set in council estates, but it's not bleak, I promise.' I think obviously growing up in those environments, I witnessed that no matter how bleak things get, there's always humour.

"And actually what I remember most from my upbringing is loads and loads of laughter, often when there was nothing in the cupboard and we were absolutely broke, and it was two days to giro day."

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float - begins with the heroine, Janie Ryan, describing her own birth and her mother's invective as she brings her into this world. The opening sentence comprises eight words, five of which are unrepeatable. Yet salty as it is, Hogan's intention was not to shock: "That is exactly what she would say, in that moment, with the mouth on her that she has, Iris, with her fishwife side, that's exactly what she'd say!"

Because, while Janie's mum is a fighter, she is not demure. No-one is in this book. As Hudson reflects, "I did think people might be a bit sniffy about all the swearing, but my response is 'that's how people speak.' Go to any estate, and that's how everyone talks. Swear words are like punctuation for us." As used by Hudson, they pepper the text with almost musical emphasis. Only a prude could be offended.

We follow Janie through a childhood where her mother gets involved with a violent drug-dealer, and then into her troubled teenage years, where she descends into an abyss of drinking and dangerously casual sex which threatens to destroy her. As Hogan says feelingly: "By the end of the book she realises that if she doesn't absolutely fight for everything she's going to be given nothing."

In the course of this picaresque and haunting tale, Hudson achieves something rare and remarkable. While comparison will inevitably be made between her work and that of Irvine Welsh or Alan Warner, she is wholly individual. Apart from Jessie Kesson, I can't think of another writer she is akin to, either in background or tone.

Hudson has not read Kesson, and only discovered James Kelman and Janice Galloway – about both of whom she rhapsodises – after her agent told her she might recognise something of herself in them.

It's clear she shares with her heroine an erratic education. "Probably one of my saving graces," she says, "was that I was brought up in a house where books were always there, we were always at the library." Her mother was a fan of Dickens. "She read absolutely everything. I suppose she also had quite a strong sense of social idealism, so obviously Dickens appealed massively to her."

Hudson's publishers won't be the only ones to find a hint of the Dickensian in these pages, and not only because part of it is set in Great Yarmouth, where David Copperfield lived as a child, and where teenage Janie runs amok.

So was Hudson as reckless as her character when she was a girl? "I did go a bit wild from about 14," she admits.

"I think it was partly in response to growing up in an environment where it was quite the norm to be drinking heavily and having casual sex in your early to mid-teens, and that that is probably a symptom of it being implied from a very early age – pretty much as soon as you go into mainstream education – that you probably won't amount to much because you come from a certain background."

Hudson talks without bitterness, but there's anger and sadness beneath much of what she remembers.

"I always did fairly well academically but truanted a fair bit, mainly because I was bullied quite badly for having clothes that marked me out as poor – the wrong trainers etc, usual kids stuff – or being the new girl. From 15 to 17 I was drinking heavily regularly and as an adult I can see that was a really dangerous time for me and how close I was to really messing up and never making a proper future for myself."

Hudson was saved by her love of acting. "I was able to put all my misspent energy and those complex feelings of frustration, anger and hope into that – so that kept me focused enough to see a way out." She had always enjoyed writing too, but "acting seemed a much more attainable route out the council estate than writing. Because it's a kind of ivory tower, having a book just seems very proper."

She studied drama in Loughborough, and then at Middlesex University in London, but broke off her degree to travel the world when she fell in love. That ten-year relationship ended only last year. "It was a lovely, amicable, very lesbian divorce," she comments. "We're still very close."

When Hudson abandoned the stage, her partner encouraged her to take up writing. After two years on a creative writing course at Wolverhampton, which again went unfinished, this time because she needed to care for her father who was ill, she took a part-time job with a charity.

"I do regret not going back, actually, but by then I was earning a good salary for the first time ever, and I knew that I wanted to make some sort of difference, so in my idealistic way – I was only 23 – I thought the charity sector was that place where I could make a difference. And so I worked my way up for the next four years, until I was at manager level. And then I was like, I'll give the writing a go again."

When she realised that all her short stories were revolving around the same situation, she knew she had to write this novel. Despite a demanding job in a children's charity, she hammered it out. There's nothing slapdash about Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream - but the speed at which it was written is perhaps reflected in its vigour and pace.

What strikes one immediately is how unusual it is to find such characters in fiction – in the driving seat, that is, and written by someone who has lived that life, rather than parodying or mocking a class they don't understand. It was the scarcity of such books that inspired Hudson.

"One of the main reasons why I ever sat down to write this was because I couldn't find anything. I got almost my whole education through the local library. I went to loads of schools, I didn't have a very happy time at school, and I spent a lot of time with stacks and stacks of books at the library, reading totally indiscriminately, from really schlocky crime to really good books. And I couldn't find anything, anything at all that I could connect with."

She adds: "Well, I could, but not something that represented the world I came from."

When asked why that is, she pauses – not something she often does, normally speaking at the speed of an intercity express. But now she picks her words carefully: "I suspect the reason there aren't any books is that not enough people escape sufficiently with enough intact to then be able to write a book about it and get it published -

"Obviously I work for a children's charity and I see it all the time: young people will just be crushed and futures absolutely destroyed by a bad upbringing or a neglected upbringing.

"But I do think there is a minute proportion who use it to their advantage almost? You get the bit between your teeth and it makes you a lot more driven, I think, to get things done and make your mark, as it were."

The novel is peppered with a cast of men – shiftless individuals who are sometimes vicious, but more often clueless. Hogan is aware of how unflatteringly she portrays them. "I know, I know! I think it's going to upset some men actually.

"It's not my view of the world as a whole, but I think it's a lot of women's experience from those sorts of backgrounds - One of the things I love about the book is the strength of the women that holds it all together, which I do think is often quite true of working-class backgrounds, that matriarchal figure that keeps it together."

She sounds almost motherly herself as she wistfully concludes: "I hope that lots of people read it, but it would be lovely if some people like Janie read it and see a little niche, and a little bit of understanding."

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is published by Chatto & Windus, £12.99. Kerry Hudson will be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 13 and 14,, 0845 373 5888.