IT is the morning after Valentine’s Day and Chris McQueer is enthusing about the meal he and his girlfriend Vanessa, a make-up artist, enjoyed the previous evening – in Greggs in Argyle Street, Glasgow. “Aw, it was brilliant, man. Amazing. It was a chicken bake for a main, but they put wee pastry love hearts on it. I love Greggs. Mad for it, aye.”

McQueer, who is 26, talks like this

– with puppy-doggish sincerity. Except, as anyone who has read his fiction knows, he is the sort of puppy who is liable to leave something nasty on the carpet and most likely has a touch of the mange. His debut short story collection Hings came out last summer and has become a social media and word-of-mouth hit, its sales far beyond the expectations of both the author and his publishers, 404 Ink. McQueer’s tales offer a surreal, sometimes grotesque vision of the Glasgow schemes in which, often, the tracksuited locals undergo some sort of transformation,

a “What if?” moment. “What if an auld guy gets a budgie and the budgie grew airms?” he offers, by way of example. “What if everybody woke up and their knees bent backwards?” Hings, in other words, is Kappa’s Metamorphosis.

We meet in a cafe at the Fort shopping centre. McQueer spent his early life in Garthamlock and now lives near the Fort, in Springboig, with his mother and younger brother; until late last year, when he quit to focus on writing, he had a job selling trainers at DW Sports. This part of Glasgow is the inspiration and setting for much of McQueer’s work. “It’s a really good place,” he says. “I can’t imagine staying anywhere else. There’s so much weird stuff happening, so many characters. I don’t really get to read about the east end unless it’s crime books – the ice cream wars and Paul Ferris and all that. I just wanted to show the lighter side. You can have a laugh here. It’s not all murders.”

McQueer, wearing skinny jeans and a Buckfast T-shirt, has heavy eyebrows and a Peaky Blinders haircut. “He looks like a 16-year-old but has the booming voice of a Scottish Barry White,” his publisher Laura Jones observed when we spoke on the phone. She added: “He wasn’t setting out to make a social comment with Hings, he just wanted to tell funny stories set in an environment that he was familiar with, and it turns out that resonated with a lot more people than we all anticipated.

He has a base of younger readers who

I don’t think have ever seen themselves represented in literature of any form. When we had the launch in Waterstones in Glasgow, a lot of them said that was the first time they had been in a bookshop.”

Even as a child, McQueer was a big reader. He gets it from his mother and grandmother. He’d find Irvine Welsh novels, with their alluring covers, lying around in the house, and started reading them in his mid-teens. He didn’t enjoy Eastbank Academy and its absurd macho norms – “the whole aim was to get through the day without being called gay” – and left at 16 after disappointing standard grade results. What was he like at that age? “Really awkward, really shy, really quiet. I was just a bag of nerves about leaving the house. I was worried about the future because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. That filled me with all sorts of anxiety.” Mostly, he sat in his room and played Football Manager. He also read a lot, “escapist stuff, urban fantasy stuff” such as Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami.

His mother, Tracy, was always supportive. She believed in her son, even when he didn’t believe in himself. She and McQueer’s father had split up soon after he was born. “She’s a really amazing woman. Growing up, it was just me and her in a wee council flat until

I was about seven or eight, and then she met my brother’s dad and we moved down to Springboig.” She’s a very creative person, he says. “Her sense of humour has influenced me, and her outlook on life – that carefree attitude.”

His family is a matriarchy – mother, grandmother, aunties, all strong women. In McQueer’s stories it tends to be the men who behave ridiculously and recklessly while women are, relatively, sensible and stable. “I like writing about toxic masculinity,” he says. Why? “I wonder if it’s maybe because I grew up without a da? Apart from my granda, everybody in my life was female. But I think maybe I’m more attuned to the feelings of guys, for some reason. I like exploring how daft we are.”

Was that something he had to consider, growing up with his father absent: what it meant to be a man? “Aye, a wee bit,” he nods. “There were a lot of ‘waster’ type men about where I lived; guys that spent most of their time and wages in the pub, guys with reputations for being woman-beaters, guys that just seemed to want to fight all the time. I saw how people, especially the women in my life, spoke about these men. I knew I didn’t want people to be speaking about me like that in the future, and I didn’t want to disappoint the likes of my maw and my granny.”

As the title suggests, much of Hings is written in Scots. “It’s how I talk. It is a language and we should be proud of it. That’s why I use it. I’m trying to show people it’s no just how neds talk. It’s our culture. When I write in Scots, it flows much easier.” Writing in English, he is more hesitant, as if working in translation.

Social class is one of the themes of his work. He finds class difference interesting and amusing, but doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about it. “I’m proud of being working-class,” he says. “There’s no enough working-class writers and it’s good to be one of them.”

In his stories Top Boy and Sammy’s Mental Christmas, McQueer demonstrates a keen eye and wry affection for the madcap lives of neds. “I just love what they get up to at weekends and how that subculture hasn’t really changed in decades,” he says. “Hanging about closes, smoking hash, still gangfighting. It’s weird how that’s ingrained in families. I find it dead interesting.”

If pressed, McQueer can express a connoisseur’s opinion on the best way to serve Buckfast (“It’s either got to be freezing cauld or room temperature”) but insists he was never a ned himself. “I was always a good boy.” Was he drawn to the weird glamour of that lifestyle, though? “Aye. They always seemed to be having a laugh - dogging school, out till stupid o’clock at night. They looked as if they were doing it right. I always liked it.”

All those years of drifting, between leaving school and now, often felt aimless and unsatisfying, but McQueer can see, in retrospect, that they allowed him to gather material for his writing, developing a blackly comic tone. There was, for instance, the time he – along with his mother and grandfather – got a job cleaning houses that had been crime scenes, or from which problem tenants had been evicted. “It was really morbid but really good. The three of us, in a van, going to clean

a manky hoose in Paisley – that was brilliant. Just my granda’s sense of humour about it all. We’d be sitting amongst total filth and he’d get his wee flask out for

a cup of tea, and give me a piece.

“You wouldn’t know what you were walking into every day. I remember cleaning skin off a toilet pan from a guy who had died sitting on there.”

He did the cleaning job between shifts at the sports shop. On his return, he’d tell his colleagues the latest. “I was like a court jester, entertaining everybody with these bad stories.” In these moments, the writer was being formed.

McQueer is a populist at heart. He started off posting his work on the website Medium, which has a function allowing authors to see how many people are reading the stories and how many scroll right to the end. These statistics changed how he wrote. Determined to hook readers early and keep them reading, he made his stories punchier and more comic. This paid off when he started to perform live on the spoken-word scene, on which he is a guaranteed draw. Later this month he will be appearing as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.

“Because his stories are straightforwardly told, and because he’s got an effortless sweetness, crowds really warm to him,” Ross McCleary, the co-host of Inky Fingers, an open mic night in Edinburgh, told me. “Despite the comparisons to Irvine Welsh, there’s a hopefulness in Chris’s work; there’s not the same sense of attack.”

He writes in his bedroom at home. “It’s just me and my dug. The dug will float aboot” – not literally – “and if I get stuck I take the dug a walk.” It is only since packing in his job, two days before Christmas, that he has felt able to call himself a writer, but even now he has doubts. “I don’t really feel like a real writer, because I’ve not had all the rejection that loads of other writers have had. I just fell into it. Everything happened dead quick … I don’t think I was ready to have my first book come out so soon.” Lately, while recording the audiobook of Hings, putting that Barry White voice to use, he has found himself wincing at some of his sentences and word choices. He is serious about getting better and has enrolled in a creative writing course at City of Glasgow College, which demonstrates an admirable lack of ego.

His next book will be a further collection of stories: “A wee bit longer, a wee bit funnier, a wee bit darker.” He hopes he has a novel in him – “I’d love to write magical realism set in the east end” – and his publisher hopes so, too. “Everything that’s happened over the last 10 years has led up to this moment,” he says. Yet, in a way, McQueer’s creative ambitions remain modest. “I’m trying to write things my pals and my family find funny,” he says. “I just want to give people a laugh.”

Chris McQueer will be at the Grosvenor Cinema, Glasgow, on March 15 as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival. The audiobook of Hings will be released this month by 404 Ink. He will be at Glasgow book festival Aye Write! on March 18.