ABOUT HELEN SMITH
Her latest book is the dystopian thriller The Miracle Inspector.
Visit her website at http://www.emperorsclothes.co.uk.
Friend her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ emperorsclothes
Become a fan at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorhelensmith
Friend her at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2833648.Helen_Smith
Pick up a copy of The Miracle Inspector at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Inspector-Helen-Smith/dp/0956517056
Could you please tell us a little about your book?
The Miracle Inspector is a dystopian novel set in the near future. England has been partitioned and London is an oppressive place where poetry has been forced underground, theatres and schools are shut, and women are not allowed to work outside the home. A young married couple, Lucas and Angela, decide to escape from London. But that decision has disastrous consequences.
Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
I volunteered as a writing mentor with exiled writers in London through a charity called Freedom From Torture. I wondered what it would be like if I had to flee from London. How would I get away? Who would help me? What would my reception be like in the places where I sought sanctuary? Those questions were the starting point for my book.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My daughter Lauren always reads my manuscripts before I send them to my agent. The Miracle Inspector is dedicated to her.
What cause are you most passionate about and why?
For many years I have donated money or my time (or both) to Freedom From Torture, formerly The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. It’s a charity that helps survivors of torture who have come to the UK as refugees. Most of its funding comes from private individuals.
Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?
No, but I dance in the kitchen when the writing’s going well. It happens spontaneously, when I take a break to make a cup of tea or some lunch. So if I catch myself doing it, I feel very cheerful because I know it’s a good sign.
What is the most important thing in your life right now?
It sounds dull but the most important thing is my work. I’m worried that I don’t spend enough time writing. I have several books that I want to finish but I don’t seem to write fast enough. I have a daughter whom I love very much, but now that she’s grown-up I don’t think about her for sixteen hours in every day. I think about work.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished my first full-length cozy mystery novel, Invitation to Die. It’s set in London and features amateur sleuth Emily Castles. Now I’m working on the follow-up, Beyond Belief, which is set in the English seaside town of Torquay. I had previously published two novellas featuring Emily, Three Sisters and Showstoppers, and they have had a good reception from readers, so I hope the novels will go down equally well.
Do you have any advice for writers or readers?
For writers, the only advice I give usually is to keep going. The hardest part of writing is to finish a book that is good enough to publish, but you’ll get there in the end.
What are some of your long term goals?
I’m planning to write five books in my Emily Castles mystery series. After that, or perhaps at the same time, I’d like to write a series of swashbuckling historical novels with a woman as the main character. I have another book I’d like to write about a woman and an angel who go on a road trip. I have been talking about it for a while and I need to sit down and write it. When I’m older I’d like to write children’s books. I fell in love with reading as a child and I have always wanted to end my days inspiring young readers the way I was inspired at their age.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?
My first novel, Alison Wonderland, was a bestseller in America. My second novel, Being Light, had a brilliant review in the Times Literary Supplement. I’m proud of both those achievements. But I suppose you could say the first was down to my publisher whereas I earned the second myself. If I’m honest, I hope that my greatest achievements are yet to come. I don’t care about money but I’d really like to win an award.
What do you feel is your biggest strength?
I’m really good at making other people feel good about themselves.
I’m too timid. I worry that one day I’ll look back on my life and feel that I haven’t been pushy enough. I’m the perfect house guest or holiday companion, and my friends love hanging out with me. But it’s no good for my career. If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen, don’t you?
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?
If you’re not happy, move on. Life is transient and you don’t have to get stuck with whatever is happening to you if you don’t like it. Of course, that also means that if you are happy now, you have to make the most of it because things will change.
What is your favorite past-time?
I like swimming and knitting. Not at the same time.
Knitting is brilliant because it can be as difficult or as easy as you like, and if you spend time doing it, you can watch it grow in front of your eyes and will have something you can be proud of (however it turns out) at the end of it. I love knitting and don’t spend nearly enough time doing it.
Swimming is brilliant because it’s like flying. How do I know what flying feels like? I do it in my dreams.
I also ought to mention reading, though I suppose I think of reading as something more than purely recreational. It’s necessary – like eating or breathing.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
No – thank you for your questions. I enjoyed answering them.
“…this is an absolutely exceptional piece of fiction, a work of art befitting the best in socially-conscious literature.”
– Journal of Always Reviews “.
“..Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one.”
– The Times
“…Smith is gin-and-tonic funny.”
“Smith has a keen eye for material details, but her prose is lucid and uncluttered by heavy description. Imagine a satire on Cool Britannia made by the Coen Brothers.”
– Times Literary Supplement