Helen Smith is a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and English PEN. When her daughter was small, Ms. Smith traveled the world, doing a variety of strange jobs to support them both–from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant. She then later returned to live in London where she wrote her first novel which went on to be published by Gollancz (part of the Hachette Group).
She is the author of the bestselling cult novel titled Alison Wonderland. Helen Smith writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays and is the recipient of an Arts Council of England Award.
Ms. Smith is a long-term supporter of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and also is a mentor to members of an exiled writers group to help them tell their own stories.
Helen Smith’s latest book is the dystopian thriller The Miracle Inspector.
Readers can learn more about Helen Smith and her work by visiting the following links:
Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?
The Miracle Inspector is a dystopian novel set in England in the near future. The country has been partitioned and London is an oppressive place where schools and theatres have been closed down, and women are not allowed to work outside the home. There are rumours that other parts of the country are more liberal, and a young couple, Lucas and Angela, decide to try to escape to Cornwall in the south west. The main characters are Lucas, the eponymous Miracle Inspector; his wife Angela; and Maureen, a woman who has reported a miracle.
How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?
The title for the book is also the job title for one of the main characters, Lucas, who has been given this important job even though he’s only twenty-four. The right to believe in miracles is enshrined in a constitution that has been written by the people for the people to compensate them for the curtailment of their civil liberties. Though Lucas investigates all the reports from the public, a miracle has never been found. The title represents the absurdity of the dystopian society these characters live in. As for the cover, I worked with British artist Ian Dodds on the concept for the design. I really love what he came up with.
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?
There’s a clip of me reading an excerpt from The Miracle Inspector on YouTube. It’s a scene in which Lucas’s godfather, Jesmond, visits an underground poetry in London. Jesmond is on the run and is something of a hero to the young people who go to hear him perform his work. One of my favorite lines is this: “He hadn’t realised that the ordinary little things that happened, the ones that took place between the big events while waiting for something more exciting to happen–they were the most important, after all.”
What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?
I love doing readings at literary events and festivals. I host a regular event called The Literary Cabaret which features a mix of readings from award-winning authors and music from singer Kate Arneil; we’ll be appearing at The Bloomsbury Festival in London in October. I’m a proud Literary Death Match champion and, having won a contest with a reading from my book Alison Wonderland last year, I have been invited back to judge literary merit at Literary Death Match in London in September.
I’m planning to visit New York in October and I’ll do some readings there. I’ll also be appearing at the Royal Festival Hall in London in December. People can’t always travel to see me read at events, of course, so I have found that doing virtual tours on book blogs are a great way to meet and interact with readers and promote my work.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I try to write a thousand words a day. Some days, when it’s going well, I can do more than that. Some days I hardly write anything at all. I don’t much like the planning stage of writing a book. I like the writing when it’s going well. Editing is my favourite part: revisiting something that has already been written and polishing it.
What are some ways that you like to relax?
One of my best friends has a house in Somerset, near Glastonbury, and I go down there with friends and family when I want to escape from London. I love London, but sometimes it’s nice to have a change of air. We have boozy parties and sit around laughing and talking late into the night. Actually, that doesn’t sound very relaxing. But it’s fun.
What authors do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?
There’s a brilliant writer called Henry Green, a contemporary of Graham Greene, whose work is not read widely today. He’s worth checking out–you might want to start with Back. Elizabeth Taylor has been overlooked but is currently enjoying something of a modest revival because 2012 is the centenary of her birth. If you’d like to try one of her books I’d suggest reading Angel.
What author would you most like to meet and why?
I’d like to meet Mary Karr. Her book, The Liars’ Club, is one of my favourites. I think she’d be brilliant company.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?
I’m currently writing a mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth called Emily Castles and her side-kick, a middle-aged philosophy professor called Dr. Muriel. It’s set in present-day England and it’s lighthearted and fun; it would be classified as a cozy mystery. I have already published two novellas in the series and have just finished writing the first full-length novel, Invitation to Die.
What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?
When my daughter was three years old I took her travelling all over the world for a couple of years. People tend to think I must have been quite adventurous to take her away when she was so young. But we just had a brilliant time.