Helen Smith is a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and English PEN. She traveled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel which was published by Gollancz (part of the Hachette Group).
She is the author of bestselling cult novel Alison Wonderland. She writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays and is the recipient of an Arts Council of England Award. She’s a long-term supporter of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and mentors members of an exiled writers group to help them tell their stories.
Her latest book is the dystopian thriller The Miracle Inspector.
Visit her website at http://www.emperorsclothes.co.uk.
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About the Book:
The Miracle Inspector is a dystopian thriller 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 couple, Lucas and Angela, try to escape from London – with disastrous consequences.
“…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
Would you call yourself a born writer?
When I was a child I thought I had been born a poet but I soon gave up on that idea. I realized that, in order to be a great poet, I’d have to live a life of romantic suffering and, perhaps mostly importantly, I’d have to be good at poetry. But I have always loved reading and knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up – in that sense, perhaps I was born a writer. I love writing – there’s nothing else I’d want to do.
What was your inspiration for The Miracle Inspector?
I had been volunteering as a writing mentor with exiled writers in London through an organization called Freedom From Torture, a British charity that helps survivors of torture. I wondered what it would be like if I had to flee London because it was no longer safe. That was my starting point.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
It changes, depending on what I’m thinking about when I begin to write a book. I usually write about love, friendship and betrayal. The Miracle Inspector is about a young couple who try to escape London for a better life in Cornwall, and it’s partly about the curtailment of civil liberties in the name of the fight against terrorism. Most of my books are more light-hearted than that but I wanted to deal with some serious issues in The Miracle Inspector.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
It took about a year to write.
Describe a typical writing day.
I am disciplined but I find that life gets in the way – there’s lots of admin involved in being a writer, never mind going to the shops and cleaning the house and all the other aspects of daily life. A typical writing day involves getting up, having breakfast, checking my emails, getting distracted by whatever messages are in my inbox, and then getting started at about nine or ten o’clock. I work for about five hours – but this might not involve writing text that finds its way directly into the manuscript. I might be writing notes, working up ideas. But I rarely have a typical writing day. Each day is different. The purest and best kind of writing day involves going away somewhere with no Internet and just sitting there and writing, not talking to anyone or worrying about anything except the work. I have only managed that a few times but I would like to do it for a couple of weeks for every book.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
I wanted The Miracle Inspector to have an ambiguous ending and I wanted to give away as little as possible about what had happened to bring England to this sorry state so that readers would fill in the gaps themselves. When you’re trying to withhold information it’s tough to get the balance right but I think I have succeeded with this book.
What do you love most about being an author?
I like writing and I love it when I have just finished a project – at that point I will be pleased with the work and feel it’s all worthwhile.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I have been traditionally published in the past but I decided to self-publish The Miracle Inspector. I began by putting the book up for sale on the Kindle and it is now available at Kobo as an ebook and in print just about everywhere. I’m happy with the decision I have made. I just hope readers like the book!
Where can we find you on the web?
Watch the trailer: http://youtu.be/GhODz6BMZ7o