Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview with Helen Smith, Author of The Miracle Inspector

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.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello! I’m a novelist and playwright. I live in London, England.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in London but then my family moved first to Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, then to Dorset, not far from Weymouth where the sailing events were held for the 2012 Olympics. Dorset is very pretty, with thatched cotttages and lovely countryside, but I longed for the excitement of London and couldn’t wait to move back here when I was eighteen.

When did you begin writing?

I used to write dreadful poetry when I was about eight years old. I wrote a shambolic play that was performed at school, and of course I wrote various stories as creative writing assignments when I was at school, too. But really, I began writing in earnest when I was about twenty-nine years old. I loved reading so much that I always knew I wanted to write. But what would I write about, if I hadn’t lived a little first? So I had a plan to live an interesting life and then start writing when I was thirty. I cheated and gave myself a year’s head start.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I write during the day and often go on into the night. I find it easier to write in concentrated blocks of time rather than snatch a few moments here and there.

What is this book about?

The Miracle Inspector is set in the near future. It’s about a young couple called Lucas and Angela who try to escape from London. England has been partitioned and London is an oppressive place when poetry has been banned, and theatres and schools have been shut down. There are rumours that other places in England are more liberal, but there’s no way of knowing for sure because a fence has gone up around the city and communication with the outside is forbidden. Still, Lucas and Angela think it’s worth taking the chance. The book is about what happens to them after they decide to leave.

What inspired you to write it?

I volunteer as a writing mentor with a group of exiled writers in London through an organization called Freedom From Torture. I wondered what it would be like if I had to flee London because it was no longer a safe place to live, and that gave me the germ of the idea for this book.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My daughter, Lauren, reads all my manuscripts before I send them to my agent. She’s always very encouraging about my work. This book is dedicated to her.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The print book is available online from,, Barnes & Noble, Blackwells, The Book Depository, Foyles, W H Smith, Waterstones, and from your local independent bookshop.

The ebook is available from Kindle stores including and

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

I have a very short trailer for The Miracle Inspector here. It does little more than show the cover and a few quotes, but I hope it will be enough to persuade readers to check out the book.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

I have signed up for a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. Over the years I have had some lovely reviews for my books from book bloggers and I have kept in touch with some of them. I wondered about whether to try and set up my own virtual book tour but there’s a lot of work involved. I realised that if I hired someone to set up the book tour for me, they would be able to get my book to many more bloggers than I could hope to contact, they would vet the blogs on my behalf, and they would do the work while I concentrated on writing the next book. It’s a great division of labor and I’m very happy with it.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Just keep writing. All you have to do it finish your book and make sure you’re pleased with it. It’s harder than it sounds but you’ll get there.

What is up next for you?

I am writing a mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth called Emily Castles. It is set in London and it’s light-hearted and fun – it would be characterised as a cozy mystery series. I have already published two novellas featuring Emily and her side-kick, a philosophy professor called Dr. Muriel, and they have had some great reviews from readers. I have just finished the first full-length novel in the series and I’m currently working on the second.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for hosting me on the blog. I have enjoyed answering the questions.


Helen Smith said...

Thanks, Cheryl - I really enjoyed doing the interview. Thank you for the questions.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by, Helen. Wishing you the best with your book.