Sunday, September 19, 2010

Meet the Author: Helen Smith

I have so many wonderful authors to share with you, I'm going to start featuring them on weekends, when you can kick back and put your feet up and read someone new.  Today's author is Helen Smith.  You can find her book "Being Light"  in paperback, or get it for your Kindle for just $2.99.

Helen Smith 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. She writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays. 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.

My interview with Helen Smith

Q) Tell us about your book
Being Light is a comedy set in England. A man is swept away on a freak gust of wind while installing a bouncy castle in a park in south London. When he doesn’t come home, his wife, Sheila, hires a private detective to find him. There are various madcap characters involved in a series of interlinked adventures and although I set out to make people laugh, there are some serious underlying themes – death, loss, mortality, post-natal depression, child care for working mothers and the treatment of animals in circuses. But I doubt that anyone except the most assiduous reader would pick up on all those references.

The book was first published in the UK by Gollancz/Orion and it got some fantastic reviews but eventually it went out of print. I got the rights back last year and I’m publishing it myself under my own imprint, Tyger Books.

Q) What inspired you to write this book?
I read a story in the paper when I was in Australia about a man who travelled several feet in the air while installing a bouncy castle in a park. Of course, he came back down again. But I loved the idea of someone floating high above the countryside, too high up to be able to shout for help and having no choice but to wave back at the people on the ground as he gives in to his fate – and that’s how the book starts.

Q) Do you have a favorite character?
I like them all, even the ‘baddies’! I feel sorry for Sheila – she’s bewildered and trying to make sense out of a very odd situation. Why would her husband not come home, if he’s free? She doesn’t take the hints that others throw out, that he might have gone off with another woman. I love Mrs Fitzgerald, the boss of the detective agency Sheila hires to find her husband (she also features in my first book, Alison Wonderland). She reads the autobiographies of shamed celebrities to work out what drove them over the edge, so she can avoid it. Most of the characters in my books are trying to invent rules for themselves to understand or improve the world.

Q) I have a lot of very creative readers. Do you have other hobbies or creative pursuits besides writing?
I love knitting but I don’t do much of it. I like following complicated patterns but I get frustrated if I go wrong because I hate going back and unpicking my work. I started knitting when I was about fourteen and I have always liked the idea of being able to create something beautiful out of raw materials, though I also love looking at skeins of dyed wool in their unknitted state. My dream would be to own a knitting wool shop in a picturesque village somewhere – and combine that with solving mysteries, like a Miss Marple style amateur detective.

Last year I made some nonsensical short films with my daughter and my dog, and put them on YouTube. I can’t tell you how much pleasure I got from making and editing them – more than viewers get from watching them, I’d guess. Still, you can find them at if you’d like to take a look. I put the skills I had learned to good use more recently when I filmed an actor friend reading two poems by an Iranian poet and put them up on YouTube. The poet is a friend of mine and I helped her to translate the poems from Farsi. I wouldn’t win any prizes for film-making but one of the poems, Remember Me, got 1400 hits in the first three days, and the poet was overjoyed – Remember Me was dedicated to her younger brother who died in Evin prison in Iran.

Q) Do you have any upcoming titles you’re working on?
I’m writing a book called Beachy Head about a woman and an angel on an extended road trip in the south of England.

Q) What’s on your nightstand (or kindle) right now?
I love print books and always disliked the idea of reading on the computer because I thought it would hurt my eyes. I also think that the text reads differently on screen than it does on the page - I would never edit or proof read a document on the computer screen, for example. But I recently got Kindle for PC (which is free – another joy) and I have been converted to its advantages. I like being able to adjust the font size so I don’t need reading glasses, I like the instant access to books as I’m browsing, I like the price, which is cheaper than print books, and I like being able to read the classics and other out-of-copyright books for free.

I have recently loaded up some free Chekhov on my Kindle for PC, I also have Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel to read (under $5 – a bargain compared to the paperback!). I’m half way through a paperback copy of A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian and I’m still dipping in to the latest edition of Granta, which is a quarterly collection of fiction, essays and photographs published in book form. I subscribed for years – I first read Lynn Barber’s short piece ‘An Education’ in Granta; it later became the film with Carey Mulligan, with a script by Nick Hornby. I also discovered one of my favourite stories of all time in a Granta collection with an Australian theme, a novella called Pobby and Dingan. I thought Granta went off a bit and unsubscribed for a few years but I have just gone back to it – there’s a new American editor - and have enjoyed the last two issues.

Q) What else would you like to add?
Thank you for having me! This is an interesting blog and I look forward to coming back to chat as a visitor.

Q) Where can we find your book?
Being Light is available in print from Amazon, B&N, The Book Depository and other online stores, and in digital format from the Amazon Kindle Store as well as The Book Depository. You may have to order it if you’d like to buy it from your local book store or borrow it from the library.

Q) Any other links?
I have a blog here:
Please come and say hello.

4 people stopped folding laundry to write:

Nancy said...

YEAH!!!!!! I was hoping you'd do more of these :)

Cheryl Lage said...

ThreeUnder, I LOVE that you are doing these! Going over to check out Helen's blog now. :)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

(un)Deniably Domestic said...

A most excellent interview. I will be adding this author to my must read list. ~Kelly

Helen Smith said...

Thank you! What an honour to be featured.

I know that the one of the reasons you're featuring guest authors is because you have undergone surgery. Hope you recover soon.

Sending lots of love
Helen xx

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