Thursday, May 16, 2013

Featured Author: Helen Smith

Helen Smith is on tour with Cozy Mystery Book Tours to promote her book, Invitation to Die, a British mystery, just published by Thomas & Mercer. I'm happy A Blue Million Books is one of her stops.

About the book:

Twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles is out of work...again. So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely offers her a job helping out at a conference in London, Emily accepts. Just as eagerly, American blogger Winnie Kraster accepts an invitation from Morgana to attend as a guest, not realizing she has, in effect, accepted an invitation to die.

As a cast of oddball characters assembles at the conference hotel, grievances, differences, and secrets begin to emerge. When Winnie goes missing, and then is found murdered nearby, Emily begins to suspect that someone involved with the conference is responsible. Could it be one of the organizers, one of the authors, a member of the hotel staff, or even the supplier of the chocolates for the conference gift bags? Emily teams up with guest speaker and eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to find out.

Offbeat and engaging, this entertaining comic mystery is the first full-length novel featuring amateur British sleuth Emily Castles.

Interview with Helen Smith:

Helen, Invitation to Die is your sixth published novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I used to write terrible poetry when I was a child. My first piece of professional writing was a short radio play which was broadcast in the UK. I won an award for it in a new writing festival. I had already started writing my first novel so instead of following that up by writing more radio plays, I kept going with the book and was lucky enough to have that published. Even though my radio play was broadcast before that, getting my first novel published feels like the start of my career.

How would you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)

Invitation to Die: Amateur sleuth Emily Castles teams up with eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel in this entertaining British mystery.

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

I outline, but I find that the story develops as I begin to write, with some characters becoming more important and getting a bigger role than I had originally conceived for them. But I always have to know how the story will end before I start writing.

What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

I used to reread books all the time when I was a child. I rarely do it now, but books I’m planning to reread including The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr and The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I always find it difficult to choose just one. But the opening line in I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is sweet: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

I love that! If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

I’d like to be Dr. Muriel, the eccentric philosophy professor who teams up with my main character to solve the mystery in Invitation to Die. She has a slightly off-kilter way of looking at things. She likes asking questions without worrying about coming up with answers. She’s a fun character to write.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I’m reading Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke on my Kindle. It’s my first James Lee Burke book and I’m enjoying it. I’ll definitely be reading more of his.

Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?

I think it’s a good idea to take some exercise every day. I’m terrible at doing this, but I have promised myself I’m going to start going to the local pool and swimming every day. I think that exercise helps you think, and thinking’s important for writing!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I live in London, and I love it here. I feel very lucky to live in such an interesting place with pretty parks, historical buildings, and plenty of cultural events to keep me entertained.

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have just come back from a last-minute trip to Hong Kong. A friend was getting married there. I have lots of friends in Hong Kong, and I wish I could visit more often. I know I have just come back, but I’m going to say Hong Kong!

What are you working on now?

I have just finished the follow-up to Invitation to Die. It’s called Beyond Belief and it’s set in Torquay at a conference of philosophers, psychologists, mediums, hypnotists, and TV psychics. Celebrated magician and self-professed sceptic Edmund Zenon has offered £50,000 to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal that weekend. When a death by drowning is predicted in a vision, Emily is called in to investigate.

I’m just about to start writing the next book in the series which is set at the Edinburgh Festival. Emily takes part in a theater show in which the boundaries between reality and art begin to blur. She finds herself in danger when she tries to investigate the death of a fellow performer.

Both books sound great! I'm looking forward to hearing more about them.

About the author:

Helen Smith is a British novelist and playwright who lives in London. She’s the author of Alison Wonderland, Being Light and The Miracle Inspector as well as the Emily Castles mysteries.

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