An Extract of my interview with Helen Smith in The Big Thrill this month. For the full interview, go HERE.
Helen Smith was ranked as America’s most popular mystery writer on Amazon last summer.Her latest release, BEYOND BELIEF, the second in the Emily Castle mysteries published by Thomas and Mercer is an entertaining mix of humor, mystery, and British eccentricities.
Smith writes novels, children’s books, poetry, plays, and screenplays. Her books have reached number one on Amazon’s bestseller lists in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany. Her first book, ALISON WONDERLAND, was one of the top five bestselling books from Amazon Publishing when it was launched in the US in 2011.
In BEYOND BELIEF, famed psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts a murder will occur at England’s Belief and Beyond conference, prompting her science-minded colleagues to recruit twenty-six-year-old budding sleuth Emily Castles to attend the event as a “future crimes investigator.” The suspected victim: celebrated magician Edmund Zenon, who plans to perform a daring stunt at the conference—and is offering fifty thousand pounds to any attendee who can prove that the paranormal exists.
In the seaside town of Torquay, Emily meets a colorful cast of characters: dramatic fortune-teller Madame Nova; kindly Bobby Blue Suit and his three psychic dachshunds; Sarah and Tim Taylor, devastated parents mourning their late son; and religious cult members Hilary, Trina, and the Colonel. Tensions rise as believers in science, the supernatural, and the spiritual clash with one another. But once a body count begins, Emily must excuse herself from the séances and positivity circles, and use old-fashioned detective work to find the killer.
Helen, tell us more about the clash of science, the supernatural, and the spiritual in BEYOND BELIEF?
Ian, thank you for the introduction and the questions. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to talk about my work. I love magic and sleight of hand, and I’m fascinated by psychics and spiritualists, and the skills and personality types required to earn a living in any of those fields. I wanted to bring together a group of people with differing ideas about how the world works, with consequences—such as loss of income or loss of reputation—if they are challenged and proved wrong, that would make them possible suspects in a murder case. And because I wanted to have fun with it—and keep the police out of it, to give my amateur sleuth a chance to solve the case—BEYOND BELIEF starts with a murder that hasn’t yet happened.
You describe Emily Castles as a “twenty-six-year-old budding sleuth”, and she has as a side-kick Dr Muriel Crowther. Would it be fair to say Emily Castles is your version of Sherlock Holmes?
Dr. Muriel is a philosophy professor so she’s very clever, rather than a slower-witted foil like Captain Hastings to Poirot, or Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Muriel likes asking questions and Emily likes solving puzzles, so they make a great team, with plenty of respect for each other’s abilities.Emily is more like a young Miss Marple than Sherlock Holmes, with her eccentric friend Dr.Muriel encouraging her to develop her detective skills as the series progresses.
Obviously the killer must remain anonymous here, but can you tell us about some of the colorful characters that Emily finds herself dealing with?
Emily meets some larger-than-life characters, including a clairvoyant called Perspicacious Peg, the first black president of a scientific organization who is trying to get to grips with Twitter,a challenger for a prize of fifty thousand pounds who has three psychic dachshunds, three members of an obscure religious cult, a spiritualist,a fortune-teller, and a magician.
What made you decide to make Emily Castles a series character?
I wanted a likeable amateur sleuth who could plausibly go into all sorts of situations where she might get mixed up in murder, but I didn’t want her to have any special powers or skills that would give her an advantage over the reader. I came up with a bright, inquisitive young woman who hasn’t quite found a job that’s right for her, which means she takes on various temporary assignments around the country—and even overseas, if the series continues. With a set-up like that, there should be endless possibilities for Emily to investigate when people start dying around her.
You’ve written stand-alone dystopian stories, classic crime, paranormal suspense, literary novels, and black comedy. From your writing experience, are you drawn to any particular genre?
It sounds like quite a mix, doesn’t it! If I need to simplify things, I tend to just tell people that I write comedies. At the moment I’m really enjoying writing mysteries. Like everything I write, they have some funny lines in them, and a slightly surreal quality to many of the characters and situations.
For the full interview go HERE