Meet Guest Author Sarah E. Smith…

sarah-e-smithHi I’m Sarah and when I was at school I was the “thick, lazy, gobby kid” teachers despaired of and sent out of the room. Constantly the new girl, I knew within two years I wouldn’t be at the school anymore. So: I just couldn’t be bovvered to fit in, or make friends.

If Sarah was a noun phrase it would mean: couldn’t organise her way out of a wet paper bag. The amount of HW I didn’t do would fill the Albert Hall. I couldn’t spell to save my life. I didn’t know what a comma or a full stop did, which drove my English teacher mad because I was reading Dumas, Machiavelli, Christie, and Bronte. I could devour a book in hours and yet I couldn’t understand the basics of punctuation.

To make things worse, I constantly lost things. Couldn’t remember what lessons I had, or what day of the week it was. I was untidy in looks and appearance. I had absolutely no interest in makeup, clothes and all things girly. I was a geek before the term was invented. Obsessed with the world of Doctor Who; the girl who went to 4 primary schools and 2 secondary schools found more stability in fiction, imaginary friends, and Sunday afternoon movies than reality.

Going to school in Wales saved me.

Actually, let’s give credit where credit is due. Roger Edwards, my history teacher saved me. He realised quicker than anyone else that I wasn’t thick or stupid. He told me I was one of the brightest people he knew. He persuaded me to apply to Bangor University, and once there, they called me dyslexic; and told me I could do anything. So: I became a teacher because I wasn’t letting any other kid ever go through what I did.

Five years ago, I joined my current school as an English teacher – oh the irony of it all. It was an hour commute each way, and suddenly these voices were in my head. Not in a bad – psycho like – way. Just telling their tale; wanting it to have a wider audience. Lucy with her geeky freakiness. Mark with his ability to get thrown out of lessons; they were me and not me.

In Aldwych Strand’s trilogy I told the story of their journey to adulthood, combining my love of time travel and history to allow them to grow and develop. Mark whose mentors were some of history’s greatest and most flawed politicians; Lucy who blossomed into a beauty under the guidance of four of the 20th century’s most manipulative of men – both found their place: their Roger Edwards. It was a trilogy I never intended to publish.

I didn’t have the courage to let my first book be seen by a wider audience during its creation. A fatal mistake and one I really don’t advise. OH said as I’d worked so hard, I might as well put it on Amazon. So I did, safe in the knowledge no one would ever read it.

The End of the Pier Affair – in that first incarnation – was rough. Like Windows Vista, it was released far, far too soon. But to my surprise it was read and people made constructive comments. It got the attention of the man who was putting together a conglomeration of indie writers – the illusive Kensington Gore.

He let me concentrate on the writing, while he did the hard work (or so he tells me). Added to the entourage of people who expressed confidence, signed me for a six-book deal! Was he mad? Apparently not! “Kenny” got me an editor, polished the diamond; became my Svengali… or do I mean Citizen Cane? Nagged me when I needed it.

When not at the theatre, watching everything from Shakespeare to War of the Worlds; or cooking for friends; or at the rugby; or taking pictures that I sometimes use for the Weekly photo challenge on WordPress – I wrote.

Sometimes OH and I visited the locations I use in my writing. Sleeping in the back of Green and more lately Zane (Grey) – our VW caddy vans – when we went to Blenheim. We even returned to Llanistumdwy and Criccieth to visit Lloyd George’s childhood haunts, to get the feel of a man who upgraded himself from cameo to central character.

I thought I was writing for reluctant YA readers. Perhaps not. Looking back on my work now – Lucy and Mark’s adventures are dark and very adult. Even if the chapters are short and readable in the loo, the issues and situations are not. Good and Evil are not white and black when you travel in time.

With Mark and Lucy’s story ending, I touted to “Kenny” the idea of a crime fiction series set at turn of the 20th century.

My head was now full of Symington, Earl Byrd. A retired army major used by the Government to bring peace to the Empire, as the sun sets on Victoria’s reign. The cleverest person in England until Millicent Jones is pushed from a train.

Byrd’s entourage came thick and fast, filling my commute with tales of his army days in Sikkim.

Sampson his valet, with a penchant for bells and smells; Watkins the best driver in India; and his cousin – CC – former colonel, now a Scotland Yard Inspector. And close on their heels came her: the most rounded character I have ever had shout in my head. She won’t let me talk about her or her uncle here. She wants you to meet them on her terms – just like Symington does.

And the voices in my head have gone crazy. I have two plots running concurrently. A traditional country house murder set over the Christmas weekend, and the murder of a gardener whose body is found in the hole at Limehouse. Which one will I finish first, is your guess. I suspect it will be the one with the murderer who shouts the loudest.

If you’d like to learn more about me, please do click on the links, and say hi

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