Sarah E. Smith is not like any other writer, she is a unique talent.
She was Born in Plymouth, and has been telling stories and tall tales since the very first time she could form a coherent sentence. She has been reading all her life too and is always at her happiest with a good book in her hand.
Her parents told her that when she was a little girl, that whenever she got lost while shopping, she could be found sitting in the middle of a pile of books that she'd pulled off the shelves.
Quite early on in life Sarah figured out that there were three ways to travel in time: stow away in the TARDIS, study History and write a book.
The publication of the Secret of Aldwych Strand 1 completed her trilogy of travels. You see not only did she study history at University, and enjoyed it so much she even teaches it; but she has been inside the TARDIS and travelled with the 4th and arguably the best Doctor, Tom Baker. Well, in a car and he didn't offer her a “jelly baby?!”
If dreams could come true, Sarah E. Smith would like to be a “Lady who Lunches”. However, her cat wants to take over the world through a collection of ingenious cat toys. So: please help the cat out by buying into Mark and Lucy's adventures.
Now Sarah is a valued writer for Kensington Gore's Publishing things might get a little scary so hold onto your hats.
1. Sarah spent much of her early childhood bouncing on the beds at Derry and Tom's.
2. She ran off to Gretna Green to get married.
3.Sarah drinks far more coffee than is good for her.
4. Lives within a megalomaniac cat who harbours plans to take over the world.
5. Once kidnapped a dalek and took it into the maze at Longleat.
6. Starred in a doctor who spin off (ok starred is an exaggeration - was in it. Honest.)
7. Loves Garners pickled onions.
History interests me and has done for such a long time now that when I first studied it ,it was known as present!
I've often been called a bit of an old relic myself.
In the morning my wife says I look like I was dug up at the same time as Tutankhamen.
I got talking to a fab young writer, Sarah E. Smith, author of The Aldwych Strand trilogy, at the British Museum; at first she thought I was one of the exhibits.
KG: What is it that you like the most about history?
SS: The mystery of it! The fact the past only reveals little bits of itself and that so much is a great unknown; like science only in reverse.
KG: I do all my best work in reverse. What got you started in writing?
SS: Some crayons, and a piece of sugar paper. You see I was naff at drawing, so went straight to letters. At least I could make them look right!
KG: My Grandson Graeme, stills does all his writing in crayon, not too sweet when you realise he's in his early forties!
At what age did your creative juices begin to flow?
SS: Difficult to put an age on it. I’m a child of the 70s; a time when books were the cradle of the imagination and television didn’t start until four O'clock in the afternoon and switched off just after midnight. In that kind of climate it was either be creative or die of boredom. Besides we couldn’t afford a hoop and stick.
KG: Oh, simpler times, kids probably have a bloody hoop & stick App now! History books are often criticised as being written from the side or point of view of the winners.
Your books show an alternative history, is that a hard mind set to get into?
SS: In the first book – End of the Pier Affair - I started with the idea that Lucy and Mark’s reality is different to our own. For them, Lloyd George died in that carriage accident in 1909. By saving him they create our version of reality – and that was easy – because I just had to keep bringing history back to the one our timeline uses. For The 1949 Affair I was able to base things on existing Nazi documents, which outlined what they were going to with England once victory was achieved. I could also use other “knowns” – like Churchill’s fight with depression and the fact the Nazis took the Belgian surrender in Langemark cemetery - to take a damn good guess as to what would happen if Operation Sealion had succeeded. For the last book though, it’s tougher. The summer of 1888 is one of the most notorious periods of British History (whatever version of reality you call your own). But what if it’s caused by the events of the alternate 1949? How do you deal with a temporal paradox of that magnitude and survive?
KG: Well, I'd need a stiff drink for a get go. How did you plan out your books?
SS: I have a long commute to work and during the drive, I think things through then; and when I get a few free minutes, I write it down.
KG: Did the Second World War always interest you?
SS: Actually no. I’m not a lover of war – as such; well not the fighting side of it at any rate. I’m more into the politics of history. Why did it start? Why did the politicians and rulers and generals do what they did? What were the consequences of these political decisions on ordinary people… on the future.
KG: What other times in history interest you that could, for example, have a clear alternative and what would that be?
SS: The one I use in class with the kids is the Gunpowder Plot. Just imagine if Guy Fawkes had succeeded, we’d have lost not only the king, and all the aristocracy but the square mile of London would have been blown to smithereens too! That would have been a monumental shift in history. France would have claimed the throne through their connection to Mary Queen of Scots and Philip of Spain would have pointed out he’d been married to Mary I and there would have been a European wide war! And NOTHING that we know as history, or politics or geography. NOTHING would be the same.
KG: Might have lit your blue touch paper for a new book. This book, The Secret of Aldwych Strand 2 - The 1949 Affair is YA "young adult", do you think it's suitable for people of any age? Even old codgers like me?
SS: Oh yes - my oldest known reader is 93! And my biggest fan is about to go into year 8; so it’s a wide ranging audience. When I was writing – I had the bench mark of a mature 12 year old as my guide. But I didn’t just want to write for children. A children’s book that is only for children isn’t a good book. And as someone once said, if the story you want to write is too difficult for adults to understand: write it for children. The second book (certainly) is directed at the older reader – not just because of the violence Mark endures but because Lucy has to make some very mature decisions, that I’m not sure many 18 year olds would want to make. Mind you, as Lucy and Mark grow up during the course of the books, I suppose you can grow up with them. I’d like to think that I’ve done my job properly there’s many layers – the adventure, war, spy yarn for the younger readers; the meticulous research for my historians; the sci-fi references for those who need that in their books – and of course the relationships that develop between Mark and Churchill and Lucy and Valentin Yes, the teenagers do relate things back to their school days, but there are a lot of references to the adult world of the 30+ reader. After all, Hitchcock & Marconi – unless you’re a film buff or radio ham – aren’t likely to mean much to the average teenager.
KG: Where do you draw your characters from?
SS: I’m a bit of a people watcher, so some of it comes from sitting around in cafés, looking at the world and seeing how people react to it. Obviously as a teacher you meet an awful lot of kids over the years, and I’d be lying if I tried to convince you that Mark and Lucy had no basis in reality. But every school has at least one class geek and football mad trouble maker, so even they are composites of every child I have ever known.
KG: You often have famous real people in your books too, like Churchill and even Hitler.
Do you enjoy playing kind of poetical license with how real people might have been?
SS: Yes I do.
KG: This is the second book of your Aldwych Strand trilogy. Do you like writing epic adventures?
SS: It wasn’t my intention to write an epic; that’s just the way it’s turned out. But I must admit it’s been amazing to watch Mark and Lucy grow up as their time travelling adventure has gone on.
KG: How would you say your writing has developed between the two books?
SS: It’s slicker. Not only am I more precise about what I want to say but I’ve also got better at putting everything together. With book one, I had to keep going back and linking things; this book feels more like a slinky going down a flight of stairs rather than a dislocated bicycle chain.
KG: Lol a true writer's metaphor my dear. Will the third be the final one in the trilogy? I'm thinking The Star Wars franchise that confused us with sequels, prequels and now more bloody sequels.
SS: Well that will depend on whether Llandudno has happened!
KG: Well of course... What books or trilogies do you have in the pipeline? Can you give us a clue?
SS: The “golden age of crime fiction” has always fascinated me, and I have two characters – Symington Byrd (Earl, Playboy and boon companion to HRH Edward, Prince of Wales) and Emily Davies (a girl from Whitechapel who is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma) – who want their story told! In the real world these two would never meet… but the death of Millicent Jones changes all that. Whether they like it or not, the two have to join forces to track her murderer down.
KG: Sounds a mystery to look forward to. Who have been your influences and helped you most as a writer?
SS: Ooh that’s tough. In at number 1 has to be Sidney Newman the creator of Doctor Who. That programme was (and continues to be) a major inspiration. At number two is my old history teacher at school: Roger Edwards. He had a lot of confidence in me. And of course, there’s a bloke on Twitter who spends a lot of time talking to my cat: can’t think of his name at the moment. No don’t prompt me, it’ll come back to me.
KG: You are like me, mind like a.. kitchen implement... Colander!
Would you like to see The Aldwych Strand trilogy made into a movie franchise?
SS: You mean you’re not in talks already? Call yourself a publisher…
KG: I'm waiting for Lucas & Spielberg to get back to me. If it makes it to the silver screen, which young actors would you most like to see playing your heroine Lucy and hero Mark?
SS: I’d like to go for unknowns, bit like they did when they cast for Harry Potter. That way the director would get the essence of the characters right rather than trying to make Lucy and Mark fit the actors chosen to play them.
KG: Would you let me direct it?
SS: Only if you’re Stephen Spielberg! You are aren’t you?
KG: Well he and I are never photographed together! Do you think life needs a bit more gore in it? Kids love blood and gore really… oh and boogies!
SS: Certainly! But don’t let the adults know, because they’ll say it’s not suitable for children!
It's been an absolute pleasure for you to talk to me young lady. Let's just nip by the old sarcophagus and I'll show you my mummy, then let me give you a nice cream horn... in the museum cafe of course.
To read Sarah E. Smith's fab new book The Secret of Aldwych Strand 2 - The 1949 Affair.
Click on the link below for Sarah E. Smith's festive Q&A's.
It seemed Millicent Jones committed suicide... until a House of Commons cufflink is found wedged in her throat.
Given that Queen Victoria is dying, the last thing anyone wants is scandal. So Symington, Earl Byrd, renowned playboy and gentleman detective is called in to investigate.
But someone always seems one step ahead of Byrd, and has their own reasons for wanting Millie’s killer caught.
With suspects galore, the Police baffled, Byrd and his cousin, Chief Inspector Sir Charles Carter, find themselves drawn into the criminal world of the Pawnbroker and his Apprentice: a world so scary and seductive that Symington Byrd is in danger of losing his very own soul.