Roy Travers is swept away by a freak gust of wind while trying to install a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park, south London. Sheila, his wife, can’t understand why he hasn’t found his way back home. She begins to suspect that Roy has been abducted by aliens and enlists the help of Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation to find him.
Sheila travels to Kent with Alison, a private detective. Together they build a missing persons advertisement out of pebbles on a beach, hoping it will be seen by the aliens who have taken Roy. But Roy was not taken by aliens. The truth is far stranger.
The book is a quirky comedy touching on such diverse themes as loss, parenthood, the role of men in society and animal rights. It was first published in the UK ten years ago and is now being published in the US to coincide with the launch of new print editions of this book and Alison Wonderland, Helen Smith’s first novel.
Q & A with Helen Smith
1. Roy's journey is really unique. How did you come up with the idea?
I saw a newspaper article about a man who was lifted up in the air and blown a few feet across the ground while he was installing a bouncy castle in a park in Australia. I imagined Roy being lifted into the air - but then continuing his journey high up in the sky, serene but helpless. Where would he come down?
2. Did you base any of your characters on people you know in real life?
I put a little of myself into all my characters - I can see myself in Sheila (Roy's wife) and in Mrs Fitzgerald, the boss of the private detective agency Sheila hires to find Roy, as well as Alison, the detective who helps Sheila in her search.
3. What is your favorite part of the circus?
I like the high wire and trapeze acts. In the book, I describe Mrs Fitzgerald going to watch a Belgian circus performer in a 'little top' on Clapham Common - and even though I go to the theatre and other live performances quite often, that show was one of the most enthralling things I have ever seen because the performance area was so small; we watched close up and we could see how difficult it was.
4. Have you ever dreamt of being a circus performer yourself?
No - I don't have any of the requisite skills and I'm much too scared of heights. I once worked dressed as a clown in Hong Kong, giving out balloons to children in a restaurant; that's the closest I have ever got.
5. Your book has been out for quite some time. Is there any advice you might have for other authors?
Finish your book - that's half the battle. But don't start on the route to publication (whether publishing it yourself or sending it to an agent) until it's really and truly finished i.e. it's as near perfect as you can get it.
6. Are you working on any new projects?
Yes. I'm working on another book and I have just been commissioned to adapt a famous author's novel for the stage. I haven't signed the paperwork yet so I can't give you any more of the details but I'm really excited about it.
7. What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite part?
I like editing/redrafting - all the hard work has been done and all you are doing is going back over the text and honing it; changing words and changing them back again. I find it very enjoyable. The least favourite part is coming up with the story; starting with that blank page.
8. What is the craziest thing that's ever happened to you?
I had my daughter when I was quite young. It has been the craziest and the best thing that's ever happened to me.
9. Today is your birthday. I just wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
About the Author
Helen Smith writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays. She travelled 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, Alison Wonderland. 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.
She has a blog: http://helensmithblog.blogspot.com. Please come and say hello.
This was an interesting book. Right from the beginning Helen gets your attention, drawing you into the story. I found myself wanting to find out what would happen to Roy. Would he discover the truth? Being Light, like real life, takes people and events that are seemingly unrelated and twists them all together, showing us that everything is connected somehow. The lives of each of the characters started out looking like separate stories, that in the end, were neatly tied together. When I first finished the book, I thought it seemed a little unresolved. But after pondering it, I thought to myself that Sheila's reaction might be the same reaction I would have in that situation. In the end, each of the characters were shocked by what they found, and their reaction was realistic and uncomfortable. Helen did an excellent job of connecting the dots, so to speak. The writing is beautifully done, and entertaining throughout. I think anyone would enjoy reading this book.
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