Emma Smith was born Elspeth Hallsmith in 1923 in Newquay, Cornwall, where she lived until the age of twelve. Her book, Maiden's Trip, was first published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. It was republished in 2009. Her second, The Far Cry, was published the following year and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 1951 Emma Smith married Richard Stewart-Jones. After her husband's death in 1957 she went to live with her two young children in Wales, where she published four successful children's books, a number of short stories and, in 1978, her novel, The Opportunity of a Lifetime. In 2008 The Great Western Beach, her memoir of her Cornish childhood, was published to widespread acclaim. Since 1980 she has lived in the London district of Putney.