Name Shani Struthers,
Born and bred in the sunny seaside city of Brighton, I have been a copywriter for the past twenty years. In the last two years, however, I’ve also written novels and currently have two books published – a contemporary romance set in North Cornwall, The Runaway Year and a paranormal mystery, set in East Sussex, called Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall. Excitingly, I have two more books being published in December, the sequel to The Runaway Year – The Runaway Ex and another paranormal mystery set in the highlands of Scotland, called Jessamine.
When I’m not writing, I like reading and walking in the countryside with my husband and three children. I also make good use of Brighton’s many bars and restaurants with friends.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The latest news concerns my two new releases in December – The Runaway Ex and Jessamine. I’m currently deep in edits and choosing covers – but happily all is going to plan. I’ve also just submitted to my publisher Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me. Busy times at the moment!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always loved writing and became a freelance copywriter twenty years ago, working mainly for the travel industry. I’ve always wanted to write a novel though and about two years ago I decided to stop threatening to do so and get on with it. The Runaway Year was born!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always written so therefore I’m a writer! But it’s definitely something you get better at with practice.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Locations inspire me. The Runaway Year is set in North Cornwall, a place very dear to my heart. It’s wild, dramatic and beautiful – the perfect backdrop for a wild, dramatic romance! The Haunting is set in East Sussex, where I live – they say write what you know about and I know this area like the back of my hand! Jessamine in contrast is set in the highlands of Scotland, again a place I love to visit – it’s an atmospheric book and the setting is apt!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing has been described as easy to follow and unputdownable – that’s what I aim for!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I come up with titles usually about 3 am in the morning with the help of friends – that’s how The Runaway Year came about! Psychic Surveys was an idea my husband had and I have used it as a sub-title. Regarding Jessamine, I came up with the title first, the story second.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In Psychic Surveys the message is that the paranormal world is not always something to fear. Ruby Davis, who runs high street consultancy, Psychic Surveys, specializing in domestic spiritual cleansing, is trying to remove the taboo surrounding her area of expertise, putting the normal into paranormal if you like. However, the theme of the book is ‘there are more things between heaven and earth than we can possibly know.’ It’s straightforward enough dealing with ghosts but there are other entities too and they make for some very dark moments! The Runaways are all about love, friendships and dealing with difficult situations – not always in the right way. Jessamine deals primarily with love, loss and being able to let go – finally.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The Runaways are pure imagination, the Haunting, however, does have its roots in truth. I have been on psychic cleansings and one of those cases is described in the book. The main case in The Haunting concerns Cynthia Hart, a 1950s film star who is haunting Highdown Hall, her former home. That story too is based on a story told to me by a friend of a friend who moved into a famous celebrity’s house a few years after she died and his experiences there. He told me the story years ago and it was fascinating, I always knew I’d use it one day.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
I love the classics, especially A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. My editor described Jessamine as a ‘Wuthering Heights for the 21st century’, which I was extremely chuffed about! It has the same bleak undertone through it (although ultimately it is uplifting).
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
My mentors are the Bronte sisters, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice and Catherine Cookson – an eclectic mix I know. Love them all though and they are an inspiration.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I read a lot of WIP’s by other authors (works-in-progress) and that’s what I’m reading now – when this book is released though, the world’s in for a treat!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jessica Smith’s Godcorp series is brilliant, it is imagination, unusual and feisty – the writing is like a rip tide, once you’re caught up in it, you can’t escape! I also love Jan Ruth’s more down-to-earth contemporary romances set in the beautiful Welsh landscape. Jack Redman, the hero of Wild Water and Dark Water, is one of my favourite characters – he’s very real.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The authors I’ve ‘met’ online are a fantastic support – always encouraging and ready to offer plenty of advice.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Copywriting has always been my career but now novel writing is too – I split my week between the two (which makes for some long weeks sometimes!)
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The technical side of writing is something that has to be learnt over time – avoiding repetition, clichés etc and building conflict and resolving them effectively. Also, when writing a series, it’s important not to ‘info dump’ – each book must be able to stand alone as well as work within a series, it should not just be a recap of what went before. Practice makes perfect though as does a good editor!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep two slogans in mind – the first is Nike’s ‘Just do it’ and the second is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ – stop procrastinating, just get the words down. Write from the heart – always.
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