Thursday, 4 July 2013

Interview With An Author - Shani Struthers

Today I'd like to introduce the lovely Shani Struthers....

Tell us a bit about your writing – how long have you been writing? How many books have you written and in what genres?
I’ve been writing since I was a teen, mainly angst-ridden poems which I still look at from time to time and have a chuckle at! At 24, I became a freelance copywriter but in my head I was always making up storylines for books. I wrote my first book at 32 and then put it away in a drawer and forgot about it. I took that same book out a few years later, dusted it down and re-wrote it. Pleased with it, I sent it off to the Writer’s Workshop to be critiqued. They sent it back, told me I could write very well but the story needed to be changed in just about every way imaginable if I wanted to get it published. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I decided to take every bit of advice the critique gave me (a very famous novelist) and re-wrote it from scratch. One of her key pieces of advice was to use three points of view instead of one. From the very first sentence I knew she was right. I sent it off to various publishers and the response was amazing. The Runaway Year is romance but I’ve just finished my second book and it’s a paranormal mystery. Next though, it’s back to romance.

Where is your favourite spot in which to write? Garden? Study? Kitchen table? In bed?
I’ve got a second living room which doubles up as my office. I’ve got a lovely oak desk and great views of the garden as I’m right in front of the window. I’m not a nomadic writer, I like the familiarity of a set place with everything around me that I need, including the Emotional Thesaurus, a recent purchase and invaluable!

How long does it take you to write the first rough draft of your books?
The Runaway Year took my about five months but that’s just the start of it. Then you have to give it out to beta-readers, get it back, incorporate their comments, read it through, re-read it, do a find and search for words that you know you use too much – all that takes another month at least!

Do you prefer to write with a pen or straight to the computer?
Straight to computer definitely. I’m a touch typist so I can fly along that keyboard!

Do you plot out in great detail before writing or start with the basics and let the book evolve that way?
I start out with the basics in my head and then just sit down and type. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and do things I never expected them to, taking the book in an entirely different direction. I also like looking at scenes I’ve created and turning them round, for example, there’s a scene in The Runaway Year involving a spider. Originally, it was the female character that was scared of it, but in the re-write I make the male character scared of it – it was so much more fun to write. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do suffer from arachnophobia!

Who is your favourite character from The Runaway Year and why?
Layla Lewis is the main character but it’s her best friend Pennie who I particularly like – she’s feisty, flirtatious and a little bit naughty, definitely the comedian in the book!

Is there such a thing as an average writing day for you and if so, what is it?
I get to write three days a week, in-between school drop off and school pick up (I’ve got 3 kids!). I’ll also snatch an hour, maybe two after dinner and again on weekend mornings. When I’m in the midst of a scene, I find it really hard to let go though and rush back to the computer whenever I can. Key sentences usually come to me in the shower for some strange reason, I’m often seen tearing through the house with a towel wrapped round me, protesting I have to write the idea down before I forget it!

What is your favourite book of all time?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Hot on its heels though is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – what was it with those Bronte girls? They were incredible.

What is your favourite film of all time?
Titanic with Leo and Kate – I know literally every line off by heart.

Biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s glamorous. It’s not. I’ve never worked so hard.

Advice to aspiring novelists?
After reading my report from the Writer’s Workshop, I felt downcast. My first thought was ‘oh, I’ll give up then, I obviously can’t do this.’ I read further on. The lady in question had her novel rejected numerous times and her actual ‘debut’ novel was in fact the sixth she’d penned! She said the only difference between a published writer and a non-published writer is that the published writer didn’t give up. Too true!

The Runaway Year

When the going gets tough ... it’s easy to run. Layla does, as far away as possible. Penny and Hannah do too, each in their own way. But how long can you run and what happens when you stand your ground? Over the course of 12 hectic months, three best friends embark on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, discovering that if its love you’re up against, true love, it’s not going to let you get away that easily.

Dumped by her hotshot boyfriend and boss, Layla Lewis quits her job and heads to Trecastle in North Cornwall to house-sit for a friend-of-a-friend. Trecastle isn’t new to her; it's a place where she holidayed regularly with her now-estranged mother. It’s also the home of Hannah McKenzie, her childhood friend. Hannah has tempted her with a place to live and a job in the local pub. Needing time to nurse her battered heart and escape her “real life” for a year, Layla accepts.

Hannah is a talented artist as well as a barmaid. She lives in the village center with her boyfriend Jim, a singer in a local band. They are happy together, or as happy as they can be, considering. Hannah loves Jim, but there is someone she loves more and it’s pushing them to breaking point.

Meanwhile, back in Brighton, Layla’s fiery yet loyal friend Penny seeks revenge on her behalf, sending a forged email that could damage her ex’s business prospects. Penny wonders if she has gone too far but is soon preoccupied with her own problems: the sizzle has fizzled in her marriage, and she feels neglected. After getting frisky with Dylan one night, she confesses all to her husband—and he’s been like ice ever since.

Over the course of a year, there is laughter and heartache as all three endeavor to rein in their tumultuous love lives—discovering you can run all you like, but if it’s love you’re up against, true love, good things can only happen when you stand your ground.

Buy the book on Amazon UK or Amazon USA

Read an extract:

Finding herself on the way to the village center again, she pulled over, intending to negotiate a three-point turn. The cottage was slightly out of the village, so she needed to get back onto the opposite side of the road and go back up the hill. Glancing over Hannah’s instructions again, she swung the car to the right—straight into the path of a motorcyclist.
What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion. The rider tried to stop but couldn’t do so in time, although he did manage to avoid hitting her car. As he turned his handlebars hard to the right, his tires lost grip on the wet road and he flew off, sliding some way before coming to a halt.
Layla sat motionless in her car, paralyzed temporarily by the shock. At last she managed to galvanize herself into action and fumbled for the door handle, her shaking hands making it hard to get a grip. When the door finally opened, another dilemma hit. What if she couldn’t stand? Her legs felt like jelly, surely they wouldn’t support her. Forcing herself upward, she was relieved to discover they held firm. Once she was sure they would continue to do so, she bolted over to where the biker lay, placed one hand on his soaking leather-clad shoulder and said, “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not bloody okay!” he replied, a pair of bright blue eyes meeting hers as he lifted his visor. “I’m a bit bruised and battered as it goes.”
Despite his belligerent words, relief flooded through her: he wasn’t dead!
“Oh, I’m so glad,” she said, letting out a huge sigh.
“Glad?” he said, sitting up now and brushing the mud and leaves off his left arm. “Charming.”
“Oh, no, no,” she stuttered, realizing what she’d just said. “I’m not glad that I knocked you over. I’m glad you’re alive.”
“Only just, I think,” he replied, needing a helping hand to stand up.
“Can I give you a lift somewhere, take you to the nearest hospital?”
“The nearest hospital? That would be in Bodmin, I think, about fifteen miles from here. I don’t fancy driving fifteen miles with you behind the wheel.”
Feeling a little indignant now, Layla replied, “I’m actually a very good driver, thank you. You’re the first accident I’ve ever had.”
“Lucky me,” he replied sarcastically.

Find out more about Shani at:


  1. Hi Zanna - thank you so much for hosting me on your lovely blog! It makes me laugh that photo of me, I look so serious and grown-up! Great interview questions from yourself tho and not only am I honoured to be here but I'm looking forward to hosting you on my blog too! xxx

  2. Excellent perseverance, Shani! Titanic is my favorite movie too. What a brilliant love story.


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