I’m delighted to welcome Shani Struthers to my blog. Her brilliant new novel ‘Jessamine’ is now out. It’s a supernatural romance, full of intrigue and mystery. There’s an interview below, and please click on the cover images and links at the end for more details.
Born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, Shani (pronounced Shay-nee) enjoys reading, writing, eating and drinking – all four of these hobbies keep her pretty busy. After graduating from Sussex University with a degree in English and American Literature, Shani became a freelance copywriter. Twenty years later, the day job includes crafting novels too. She is the author of contemporary Cornish romance – The Runaway Year – published in 2013 by Omnific Publishing and paranormal mystery – Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall – published by Crooked Cat in April 2014. All events depicted in the latter are fictitious … almost.
What are the main ideas or themes in your book?
‘Jessamine’ is primarily the story of love, loss and acceptance, told from a subtly supernatural angle. Yep, it has ghosts in it, I just can’t help myself! But it’s not just actual ghosts we’re talking about, it’s metaphorical ghosts too, ghosts from the past, which haunt us, or perhaps we haunt them. Perhaps we cling to them, keep them alive somehow, when actually they’d prefer if we let them go. That may sound a bit airy-fairy, but ‘Jessamine’ is a very human tale about coming to terms with loss.
Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.
There are four main characters – Jessamin Wade (note there’s no ‘e’ on the end, it is not a spelling mistake!), whose husband is dead, a death she feels wholly responsible for. There’s also Fionnlagh Maccaillin, who has returned to the village of Glenelk, in the Scottish Highlands – where the book is set – after fifteen years in the army, bearing scars that are obvious and not so obvious. Stan is his grandfather, who has also suffered a recent loss, the death of his beloved wife, Beth and last, but by no means least, there’s Maggie, who runs the village store, an enigmatic character with an ability to ‘catch’ thoughts.
Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.
Having spent time on the west coast of Scotland, a mysterious place if ever there was one, I knew I wanted to set a novel there. Glenelk is based on the village Glenelg, which overlooks the Isle of Skye. Spectacularly beautiful, it has a haunting quality to it but a healing one too, it’s possible to feel a lot closer to something more ‘spiritual’ when out in the wilds as opposed to being surrounded by neon. These four characters need to ‘heal’ because of recent events and events in the past but first they have to find a way to ‘let go’ before moving on.
How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?
When I sit down to write a novel, I start off with a theme usually, a title and a rough idea of how the first three chapters should be. I don’t bother to outline a novel beforehand, I find that as I write they tend to take on a life of their own and the best thing to do is just go with it – connect to the flow and let it write itself! So, in a way it’s a simple process, although there’s nothing simple about being immersed in a fictional world whilst trying to live in the real one!
What advice do you have for less experienced writers?
Don’t think too hard, don’t worry about spelling mistakes, grammar, how rough or disjointed it is, just sit down, write the story in your head and try and write it as quickly as possible to keep the flow. After that, you can go back and ‘sculpt’ it to your hearts content. Once ‘sculpted’, give it to a few carefully selected test-readers, get their feedback, ‘sculpt’ it once more and then find an editor to knock it into the best shape possible.
What are you working on currently?
I’m finishing up the final book in the Runaway series, my contemporary romance trio and then, from 2015, it’s paranormal all the way! As well as writing Book 3 of the Psychic Surveys series (Book 2 has just been accepted by Crooked Cat Books), I plan to do a few dark spin-offs from the series, concentrating on single case studies and making them very dark indeed! I’ve also got a reincarnation thriller I’m working on, so very busy times.
What would your perfect day be?
I have two kinds of perfect day – one is sitting down and working on a novel, the other is a big family day out, perhaps in London or simply down at the beach, weather pending!
Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.
There are lots of books/films that mean a lot to me, I could write an entire blog post just about that. But one of the most touching books/films I’ve ever read/seen is ‘What Dreams May Come’. The book is by Richard Matheson, the film stars the late, great Robin Williams. Similar to ‘Jessamine’, love, loss and acceptance are themes but Chris Nielsen, the protagonist, goes one step further, he goes to the ‘other side’ to find his wife, who has committed suicide, to save her, to bring her back from an eternal nothingness. A story of life and the life-after. It’ll make you cry!
If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?
Have fun and plenty of it! At the end it’ll be great to think ‘Wow, what a ride!’ before heading into the great wild yonder and the next adventure!