Hello Shani Struthers and welcome to the Author Limelight!
What was the first story you ever wrote?
The Runaway Year is actually the first story I ever wrote, although first draft is nothing like the published draft and the title was different too. In fact, it had a range of titles before deciding on the above, a range of styles and a totally different ending! As a copywriter though, I’m forever writing, it’s the day job and night job too!
Of all the individuals you have created, do you have a particular favourite? What appeals to you the most about this character?
The Runaway Year features three main female characters. Layla Lewis is the main character but her best friends Penny and Hannah play a big part too – each of them dealing with their own particular romantic dilemma. Penny is the most feisty of the three and an outrageous flirt to boot. As well as being great fun, she’s kind and caring too, a great friend – as one reviewer said ‘everybody needs a Penny in their lives.’
Has being publishing changed you at all? If so, how?
Being published has given me confidence in my work, if a publisher is prepared to take a chance on my book, it has to be okay, right? It’s also made me very driven. This year it’s one book out there, next year, there’ll be another, maybe even two!
What would we find on your bookshelf/e-reader?
I’ve got a whole mix of books on my bookshelf, authors ranging from James Herbert, Dean Koontz and Stephen King (yep, I love horror!) to Lisa Jewell and Penny Vincenzi. On my e-reader I take a lot more chances with unknown authors. There’s Gunshot Glitter by Yasmin Selena Butt, Tall, Dark and Kilted by Lizzie Lamb and all of Emily Harvale’s fantastic romance books. My TBR is outrageous at the mo!
What’s the most unappealing thing you’ve ever eaten?
I love seafood – prawns, squid, mussels – but oysters, I just can’t bring myself to try them. Although the shell they come in is so pretty, the oyster itself does not entice!
If you could be any of the following characters for one day, who would you be and why? How would you re-write the ending?
a) Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.
b) Thelma or Louise from Thelma and Louise.
c) Princess Leia from Starwars.
d) Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffanys.
Easy one, I’d be the most wonderful heroine of them all (in my opinion!) Scarlett O’Hara! She’s naughty, she’s feisty, she’s strong in a crisis and she’s downright deluded. Ashley over Rhett? Oh come on! Still, she sees the light in the end but it’s too late, Rhett doesn’t give a damn anymore. I wouldn’t rewrite a thing though, it’s up the reader to imagine what happens next and I’ve imagined loads of times!
Of all the books in history, which do you wish you wrote and why?
I wish I’d written The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s the first book I ever read regarding King Arthur and the dark ages and it kick-started an almost obsessive interest in that period of time for me that I still have to this day (although not quite so obsessive at the mo). An incredibly powerful thing for a book to do.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
That I could create more hours in the day! With three kids, copywriting to do and a house to see to, sometimes evening comes and I haven’t worked on my book at all. I’d like to create an extra three hours just to sit and write on the latest WIP and preferably I’d like that timeframe to occur around mid-morning when I’m at my best!
If you could go back in time, where would you go and when? What is the one thing you would want to take with you?
I’d go back to the dark ages to see if King Arthur and his cohorts truly existed. Where I would go would be Tintagel in North Cornwall, his supposed birthplace. And the one thing I would take with me would be a camera so I can take some shots of him!
Can you tell us about your works in progress?
I am currently putting the finishing touches to a paranormal mystery that’s heavy on romance too. When that’s done and sent off, I’m going to work on a sequel to The Runaway Year, I’ve already sketched out the story for it, now I just need to flesh it out.
Finally, can you give us a sneaky excerpt from The Runaway Year, please?
Finding herself on the way to the village centre 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.
The Runaway Year-
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.