Born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, one of the first literary conundrums Shani had to deal with was her own name – Shani can be pronounced in a variety of ways but in this instance it’s Shay-nee not Shar-ney or Shan-ni – although she does indeed know a Shanni – just to confuse matters further! Hobbies include reading and writing – so no surprises there. 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.
Now we’ve got her name pronunciation straight, let’s throw a few questions to her about her new book, Jessamine
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?
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 is currently with the publisher), 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.
…great stuff, Shani… now, Lads and Lassies of Blog land, here’s a wee teaser for yeez:
His anguish concerned her. “Stan…”
“Och, don’t mind me. I’m getting maudlin is all.”
“Stan, how could you think I’d mind? Of course I don’t.”
Furtively, she studied his face. He seemed so tired of late. The cough he’d developed was wearing him down. Into the lines of his face, his entire life seemed etched – a good life at times she knew but also painful, like any long life. No one sailed through the years unscathed. She felt bad she’d mentioned Flo’s death, Mally’s leaving again; there was no need to wallow in sadness and she said as much.
“You’re right, dear. Concentrate on happy times. Why not? We can’t go back. We can’t change things.”
If only we could.
“And when the sun is shining, it’s an easy thing to do. But, and I expect you know this as well as I do, it’s the dead of night you have to watch out for, when the wind is howling, when the rain pelts relentlessly against your bedroom window, when sleep refuses to indulge you. That’s when the bad memories rear up, when they demand their fair share of attention too.” He shuddered. “The dead of night, it’s an accurate description.”
Jessamin turned to face the old man fully. “Stan, you’re worrying me.”
“No, dear, there’s no need to worry.”
“Despite what I said about concentrating on the good stuff, you can tell me anything, you know that don’t you? Whatever it is… I’m here for you. I’m on your side.”
There were tears in his eyes. Quickly, Jessamin reached out a hand to comfort him. He took it, his grip surprisingly firm – desperation lending him strength perhaps. Her breath caught in her throat. What was he going to say? What had upset him so much?
When at last he spoke, his words chilled her.
“The dead of night, Jess, I wish they’d leave me alone.”
Buy Links, from December 9th, 2014:
Shani is also the author of contemporary Cornish romance – The Runaway Year – published in 2013 by Omnific Publishing and best-selling paranormal mystery – Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall – published by Crooked Cat in April 2014.
Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9
…thanks for this, m’Lady, Shani… the rest of yeez, go follow the Lady… the contacts are above… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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