Thursday, 24 October 2013

Where it’s at ... The Runaway Year

Back on our theme about book settings, I'm particularly delighted to have Shani Struthers on my blog, today. I greatly enjoyed her contemporary ensemble romance "The Runaway Year", which is set between Brighton and Cornwall. Here Shani tells us more about the places she has discovered through reading and the locations that served as a backdrop to her book. Over to you, Shani!

Location – it gets me every time. With so many books now to choose from there has to be a hook to catch my interest and that hook is, yep, you guessed it, where the book is set. As a child, I loved anything set in the North of England – the wildest and most romantic place on earth it seemed to me, at least in books anyway (Charlotte and Emily Bronte, I hold you personally responsible!). Not just the moors of Yorkshire, either, there was Tyneside in all its harsh, industrial beauty – Catherine Cookson depicted this brilliantly in almost all her books, needless to say, I devoured each and every one of them. It seemed a landscape so much more interesting than the genteel south where I lived.

Moving overseas, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind instilled a yearning to visit America’s often turbulent Deep South (and yes, I will get there one day), Truman Capote got me to Tiffany’s in New York (just browsing mind) and, thanks to Anne Rice, the bougainvillea that decorates the Garden District in New Orleans – home of the Mayfair Witches – is forever vivid in my mind. For me, location is just as important as the characters – it’s what makes a good story, great. If a book has the power to transport me to a faraway place, if it can make me feel that place, smell that place, if it can bring it alive, I will make it to that place... as I said above, one day.

But what if a visit disappoints? What if the industrial north is nowhere near as romantic as I imagined, what if it’s just... well, plain old industrial? As for the Deep South, perhaps it’s stuffed full of Dunkin Donut outlets, once glorious plantation houses now just glorified theme parks? Well, everywhere I’ve been so far, if not quite as depicted in books, still holds a certain beauty; you just have to look a little harder for it, as these writers no doubt did. It seems every destination (perhaps with the exception of Slough) has the ability to touch a person’s soul, so much so it inspires them to create thousands and thousands of words around it, to capture it for generations to come. And if it’s not quite as you imagined, well, squint a bit – it works for me every time!

Cornwall is another sure-fire hit with me, if your story is set there, I’m hooked. It’s also the setting for my debut novel, The Runaway Year, published by Omnific Publishing in July 2013. Huge swathes of sandy beaches, dramatic granite cliffs with hidden caves and tiny villages forgotten by time, all provide the perfect backdrop to the tangled and tumultuous love lives of three friends over the course of a rollercoaster year. Although Tintagel and Trebarwith Strand were the inspiration, the village setting is actually fictional – it’s called Trecastle. Why? Because Tintagel has no real beach, the nearest (Trebarwith) is 2 miles away. In fiction, I can take out those 2 miles, push them together and voila! There’s magic everywhere but in Cornwall, there’s magic in abundance, it’s so tangible you can almost reach out and touch it. Rocky Valley with its mysterious labyrinth carving, St Nectan’s Glen where King Arthur and his knights went to pray before battle, Boscastle with its ancient harbour and Gull Rock – set just off the coastline – mysterious and alluring. All these places and more I’ve loved for years and years – fall in love with them too in The Runaway Year.

Gull Rock

One of those rare creatures – a true Brightonian – Shani was born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton on the UK’s south-coast. One of the first literary conundrums she 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, writing, eating and drinking – all four of which keep her busy enough.

After graduating from Sussex University with a degree in English and American Literature, Shani landed a job at a well-known holiday company. Although employed as a Brochure Production Executive, she promptly reinvented herself as a Copywriter, a new position they were happy (if a tad bewildered) to concede to. At 24, Shani became a freelance copywriter and has been one ever since, in-between writing novels that is.

Contemporary romance The Runaway Year is her first book and set between Brighton and North Cornwall, the latter a home-from-home for Shani, her husband and 3 lovely kids. With no rest for the wicked, she is currently working on a sequel to The Runaway Year as well as a paranormal mystery set in and around the Sussex countryside.

Follow Shani on Twitter and find her on her Website


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 reign 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.


  1. Thanks for having me on your blog Michela - very privileged to be here! xxx

  2. I agree with you about location, I think it's incredibly important and I love learning about new places through novels. I've got The Runaway Year waiting for me to enjoy on my kindle and I look forward to meeting your characters.