Fiona Dodwell Talks to Paranormal Author, Shani Struthers
Shani Struthers is the author of several novels; some are stand-alones and others are part of a wider, paranormal series. I have read a few of her titles and I’ve been impressed: her writing is deeply haunting, engaging and addictive. As an author, she has a way of making the real world seem so remarkable and full of possibilities – layer this with her skill at bringing the paranormal to life, and you really have a magic mixture.
When I read that she had a new book coming out – Mandy – I immediately wanted to learn more. I invited Struthers to Kendall Reviews for an interview, and she kindly agreed. Here is the result of our exchange…
Fiona Dodwell: Shani, for those who are unfamiliar with your work, can we begin with a little introduction about yourself and your writing career?
Shani Struthers: Hi Fiona and everybody, I’ve been writing novels since 2015. I started off writing romance, and worked with a publisher on those and then, after having completed a trilogy, I decided no more of it, lol! My preferred genre is the paranormal and I wanted to create a series that revolved around the paranormal but in a more down-to-earth manner, almost making it a part of everyday life, albeit thrilling part of everyday life! The Psychic Surveys series was born, with a team of psychics, led by Ruby Davis, investigating all manner of psychic matters through her business, Psychic Surveys. The first in the series – The Haunting of Highdown Hall – was a bestseller and was quickly added to. There are now six in the series with a seventh – Promises to Keep – coming out summer 2020. As well as the Psychic Surveys series, I write the This Haunted World series, set in and around places in the world which are truly haunted and combining fact with fiction, the Jessamine series, and, most recently, the Reach for the Dead series, which is USA based.
FD: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
SS: Yes, I did. Before writing novels, I was a copywriter, specialising in the travel industry. I love travelling and try and make it priority in my life. That love of travelling is also reflected in my writing, with several books set in locations around the world as well as the UK. Before becoming a copywriter, I studied English and American Literature at University, so it’s all about the books with me and has been ever since I can remember.
FD: What drew you to the paranormal genre in particular?
SS: My mother had a life-long interest in the paranormal and studied it in-depth. She passed on her love of all things ‘outside of normal’ – which in effect is what paranormal means – to me, as well as so much knowledge. When I told my mother I wanted to write in the paranormal genre, she was the one who advised against going down the route of horror. She said if I was to write about the paranormal, always treat it with respect, let that come across in your books, give people a different perspective on it, because the spiritual world is not always frightening, although certainly, as in the material world, there are things in it that can be. I followed her advice and am glad to say it’s been very well received, and, whilst certainly my books can get very creepy and unsettling at times, there is nothing gratuitous in them.
FD: Are you a horror fan? Do you read/watch a lot of horror?
SS: Yes, I love horror. I watch all the horror movies, sometimes chuckling to myself, sometimes genuinely frightened. I believe in the less is more approach, and with that in mind, my favourite ‘horror’ film is the old black and white version of The Haunting, starring Claire Bloom and based on Shirley Jackson’s brilliant The Haunting of Hill House. It’s so atmospheric and the tension just mounts and mounts but nothing horrific actually happens, it’s just hinted at, leaving the viewer’s mind to fill in the gaps. That’s the kind of horror I like, in both film and literature, because my imagination can get very scary indeed!
FD: You currently have a new book out called Mandy – can you give us a little background on this story and what it’s about?
SS: Mandy is the first book in a new series: Reach for the Dead, which is set in the USA. It revolves around 22-year old Shady Groves, who is considered ‘fey’ by her parents, but is actually so much more. One day, Annie Hawkins, a curator of a museum a few miles from where Shady lives in Idaho Falls, calls in to the diner where she works, with news of a doll that she’s been bequeathed, a doll that’s causing quite a bit of trouble… Mandy is actually a real doll, and one that I visited in a small museum in deepest darkest Canada, which I visited last year. She’s kept encased in a glass box and let me tell you, there is something about Mandy! I found out as much as I could out about her and have weaved it into the book.
FD: One of my favourite books ever is your novel, The Eleventh Floor. It’s stunning and I’ve read it twice now. Out of your own books, is there one you are particularly proud of? Is there a favourite? I’d love to know which one and why.
SS: I’m so glad you loved that book, I certainly loved writing it! The hotel in the book was based on a hotel I stayed in in Pennsylvania, one with a very strange legend attached! I’ve described it down to a tee in that book and it honestly was such a strange place, setting my imagination on fire! Although I love writing each and every book one of my favourites is Jessamine. I wanted to write a book with a woman’s name as the title and my mother suggested the name, I heard it and thought ‘ah, Jessamin, Jessamine’ with the emphasis on the mine!! It was at Christmas I sat down to write it and the story just literally poured from me, onto the page, as if I was the one being told the story as opposed to the creator of it. It was an incredible feeling, quite spiritual to be honest with characters that I truly fell in love with. It’s also set in my most favourite location of all: the Highlands, in a small village I visited about five or six years previously to writing the book, which is a place I later described to friends as closer to Spirit then any I’ve ever been before. That place is called Glenelg but in the book I changed it to Glenelk as I wanted to take a few artistic liberties with it. The sequel to Jessamine is Comraich and that too is very intense, part romance, part supernatural.
FD: Which of your books was a particular challenge to write, and why?
SS: Some books don’t come as easy as others, that’s for sure. This Haunted World Book Three: Highgate was a particular challenge to write. Again, it’s based on truth, as it’s centred around the unmarked grave of ten prostitutes who are buried ten deep, one on top of the other, the youngest being only 12. Set over three timelines: modern day, the seventies, and the 1850s, there are some strong themes of different types of abuse running through the book and, when you’re working on the book day in day out, that can be hard. However, I believe it to be a very strong book and a necessary one, perhaps one of my strongest overall. Sometimes you have to drag such topics out of the darkness and into the light.
FD: You have written two paranormal series – Psychic Surveys and This Haunted World series – do you prefer writing series to stand-alone novels?
SS: I like both, although in a series you get to really know and love your characters, so much so it’s hard to believe they’re not real sometimes! But I also love standalone novels as telling a whole tale from start to finish in one book can be liberating, not having to worry about continuing any series elements.
FD: Are you working on anything at the moment?
SS: I’m working on Psychic Surveys Book Seven: Promises to Keep, which is due out Summer 2020, and set in and around the Devil’s Triangle in Sussex. After that I’ll be returning to Reach for the Dead and writing Book Two. Plus I want to add a fourth to the This Haunted World series for which I have an idea, and also a third to the Jessamine series. Busy days ahead!
FD: What do you do when you have free time? What are your hobbies?
SS: I love walking, reading, vegging out in front of the TV and catching up with shows and films. I also love jigsaws. I only started in recent months and they’ve become a bit of an obsession, but I really love how they take my mind off everything and force me to focus on just completing the puzzle. Sometimes my mind feels fried with all that’s going on in it, both in real life and in fiction, but jigsaws come to the rescue!
FD: Considering your stories are often very creepy, can I ask – have you ever had any strange experiences of your own? Are you a believer?
SS: I’m a firm believer in all that I write, I couldn’t write it if not – I believe in the light and in the darkness and that this is a world of balance and that that danger comes in when the balance is tipped, which it can sometimes be. I’ve had several psychic experiences, especially as a child. One that stands out particularly is from when I was aged five and on holiday in Cornwall – I wandered off on my own (kids were given a lot more freedom in those days!) into a cove and next thing I know, I was cut off by the tide, which was racing in. I was eventually forced to climb onto some rocks, looking back out at the sea and convinced that I was going to drown. I began to get scared when suddenly I looked behind me and there were two people, a man and a woman, in their sixties, I remember her more than him, she was wearing a tweed skirt suit, which I thought was a bit odd as it was a hot sunny day on the beach! She told me it was okay, that I was safe and that they wouldn’t leave me, whatever happened. I looked out again to sea and thought ‘oh well, if I do drown it won’t matter, it won’t hurt’ and this incredible sense of peace came over me, as well as acceptance. Next thing I know the lifeboat came screeching around the corner with my mum on it, also screaming and pointing at me. I was rescued, told off a bit, hugged, the usual. It was only years later that I thought about that other couple and asked Mum why they hadn’t been rescued too. Her reply? “What other people? There was no one there but you.”
FD: Where can people find out more about you and your releases?
Thank you for having me!
Fall in love with a brand-new set of books from the author of the bestselling Psychic Surveys and This Haunted World series. Reach for the Dead 2 due out Winter 2020.
There is a doll… There is a legend…
When museum curator Annie Hawkins walks into a diner in Idaho Falls, seeking the help of twenty-two-year-old Shady Groves with an old broken doll named Mandy, life takes a dramatic turn for both of them. Psychometry is the ability to sense or read the history of an object just by touching it, and Annie has heard Shady has this psychic ability.
Mandy may look harmless, but Annie believes she’s possessed and, after handling her, Shady can only agree. She feels tainted by the doll that now invades her thoughts and dreams, terrifying her. There’s only one solution: to understand the doll, her history, what has possessed her, and why. Knowledge is power, Annie tells Shady. It’s protection.
The pair set off on a road trip—along with Shady’s old high school friend Ray—one that will take them from Idaho into the depths of Canada, desperate to trace Mandy’s past, to find out something, anything, about the demonic doll that accompanies them in the trunk of the car.
The truth, when it comes, is far deadlier than any of them could have realized…
Born and bred in Brighton, Shani Struthers is the author of sixteen supernatural thrillers (so far), some set in various locations in England, others in more far-flung destinations such as Venice and America. Having been brought up with an understanding of the Occult and alternative views on religion, she threads this knowledge throughout her books, often drawing on real-life experiences of her own, from people she has known and from well-known Occult figures too. Please Note: she DOESN’T write horror as such, her books tend to revolve more around PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR, which in her opinion, is far more terrifying. You won’t find gore, vampires, werewolves, zombies or any such like in her fiction. Her Psychic Surveys series has proved very popular indeed, becoming global Amazon genre bestsellers. Her new series – This Haunted World – is a set of standalone books set in and around the world’s most haunted places and again, weave fact with fiction. They too have topped the Amazon genre charts in both the UK and the US, along with the more romantic Jessamine and Comraich.
You can find out more about Shani by visiting her official website www.shanistruthers.com
You can follow Shani on Twitter @shani_struthers
Fiona Dodwell has been writing fiction for almost 10 years, with several horror/paranormal titles released under various publishers. Alongside this, she is a freelance writer for various websites and magazines. She has written features for Warner Music, Made In Shoreditch Magazine, Music-news.com and Tremr.
Fiona has studied Psychology, Film Studies, Theology and Health & Social Care.
Her biggest passion is reading dark fiction, as well as creating new stories of her own – the creepier the better!
To find out more about Fiona:
Books: Amazon Store