So here we are, on the publication of my 21st book and I’m still as excited and terrified as the very first time.
My first novel, What If? was released in January 2001. The year before, I’d found out that I had a publishing deal and twenty minutes later, I’d discovered I was pregnant with our first child.
What if your whole life changed in the space of a few ticks on a clock?
That year, I went from living in London, with an all-consuming career in sales management and roots that were touched up every six weeks, to a life as a full-time mum and writer back in my native Scotland. I don’t think I found my make up bag for the best part of a decade.
That transition came with countless what if’s.
What if leaving the security of a full-time job is a mistake? What if I only have one story to tell? What if I miss the excitement of a carefree life with no little humans depending on me? And, when my second baby came along the following year, what if these kids don’t sleep through the night until they’re 21 and I never get peace to write?
Thankfully, it wasn’t, I didn’t, I definitely didn’t, and they eventually did.
But that theme of what if was a starting point for my latest novel, With Or Without You. What if one decision changed the rest of your life?
Everyone has reached a crossroads at some point, where they had to move left, more right, go forward, go back. For me, the biggest one happened a few years before that life-changing time in 2000, when my husband and I had only been married for a few years, and we agreed to go our separate ways. There was no drama, no fallout, just an amicable realisation that we both wanted different things.
In the end, we got back together a few months later, and now, twenty-five years after we met, I couldn’t imagine finding more happiness in any other life.
But I’d love to know where fate would have taken us if we’d made a different choice.
That’s the dilemma facing Liv, a palliative care nurse, and Nate, a PE teacher, in the opening chapter of With Or Without You. Married straight out of college, they both feel like something is missing in their relationship, so after a year of trying to reignite the spark, they agree to go their separate ways on the last day of 1999. However, as the clock ticks down to midnight, Nate changes his mind and asks Liv to give it another try. In the moment that the new millennium dawns, the narrative splits, with one storyline following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, and the other covering their future if they stick to their plan to part.
What if staying together is the right thing to do? What if it’s not? What if they miss out on another great love? What if they never find their happy ever after? What if their decision irrevocably changes the lives of the people they love the most? What if they discover they were right for each other after all? What if they don’t?
I hope readers will love following the two different paths as much as I enjoyed writing them. I fell hopelessly in love with Liv, Nate, and their group of friends, flawed as they are, and it brought me to yet another of those deliberations.
What if I bring a few of them back in book number 22?
Love, Shari x
With Or Without You will be published by Aria – available in ebook on June 1st.
If like me you believe in fate and love the film ‘Serendipity’, you’ll enjoy this well-written ‘what if’ story. Most people in a long-term relationship wonder, whether they are with their soulmate, or if under different circumstances they would be with someone else. This story explores Liv’s decision taken at the cusp of the 21st-century, stay with Nate or split up and live their lives apart.
A story of two halves, the outcome of being ‘without him’ is explored first and then ‘with him’. There’s friendship, conflict, romance and sadness but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying in both stories. The setting and relationships are believable, and though flawed, the characters endear themselves to the reader, and you want them to find happiness and fulfilment.
The pacing of the story makes it easy to read, and even though the storyline focuses on ordinary, everyday life, it is full of suspense, poignancy, laughter and love and makes this a lovely lighthearted read.
Shari Low has published twenty novels over the last two decades. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television. Once upon a time, she got engaged to a guy she’d known for a week, and twenty-something years later, they live in Glasgow with their two teenage sons and a labradoodle.
TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?
DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest’s death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution’s doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?
A high profile investigative journalist, the death of a priest and past secrets of abuse and injustice make this mystery thriller an enthralling read. ‘The Lost Children’ is written in dual timelines, the terrible lives of the young girls in the Magdalene Institution in the late 1950s in Galway and Glasgow inform the investigation and mystery explored by Oonagh O’Neil and DI Alec Davies in 2000 Glasgow.
The chapters from the 1950’s are harrowing reading, the abuse suffered by young girls forced into the Magdalene institutions is compounded by their imprisonment and torture when they are there. These young unmarried pregnant girls treated like criminals for being victims of abuse and an uncaring, judgemental society. Their stories are written sensitively and backed up with social history that makes them believable characters.
Oonagh, a successful journalist produces a series of exposes into the seedier areas of Glasgow and British society. Her ongoing investigation into the Magdalene institutions coincides with the death of an old priest who is part of her inquiry, what follows is the gradual revelation of the mysteries and a collision of characters seemingly unconnected as the story progresses.
Oonagh is a dedicated journalist, still grieving for her father, she doesn’t suffer fools, but she is loyal and trustworthy. Her polished outer shell hides a tender heart which she keeps well hidden. Her personal life is complicated, and she has a surprisingly deep friendship with DI Alec Davies a hardened Glasgow cop.
In the year 2000 chapters there are multiple storylines; a frustrated priest, a seedy journalist, cynical police and a successful doctor all have their own stories, but these are necessary to the plot and part of its perfectly pitched ending.
Realistic characters, a well-researched plot tempered with mystery and surprises make this a riveting, crime based thriller.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many, she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.