Shari Low talks about life-changing decisions and the “what ifs” in life.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you knew that one decision could change it forever? And do you ever wonder how life would have turned out if you’d taken another path?

Those thoughts consumed me when I was writing With Or Without You. Over the years, I’ve made many choices that seemed wild, risky, spontaneous, and sometimes just downright bonkers.

I chose not to go to university, but to pursue a life managing nightclubs instead. In the end, it gave me a great few years, working all over the world, while scooping up drunk people and living an unpredictable, thrilling, dramatic, sometimes dangerous nocturnal existence.

I got engaged to several guys (not at the same time!) and changed my mind every time, panicked by a fear of commitment. Then I met a bloke I disliked on sight, revised that opinion after about thirty seconds, and said yes when he asked me to marry him a week later.

Years later, at the age of thirty, I decided to chase my lifelong dream of being a writer, so I gave up a successful career in London, and moved back to Scotland to hammer out books at the kitchen table. Did I mention I was pregnant at the time, so going for life-changing, potentially financially ruinous options probably wasn’t the best idea?

Oh, and I’ve also moved house more than twenty times in the last two decades. I have the home-making attention span of a goldfish driving a removal van.

But the moment that inspired my new novel, With Or Without You, involves that bloke I got engaged to after knowing him for a week. The following year we got married, but around the time of our fourth anniversary, we began to wonder if we’d done the right thing. There was no big drama, no scandal, just the dawning realisation that we weren’t right for each other.

We said goodbye. In theory. In reality, we were fairly rubbish at the whole separation thing – we still hung out, spoke most days and went on holiday together. A few months later, we decided to call the split off, and we’ve been together now for twenty-five years with two children, twenty one books, and a labradoodle. I’ve never regretted it for a single second.

But what if we’d decided to make our separation permanent?

What would have happened to us? We were discussing this over multi-coloured cocktails on holiday last year, and we had many theories. I do confess that a disturbing number of mine involved meeting Jon Bon Jovi in a lift.

The next morning I woke up and started writing With Or Without You. The parallels are there, but it’s not our story. And Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t make an appearance.

It’s the tale of Liv and Nate, who have been married for a few contented but unexciting years, and who already feel they’ve slipped into being not much more than great friends. The agree that they will go their separate ways on the last day of 1999, but as the clock ticks down, Nate changes his mind. The book then splits into two narratives, one following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, the other charting their futures apart.

We learn what happens to them, and the consequences of both paths for the friends who share their lives.

When the last page is turned, the reader sees whether they should have tried again or not… And whether, for Liv and Nate, happy ever after was a choice or a destiny.

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…? A clever, captivating and bitterweet story of what might have been.

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend. Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go? Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

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.

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