Why I write what I do – Guest Post by Kiran Manral
It gives me great pleasure to host Kiran Manral on my blog today. Kiran and I are ‘powder-puff girls’ as I like to call us. The first time I met her, I was bowled over by her soft voice and her easy-going nature. Instantaneously, I knew she was a woman I’d like to call a friend. And she has been one. Never the one to shy away from lending a helping hand or offering advice, Kiran is as good-hearted as they make them.
A TEDx speaker, columnist, mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017 and festival curator, Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective, in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres to date. Her books include romance and chick-lit with Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Saving Maya; horror with The Face at the Window and nonfiction with Karmic Kids, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and True Love Stories. Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey and Boo.
She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) supported by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella, Saving Maya, was longlisted for the Saboteur Awards 2018, UK, supported by the Arts Council England. Two of her books, The Face at the Window and Missing, Presumed Dead, were longlisted for the JIO MAMI Word to Screen.
Her latest book Missing, Presumed Dead, can be ordered on Amazon here.
I’ve often been accused, and rightly so, of being fickle about the genres I choose to write in. I guess this peripatetic nature of my writing can be traced back to when I was a rookie journalist at the then newly launched newspaper, The Asian Age, and wrote with great unsubstantiated authority on everything from art to advertising, with a tinge of Bollywood and business reporting thrown in for good measure.
Back then, I got sat down and spoken to sternly too. Stick to one beat, well-wishers told me. Dabbling around in too many beats won’t make you an authority on any. I smiled and continued writing on every darned thing that came my way. Determination or foolhardiness, I don’t know. But today, in retrospect, I realise that I was lucky to be working with a newspaper that indulged my desire to write on everything I could. Had I been in another space, I would probably have been buttonholed into a beat and stayed bound to it till I stepped out of journalism or died, whichever came earlier.
It so happened that when I stepped out of full-time journalism and moved into freelance writing that the advantages of being able to write comprehensively across subjects became an advantage. I wrote on fashion, feminism, never mind how conflicting they are as subjects, I wrote on pop culture, I reviewed books, I did celebrity interviews, I wrote on marketing and advertising, and even edited a couple of trade magazines. I had fun doing it all.
And then came the blogs. Followed by the books.
I wrote my first one as pure humour. Alas, the title got it slung into the mystery, crime, thriller section which often confused and sadly annoyed innocent readers who picked it up not knowing what to expect. I followed this up with an out-and-out chicklit, then romance, then a parenting nonfiction, a spooky story, nonfiction book for kids, a spooky story, a second chance romance and now a psychological thriller with the latest. Why do I keep shunting genres, keeping hapless readers confused about what to expect next from me? If they do at all, have expectations in the first place, that is?
Why a psychological thriller, this time they ask, what made you pick this genre. I don’t pick the genre, I tell them, the genre picks me. Rather it is the protagonist who picks me, comes to me when I’m asleep, when I’m awake and harangues me to write out her story. It happened with The Face at the Window, where Mrs McNally wouldn’t leave me in peace until I told her story. And now, this time, it happened with Aisha Thakur, who popped into my head fully formed, with all her conflicts and miseries, her troubled mind and her claustrophobic marriage, one fine day when I was at my desk and had me write out chapter one as though in a daze. The story finds the writer and not vice versa. And I think I am truly humbled that so many stories have found me.