Kiran Manral is an award-winning Indian author, blogger, TEDx Speaker, columnist, mentor, and feminist. Kiran published her very first book The Reluctant Detective in 2011 followed by Once upon a Crush in 2014, All Aboard in 2015, The Face at the Window in 2016, and Saving Maya in 2017. She also has published short stories in various magazines, in acclaimed anthologies like Have A Safe Journey and Boo as well on online apps. In 2015, her nonfiction book, Karmic Kids: ‘The Story of Parenting Nobody Told You’, was listed amongst the top five books on parenting by Indian authors. Her novella, ‘Saving Maya’, was longlisted for the ‘Saboteur Awards’ UK, supported by the ‘Arts Council England’. She was awarded the International Women’s Day Award 2018 by the Indian Council of UN relations in association with the Ministry of Women and Children, Government of India.
Hira Mehta talks to Kiran Manral about her passion for writing, what it takes to be a good writer and her latest book “Missing, Presumed Dead”, which has just been released.
Let me start by asking you, when and how did you start writing? Tell us about your writing process.
I think I was always a writer from the time I was a young girl. Before I could write I was telling stories, making up tales, and with a terrible reputation for exaggerating everyday mundane events in order to make them more exciting. I went into journalism when I completed my education and that was a different kind of writing discipline, one that taught me to write to a deadline, and to condense into a span of a few words, the who, what, where, why of a story. That I think has stood me in good stead.
I write both in the plotted as well as the organic way. Both methods are interesting, but I think the organic one works better for me. I’ve written books in as little as a few months, and taken years to write others, it all depends on the kind of book and kind of research required. The ‘Face at the Window’ took four years. ‘Missing, Presumed Dead’ saw the first draft completed in 2013 and I’ve just been revising and reworking it since. I think for me, most of the writing comes in the rewriting.
You’ve chosen to write both fiction and nonfiction books across different genres. Tell us more?
The nonfiction has generally been commissioned, except for Karmic Kids which was my blog that I converted into a book. The fiction I’ve written across genres because I think it is a low boredom threshold that I struggle with. To write the same genre over and over again is something I would find difficult, I’d lose interest in what I was writing midway. Also, I detest that one is supposed to write to fit into neat genre boxes, I write stories. They can fit themselves or stay out of boxes, as long as they get told. I realize that this does make me difficult to slot as an author, but it is the only way I can write.
In today’s world, depression and emotional stress are on the rise. What made you choose to look at this aspect of life in your latest book Missing, Presumed Dead. What can the reader expect in this new book?
We don’t talk enough about mental illness. It remains hidden in families, treated as something to be ashamed about. Most families don’t even acknowledge that a family member needs professional help. And then there is the issue of women and depression, women’s struggles with body image issues, postpartum depression and more, women are more prone to depression than men are and less likely to get help. I’d like the book to begin some conversations about why it is important to care for your mental health, as an individual, and as a parent, and also acknowledge how difficult it is to live with and care for someone with a mental illness.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing and your advice to aspiring authors, would be?
One sentence. Keep your day job.
What are the common traps for aspiring writers and why do you think most aspiring writers put their pens down and walk away?
I think it is rejection letters. We all get them, we all deal with them, go sob in the corner for a while and then pick ourselves up and get back to work. And then there is the lack of return on investment. Unless you’re in the top bracket, it is difficult to make a living on what you earn as an author. Life often intrudes on writing, as does bread and butter work. The challenge is to write through it all.
More about Kiran Manral at https://kiranmanral.wordpress.com/