A mother, a blogger, a freelance writer, a twitter influencer, an author of three published books (and counting) and a dear friend, Kiran Manral is a woman of many talents. If I were to ever write a book on her I would call it ‘I don’t know how she does it’ because ever since we reconnected with each other a few years ago I have marvelled at just how quickly and successfully Kiran has authored several books ranging from a comic detective novel to books on romance to a book on parenting.
Apart from these books and her blog, she is also a hands-on, 5 am poolside mother who has managed to raise a 12-year-old swimming champion. Indeed Kiran Manral is one woman who does not believe in pausing for breath and does whatever she sets her mind to with depressing adroitness. To a time waster such as myself, her self discipline has caused a certain degree of anguish, anguish that is substantial enough to depress me but certainly not enough to get me out of my bed and on my writing desk at 6 am.
To me, what makes Kiran unique as a writer is the versatility of her pen. While most writers find their safe niche and adhere to it, Kiran has the flair and courage to attempt different genres of writing such as….humour, light romance, parenting (her next book called Karmic Kids) and also literary fiction (WIP).
The one common thread through all of Kiran’s books is her irresistible wit delivered in a lush language and you can expect the same from All Aboard as well, although she insists she had to simplify her writing style because it is commercial fiction.
In this tete-a-tete with Kiran Manral she shares her take on romance, humor, domesticity, the creative process and tells us how she does it.
Q. Kiran Manral: From a funny woman to a romantic one. Share your journey with us.
Kiran:I think I was a romantic woman who became a funny woman when the romance wore off, and the toilet seat wars began. Seriously though, I’ve always been a romantic deep down, even though I wear a cynical carapace at the best of times and defy the romantic side of me to peep out. But yes, I believe in making people laugh. I also believe in everyone deserving a happy ending, after all what is romance but the place where you choose to end a love story.
Q. As a ‘much’ married woman, is it hard to conjure up romance between single people in the context of today’s day and age?
Kiran: Actually no. Because human emotions remain the same and the need for love and validation from the object of one’s affection stay constant down the ages. Yes, the rules of the dating game have changed a fair bit, and I need to hover on social media and stalk conversations between the young uns to get an insight into how things happen these days, but apart from the convenience of messaging, and whatsapp and snapchat and all the other infinite mediums of reaching out here and now, I don’t see what really changes, except that the object of one’s affection is more accessible than in previous decades.
Q. Your first book The Reluctant Detective was a light thriller set in Mumbai and I for one found it hilarious. Then Once upon a Crush was romantic but it was funny all the same. Is All Aboard purely romantic or can be expect humour from this one too?
Kiran:There is a wee bit of humour, yes, but All Aboard is primarily a romance.
Q. How long did it take you to write All Aboard? Tell us a bit about your writing process.
Kiran: I wrote All Aboard in a span of a few months, then it was the editing process and rewrites and the generally not so glamorous part of writing that is the backroom of writing a book that we generally don’t like to talk about. I sit at my desk every morning at 8.30 am and move butt from desk at around 1.30pm. If I am writing a book, I try to get as much as I can down in a day as I can and stop when the writing is going well and I can actually see where the characters are headed. If it is a bad writing day, I still try to put in time to get at least 500 to 1000 words down on the manuscript, these can always be edited later or completely scrapped if not worth the space they take.
Q. Did you have to simplify your writing style for this book because you are targeting a younger readership.
Kiran: My wonderful editor at Penguin, Vaishali Mathur, was very clear that this book had to be something that was comfortable reading, and I do have a tendency to get verbose and rather painful with sentences that don’t know where to stop themselves. In this book I have tried to tone down that tendency.
Q. Who are the writers who have influenced your writing style?
Kiran: I think P G Wodehouse would come first on that list, and the last and then everything in between, specific to writing style. But having said that, writers I have been influenced by range the gamut from Jerome K Jerome to Mark Twain to Haruki Murakami and Helen Fielding.
Q. What are you reading these days?
Kiran: At the moment am re-reading Bridget Jones, Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding. I so love Bridget Jones, she’s a character after my own heart and feels like a complete soul sister.
Q. Out of all the three books that you have written, what character is most like you?
Kiran: I would say Kanan Mehra of The Reluctant Detective. Except Kanan makes a definite attempt at getting her weight down to acceptable levels so as not to be a blot on the public landscape while I am of the genus that counts sloth as one of her virtues.
Q. There is a lot more Indian writing that one is seeing today than ever before. Among the newer lot who are the Indian writers that you have read and enjoyed?
Kiran: I completely loved your book, Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother. I also love reading Devapriya Roy, Parul Sharma, Anuradha Roy, Janice Pariat, Meghna Pant and so many more. I love the fact that there are so many new voices coming up, strong, assertive and confident, with stories to tell and the determination to be heard.
Q. Did you read any Mills and Boons when you were growing up? Do you still enjoy reading them? Is one ever too old for romance? Do married women need to reach out for romantic novels more frequently than single, unmarried ones?
Kiran: I did read a few Mills and Boons when I was growing up, and yes, occasionally they can be my deep dank funk palliative, though I haven’t read any in quite a while. I like the certainty of the fact that there is always a happy ending, and that there is only the need to ride along with the protagonists as they discover each other, and battle their attraction to each other or surrender helplessly to their passion, as the genre mandates.
One is never too old for romance I would think, but I daresay I now declare myself too tired and too cynical for romance. But one is never too old to read romance. About married women needing to reach out for romantic novels, more frequently than single unmarried ones, well what do I say, but that we live vicariously through the doe eyed, wasp waisted protagonists. There’s not much romance to be reheated after the baby is fed and burped and diaper changed and the husband growling like a starving lion about why there is peeli dal six days in row and such like and what is this damn stain on his brand new shirt, and what on earth is that face pack you’ve got on.
It is a safe getaway, those few hours lost inside a romance novel, which is easy on the pocket and one can dare get some catharsis from it, rather than run off with a travelling salesman for one’s thrills.
Q. What do you think of Tinder?
Kiran: I find it most intriguing. But it also makes me paradoxically very wary. While it is wonderful to be able to connect to strangers off an app, I wonder how this redefines the dynamics of the dating equation, and what it does for self-esteem if likes haven’t been responded to with a match made.
But then that is life, I guess, you’re always setting yourself up for rejection. But this makes it relatively painless since it is offline and not a blind date where the other person suddenly gets an emergency life crisis call that mandates his or her leaving immediately.
Q. What else can one expect from you in the year to come?
Kiran: I have two more books due out this year, both are completely different genres. One is a humorous non fiction book on parenting anecdotes called Karmickids (Hay House) and the next is a darker fiction, a completely different kind of work from what I have done before from Amaryllis.
Q. What advise can you offer to budding writers?
Kiran: Write as much as you can. Read as much as you can. Pay attention to grammar. Rewrite, edit, kill your darlings and bury them in the backyard where no qualms reside.
Q. How easy was it to find a publisher the 3rd time around?
Kiran: I was lucky that the very wonderful Vaishali Mathur of Penguin Random House saw potential in this story and took this book up.
Q. What inspires you as a writer?
Kiran: Everyday life around me is the most potent source of inspiration I have, plus the daily newspaper. Nothing is more interesting than those little snippets that often get overlooked but have me wondering every single time about the back story that led to them.
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