Exclusive Extract: Kiran Manral’s The Face At The Window
The author’s fifth book is a work of fiction that explores themes of identity and belonging. Verve talks to Kiran Manral about her novel, current reads and happy endings.
1. Tell us something about The Face At The Window. Have the characters or events been inspired by people or incidents from your life?
“The book is completely fictional, but while growing up, I did hear my mother speak a lot about the schools she taught at in the hills up North. My mother-in-law also comes from there, and from her I heard stories of the people, of life in the region, of ghosts and chudails and bewitchments. The region has always fascinated me, and when I went there for the first time few years ago on holiday, the actual experience coagulated into The Face At The Window, a story about a lady searching for herself at the end of her life.”
2. Which character was hardest to create?
“I think it would be the main protagonist, Mrs McNally. I had to crawl into her skin and feel and be her, in order to write her – she is nothing like anyone I know. And she has a mind of her own, she has done things I never expected her to do, and she wanted her story to be told.”
3. Your last two books were romance novels. What has the shift to a new genre been like?
“This book actually was written before I wrote All Aboard. It just kept going through revisions. I’ve written humour, romance, chick lit, non-fiction and parenting books before this. I don’t think I really think about a genre when I’m writing but leave it to the world to assign one to it.”
4. Do labels affect you in any way?
“In terms of labels, there is that scathing dismissal of me being a ‘chick lit’ writer, which I’ve now developed a thick skin about.”
5. How important is a happy ending in literature?
“In romance, yes, a happy ending is essential, because the very genre demands hope and catharsis. I think a story that moves you and makes you wonder is key, and how it ends plays a large part in how a book makes you feel once you’ve read it. Some not-so-pleasant endings can also provide emotional catharsis, as can happy ones.”
6. You’re currently reading…?
“I just finished Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, The Grownup by Gillian Flynn and The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur. I tend to be a peripatetic reader who reads three to four books simultaneously. So also on my bedside are Dark Things by Sukanya Venkatraghavan and Ashoka the Great by Wytze Keuning, which is a massive tome. In the midst of all this, there’s also Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, both of which I am rereading.”
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