‘Closure is always elusive’
With her latest book, The Face at the Window, author Kiran Manral finds that there are some questions that haunt us forever, some even to the grave and beyond
Right from the moment you start reading The Face at the Window, author Kiran Manral’s latest book, you get drawn into Mrs McNally’s world. A world, where there are secrets waiting to be told and shadows lurking at every corner. Manral, a former journalist, who has written four books prior to this beautifully written story, urges the reader to delve further into the protagonist’s world, which threatens to fall apart as she grapples with ghosts from the past and present. An excerpt from a conversation with the author:
Where did the inspiration for The Face at the Window come from?
This is a question I keep asking myself too, because Mrs McNally is no one I know at all, or have had a remote acquaintance with. I have always been fascinated by the mountains, and a trip to Uttarakhand a few years ago, took me to Te Aroha at Dhanachuli for a couple of days. Staying there in that splendid isolation, surrounded by the dazzling beauty of nature made me wonder how people lived their lives so isolated. For someone who is born and brought up in the rough and tumult of a city, the very thought was inconceivable.
The scene from the window of my room, had me spot cottages in the distance, smoke curling out from their chimneys, and this visual stayed in my head. It found its way eventually into chapter one of the book. I wondered if there would be someone who would deliberately seek out such isolation, and Mrs McNally popped into my head, fully formed, with a story of her own she insisted I tell.
The book is written from Mrs McNally’s point of view. Why did you feel the need to write in first person?
I didn’t think about it consciously, but I needed to live and be Mrs McNally in order to write her as truly as I could, and writing in the first person dropped me right into her skin, to experience her feelings, her physicality, the issues an onlooker might not realise. Writing in the first person compelled me to be Mrs McNally, and that I think that made her come alive.
The characters in the story are all nicely fleshed-out. Have you sought inspiration from people you know?
Bits and pieces and composites of various people one knows or one hears about always get distilled into characters one writes about, that is always a given. So, not one person has been directly transferred into a character in the book, but I’ve borrowed liberally from people I know as well as people I don’t and patched them all together to create the characters in the book.
Mrs McNally’s ageing has been written in the most sensitive manner, with minute details that draw out her character. Do you put that down to observation? How important is it for a writer to observe life around him/her?
For me, the most important thing as a writer is that a reader should be able to read a character and imagine that person as flesh and blood. No detail is too minute if it adds to the personality, even if it means something as trivial as a flat hairband to keep the character’s fine hair down in a nasty wind. My job as someone who is creating a character is to build up as much as I can of the person, and leave in a little for the reader to flesh out, to personalise so that the character becomes that much more intimate to them.
And yes, observing everything around one is a given, it is only through observation-curious, relentless, unslaking observation, that one goes beyond the surface and arrives at the substratum of what truly makes a character.
Read the complete original interview here