Manjiri Prabhu is a talented mystery writer based in Pune, India. Her books have been published in India and the US. Some of her works have won awards and commendations from prestigious organizations worldwide.
Her published books include a. A Symphony of Hearts, Silver in the Mist, The Cosmic Clues, The Astral Alibi, and The Cavansite Conspiracy. She is also the author of Roles: Reel and Real, a non-fiction book on the role of women in Hindi films.
Manjiri Prabhu is currently working on two young adult novels, The Gypsies at Noelle’s Retreat and The Gypsies on the Eurail.
By day, Manjiri is a Children’s Television Producer and a short filmmaker. In her spare time she is deeply involved in Animal Welfare and well-being. She took some time off from her busy schedule to answer some questions about her writing life for Suprose. Here are some excerpts.
did you become a writer? Why do you write?
I write because it
is my instinct. I can’t help but write. And I discovered this urge very early
in life. What channelised this urge on a conscious level were my early reading
habits. I grew up, like many of us, on Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Agatha
Christie books. And I dreamt of creating fictitious worlds which would seem
more real than real. I knew at age seven that I wanted to be a writer and since
then I’ve been struggling to be one.
What motivates you, makes you want to
Firstly, the need
to tell a story. And secondly, the craving to create memorable characters, a
world which is entirely mine but which will grow beyond me and last beyond me. Ultimately a human being lives on in the
form of memories which are passed on from generation to generation. I would
love to create a world which would create similar warm memories in the minds of
the readers. If the readers would allow my characters into their hearts, and if
my novels could live on, side-by-side with their own real-life, personal memories,
I would feel honoured and blessed. This thought gives me a sense of
satisfaction and prods me to write more.
What are the tools you use to inspire
yourself? As in writing excercises, music and such?
Walking and lots of
it. Then music, free-style dancing, playing with my dogs, interacting with my
family and friends and lastly, whenever possible, traveling. Other than these,
life in itself and its mysteries is a huge inspiration. The many unanswered
questions, the twists and turns, the unpredictable and the unexpected, the
enigma – everything to do with life is a full-on inspiration to write.
You write primarily mystery, why did
you choose this genre?
Early in life I was
influenced by Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. This served a dual purpose – it
not only provided me with my first inspiration to write but also handed me the
genre on a platter. I loved mystery and I loved the way the children would have
adventures and enjoy themselves. I was an avid reader and I knew then that this
was what I wanted to write about – fun, adventure-filled stories which claimed
that anything was possible, that good always triumphs over evil. On a deeper
level, the mysteries introduced me to the games people play and the depth of
the human psychology. Mystery is a genre which may appear blatantly simple at
face value. But it has so much more to offer. It is an all-encompassing genre – it absorbs other genres
within it. The insights into a human psyche, political upheavals, societal
attitudes and issues, gender complexes, relationships and many more subjects
can fall within the realm of this story-telling. Mystery writing provided me
with the perfect platform to tackle various issues as well allowed me to garner
readers of all ages from all strata of society.
writing a mystery novel is a challenge. It has to be written from three points
of view – the Author’s POV, the reader’s POV and the POV of the Characters. The
Author ‘knows’ it all but has to pretend that he/she doesn’t; the element of
surprise has to be retained throughout the novel for the reader and finally,
the multiple layers of the characters have to be enigmatic and keep the mystery
alive. It is the perfect equation between ‘pretense’, ‘surprise’ and ‘enigma’
which results in a good mystery novel and finding this balance is the real
challenge, which I find fascinating and fulfilling.
How does it feel, to be a successful
published writer of whom expectations are different, versus a writer who just
wrote just because?
The fact that I am
published doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with the process
of writing the novel and getting it published. I experience the same anxiety
pangs today which I suffered during my first novel. As far as the expectations
go, yes, it’s a pressure. Not only because my readers expect a certain standard
from me, but also because I myself would want to do better than my last effort.
The pressure is also a trigger. A trigger to go beyond my boundaries, push my
imagination farther than what I’ve already achieved and write as I’ve never
Do you believe creativity is stifled
when prose is categorized and clubbed into genres?
I believe that when
a novel is destined to be born, nothing can stop it. Similarly, if I’ve chosen
a genre I like to read and the ideas come instinctively to me, the genre is in
fact supporting the creativity in me. Creativity can be stifled only if a
writer chooses to create a contrived work with a specific market in mind, in a
way like writing to a gallery, or if he deviates from his natural instinct. It
isn’t the genre then, but his or her attitude which could smother the
creativity in him.
Many writers tend to be solitary
animals, not savvy sales or marketing folks. For them toughest part is the
sell. How did you navigate through this?
This is so true of
me. I am a solitary animal. I love to be with my characters and in my
fictitious world. But this just isn’t enough anymore. If you want people to be
aware of your book - leave alone read it - you have to take much more effort.
And I find this extremely difficult - to step out and to promote your work.
Today’s definition of success is a result of skillful and smart marketing
gimmicks. If you are good at it, you are successful. Reaching out to readers
and interacting with them is a good thing. But promoting yourself almost like a
brand, changes the focus from your work to yourself. I am still clueless as to
how to work around this.
Your first book was also published in
the US, how about the books that came after, were they also published outside
My first two novels
were published in India in 1994 and 1995. The next two novels, ‘The Cosmic
Clues’ and its sequel ‘The Astral Alibi’ were published by Bantam/Dell, Random
House USA in 2004 and 2006. My fifth novel The Cavansite Conspiracy’ was again
published by Rupa Publications, India in 2011. My forthcoming series, a YA
mystery series, is being published by the Times Group Books, India, scheduled
for 2013 release.
You recently won an award, can you give
the details? Any other awards you have won? Please list them.
‘The Cosmic Clues’
was selected as a ‘killer Book’ by the Independent Mystery Booksellers
Association of America, in 2004.
The Astral Alibi
was honored as a ‘Notable Fiction book’ in the ‘Kiriyama Prize, 2006’.
And now recently, The
Butterfly & the Bee (BTB), a literary organization (in New Delhi) launched
its first Indian literary awards based on readers’ feedback. ‘The Cavansite
Conspiracy’ was awarded the Best Mystery Book of 2012.
What do you read – for pleasure and for motivation?
I read everything that I can lay my hands on – from magazine,
children books to spiritual ones.
If I were to look through your bedside reading pile what
would I find?
An Enid Blyton book, an Agatha Christie, A Deepak Chopra
meditation book and probably a Victoria Holt or a Jane Austen.
What is your next project? What are you working on?
I am working on a YA mystery
series with Times Group Books. The first title is due for release in Feb/March
2013 and is called ‘The Gypsies at Noelle’s Retreat’ – A Riva Parkar Mystery.
This story takes place in Giverny and Paris. The second novel in the series is
titled ‘The Gypsies on the Eurail’ and as the novel suggests, the Gypsies will
be traveling through Europe and Riva Parkar, the main protagonist will solve a
mystery. I am also working on a futuristic fantasy for another publisher but
the project is right now tightly under wraps J