Manjiri Prabhu is a whiz at whipping up mysteries, thrillers, and romances, too. Her last book, The Trail of Four is a mystery that takes place in Austria. Her latest book is a dystopian novel called Revolt of the Lamebren. And today, we have the author herself reveal some mysteries about her own life, her books, and everything writing.
Manjiri Prabhu and the Writing Bug:
There comes a point in every author’s life when they know they want to walk down this path. Be it as a child or as a teen or late into their lives, there is always a defining moment. And so it was for Manjiri Prabhu.
“I began writing very early in life – I was seven years old when I knew that I wanted to be a writer, thanks to the world of Enid Blyton books and immediately began penning children books. I’d be lost in my own world of imagination. And I never really missed anyone or anything as long as I could be in my own novels. There wasn’t the slightest doubt in my mind about being a writer. I knew I wanted to be one. Period. It was much later that I actually got published though.”
The Publishing Journey:
Manjiri Prabhu talks to us about her publishing journey that started in 1994. And she hasn’t looked back since.
“It was in the Rupa Romance series that I published two books, way back in ’94 and ’95. Other career-related matters intervened in my writing but I never stopped following my dream. I was slow but steady and after I signed a two book deal with Random House, USA, for The Cosmic Clues and The Astral Alibi, I turned to full-time writing. The Astral Alibi is about a lady detective Sonia Samarth from Pune who solves cases with the help of Astrology and is also India’s first Astro-detective.
I went on to write In the Shadow of Inheritance – a romantic suspense book about a girl called Tara Khanolkar, her inheritance, and a legend which someone is out to prove as real.
The Gypsies at Noelle’s Retreat is a YA mystery that introduced India’s first teen detective Riva who is a part of an all-girl rock band. Riva and her friends are invited to an artist’s retreat in Giverny and Riva solves a thrilling mystery in France.
The Cavansite Conspiracy is about the theft of a powerful mineral stone and a murder that takes Koyal, the chief suspect, on a roller-coaster, 48-hour thrilling chase across Germany and London.
Then came The Trail of Four, novel about the psychic investigative journalist Re Parkar who unravels a 75 year-old trail in 48 hours and saves the city of Salzburg from destruction.
And my latest book is called Revolt of the Lamebren.”
‘The Trail of Four’ and Salzburg:
Manjiri Prabhu and exotic destinations have a connection that goes way back. In her last book, The Trail of Four, she introduced those of us who haven’t been there to the beauty of Salzburg, a town in Austria. She talks us through her vision of the town and how it made its way into the book.
“Salzburg is a lovely heritage town, with castles, cobbled streets, and quaint restaurants, and is the birth place of Mozart. But there’s also the Schloss Leopoldskron by a beautiful lake with the Untersberg mountain looking down on it. Some parts of the film The Sound of Music was shot here and it is famous for this filmshoot. The palace is now a hotel and the Salzburg Global Seminar owns it. But the Archbishop Leopold Firmian built it 300 years ago. The Archbishop loved the Schloss so much that when he died, his heart was buried in the chapel of the Palace.
In the early 1900s the palace was bought by Max Reinhardt, an American-Jew film and theater director who had to flee from Salzburg during the second world war. THE TRAIL OF FOUR begins 70 years from this incident. The archbishop’s heart is stolen and in its place is a note by Max Reinhardt (long dead and gone) which asks Re Parkar, the main protagonist to unravel a trail to save the four pillars of Salzburg from destruction. The story unfolds in 48 hours at the palace and the clues lead Re through the old city of Salzburg to solve the mystery. So Salzburg and the palace are like characters in the book and help lead the story forward. They are not just a backdrop but active participants in the novel.”
Working on Non-Indian Characters:
Indian authors usually work with Indian characters. But Manjiri Prabhu works with non-Indian ones magnificently and churns out bestsellers like The Trail of Four. When asked about how easy or difficult it was to work with non-Indian characters, here’s what she has to say.
“That’s right – only Re is half Indian and the rest of the characters are German and Austrian. When you base a novel in what is not your home town, and deal with characters who are not from your culture and origin, it takes a great deal of research and effort to pull off a credible character sketch. The entire novel had to be thoroughly researched because it had to appear like an ‘insider’ writing the novel. Detailing was very important for authenticity and that included studying not only the town, the palace and the country but also its people. I spent several months on research and even stayed at the palace to understand the culture and history of the town and the palace. Yes, it was tremendous hard work but the journey itself for so exciting, enjoyable, and satisfying that every second spent on the book, was worth the effort.”
Manjiri Prabhu – Favorite Genres:
“My favourite genre is thrillers and mystery, and crime is a part of it. It is a genre which challenges my analytical skills and the craft of writing. And I love the challenge. It is my favourite genre for a multiple reasons – firstly because I believe that mystery books get the reader off from passive reading on the couch to getting actively involved in the crime-solving along with the main protagonist. I think this is big high which only a mystery novel can boast.
Secondly, I believe that mystery novels almost always go through complex plots and situations to finally end on a happy note, where all the ends are tied up neatly and the mystery is solved to satisfaction. Because of this inherent nature of the genre, for me it is almost therapeutic, because it taps the baser instincts in each person, allows them to surface, dusts them, prods them, gives them time to breathe in the open air, to go back into the human shell and the ethics of mankind. This is the best way to keep a person healthy.
Also, to me, mystery fiction is the best form of motivational fiction wherein it fills you with the hope that no matter what happens in life, in the end all will be well.
As a genre, mystery fiction and thrillers are picking up fast now. When I began writing, I believe I was the first Indian woman writer to attempt mystery fiction in English. Today authors are experimenting, switching genres to their liking – which is all a good thing. But ultimately a book calls you. It is born to you. And a writer will only write well what comes from within.”
Revolt of the Lamebren:
“Revolt of the Lamebren has just been released. It is a dystopian novel and the first book in The Super-Dome Chronicles trilogy. I call it a futuristic reality about survival, betrayal and friendship, because the novel is not about an alternate world, but a world that may be, if we aren’t careful. It talks about the baser instincts of human beings that are present in each one of us and no matter how progressive we are technologically, if we don’t think and feel with our hearts, we will be a fearsome and appalling species and mere knowledge capsules of flesh and blood.
I am an immense dog lover. My family and I have worked for many years for the street dogs in our areas – feeding them, taking care of them and getting them sterilized. The series is inspired by the plight of street dogs and particularly one incident that really got me thinking.
But this is not a book about dogs. It is a story of a ‘normal’ girl called Zinnia, also known as No. G23 who is born in the ace-world of the Altklugs. An altklug’s one year is equivalent to our 6.25 years (reverse of that of a dog whose 1 year is equivalent to 7 human years) and they are super-brained. They die by the time they are 15 years of age. If not, they are quietly sent to their death through Dissolution Crypts, because there is no need for them live anymore. Zinnia and others like her are considered to be lame brains and are treated like laborers till they too are sent to their death at the age of 15. This is Zinnia’s story – a ‘lamebirl’ born in thecrippling ace-world of super-intelligent Altklugs and her struggle to save others like her from marked death, before their termination date.”
The Next Manjiri Prabhu Book:
“My next book is due to release in September/October. It is the next book in the Re Parkar series which is a destination thriller series. It is called Voice of the Runes and is a mystery novel that unfolds in 48 hours in the 350 year-old Lund University of Sweden.
I hope that readers will like this book and give it a lot of love and support. In fact I would love to request readers to read more books by Indian authors and support Indian writing.”
Advice for Aspiring Authors:
“Read a lot before you begin to write. Write because you really have something to tell – a story or an idea. And because you can’t sleep until it gets out. Write with conviction and do not get dejected by rejections. Be true to yourself and your characters and story. Don’t undersell yourself and do anything to get published.”