‘It’s extremely difficult to write a thriller’

Kishwar Desai’s latest book,The Sea of Innocence (Simon & Schuster,Rs 350),was released in Delhi recently. She talks to Suanshu Khurana about writing crime thrillers and contemporising current issues.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: April 23, 2013 3:56:41 am

Your latest book is about unsolved cases of rape in India. Tell us about the inquest in the subconscious of rapists and gender criminals.

For a writer,it’s important to get into the psyche of different characters. I have had a string of dark characters in my previous books too,and in each one of them,I have tried to not be judgmental. I see if things can be circumstantial. At this point in time,India is like a pressure cooker. So much is happening around us,the way women are being portrayed,the way they are being treated,and the increasing sexual violence. As an author,one analyses all of that to probe into these mindsets.

Literary fiction is a preferred genre when it comes to writing one’s first book. Was writing crime thrillers a conscious decision?

My first book was on foeticide and the entire series was triggered after I met a woman in Punjab who survived after her parents gave her opium to kill her. I combined her story with others to create the first book and the others followed. So it wasn’t a conscious decision. Sometimes I wish I was writing literary fiction. Our so-called literary snobs don’t consider crime fiction so great. But I also think it’s extremely difficult to write a thriller. All the pieces have to fit in with each other — the timelines,the timezones — and that’s what the readers like about it.

Indian readers don’t take too easily to books on current issues. Does a book garner more readers when written as fiction?

I’m writing in the present day and I’m writing with references. By trying to contemporise the issues,I am also touching upon the real issues. I don’t have super heroes in my book. The character of Simran has to go through an ordeal to rescue somebody. It’s totally fiction but at the same time when it came to the research for the book,I was sitting in offices of lawyers and going through files of rape cases. I’m taking contemporary history and writing about it. If you get inside a victim’s head,people see a different side to things and connect. Also,a novel travels well. It’s readable and makes its own space.

You began writing this book much before the Delhi gang rape happened.

Yes,there were so many horrible stories being told to me — of molestation,rapes,domestic violence — I thought we needed to break the silence. The Scarlett Keeling case (in Goa) was such a high profile case but it dragged on for so long and no justice was done. Delhi gangrape happened around the time of my final edits and that is why you will find references to that as well.

Tell us about Simran,the main protagonist,who was in your last book too.

She is an altruist. She does things without wanting anything in return. She is not prejudiced,is quite independent,a chain smoker,and a whiskey-guzzling social worker who has a string of affairs.

What’s next?

I am working on three books. The next one is on Indian cinema,which will be followed by a romantic novel. There is another “Simran book” in the crime series. But it’s too early to announce the theme. It is more to do with exploring ideas of a family.

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