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Author Highlight: N. J. Kulkarni Discusses her New Book ‘The Hawa Mahal Murders’ and Stories from her Life

We are delighted to welcome a very talented journalist and novelist N. J. Kulkarni for a brief Q & A session at our website. Recently, her latest novel 'The Hawa Mahal Murders' was launched by the eminent Bollywood personality Javed Akhtar at the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF19).

In this Q & A session, she will be talking about her writing aspirations, inclination towards contemporary mystery fiction, and the route to getting her novel published. Stay on...while we chat with her.

Would you mind telling a bit about your novel – maybe in two or three sentences?

The Hawa Mahal Murders is a story which satisfies your appetite for suspense, mystery, Bollywood, blackmail, love…and seduction. It’s entertainment. A fun read, a whodunnit without gore or horror.

What inspired you to write this novel? Any tales...

I used to live in an ordinary building in Mumbai, a building surrounded by the superrich. The idea took shape from the feeling of alienation I experienced. But everything else is from my imagination.

How did you manage to keep the suspense element alive throughout the novel, as there are many characters?  

I created several characters who had some motive or the other and that created the suspense. And as I myself had no idea as to who the killer was, it must have added to the suspense. Like the reader, I was suspecting everybody until I eventually realised who had done it.

How was your meeting with Javed Akhtar during the launch?

Actually, I was too nervous to talk to him.

Did you find any difficulties in doing research for the novel?

I enjoyed the research. It meant meeting different people and also researching on the net. There were no difficulties.

What was your biggest learning experience throughout the publishing process?

I learnt that it is difficult to find a traditional publisher. Traditional publishing is very different from self-publishing because you need a publisher to invest in your work and help you with distribution and marketing. I found a traditional publisher due to sheer luck. I won a manuscript contest at last year’s Pune International Literary Festival and as a result got a publishing contract from Vishwakarma Publications.

How do you handle the response of this book, especially from your friends and relatives and readers?

I have had a good response and it’s made me happy.

Who is your favourite character from the novel – why?

The question you are asking is like asking a parent who their favourite child is, so it is difficult to answer that.

Are you inspired or influenced by Agatha Christie?

Not in the least. Actually she is one of my least favorite authors. Her books are too plot driven for my liking. That said, I grew up reading Christie mysteries, the Perry Mason series, also other authors like P.D. James and Ruth Rendell but that was in my teenage years. I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes books too. Lately I have enjoyed Minette Walters and Stephen King. Walters and KIng have probably influenced me more. This is because I write more about the people, the characters. My characters unravel the plot as they try to get out difficult and life threatening situations.

What are you working on next?

I am writing a sequel. The Hawa Mahal Murders has left one mystery unsolved, that of the missing jewellery. This aspect of the story was never part of the main plot but it will be explored in my next novel, the sequel.

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