Master of the Written Trade: Manjiri Prabhu Returns with The Trail of Four

Master of the written trade, Manjiri Prabhu, is back with yet another mystery thriller, which I simply can’t wait to get my hands on! Here’s a quick chat I had with her, just in time for her latest work’s, The Trail of Four, Pune launch on January 18 at Crossword Bookstore in Aundh.

Tell me about your inspiration behind The Trail of Four.

The Trail of Four is a novel which takes place in 48 hours in a palace in Salzurg, called Schloss L​e​opoldskron.​ (This was where the film ‘The Sound of Music’ was shot). It is owned by the Salzburg Gobal Seminar​, an organisation which promotes world peace​. As a tourist I was fascinated by it when I first saw it. But I really fell in love with it when I was invited by the Seminar in 2002 to attend a session​. It was then that I decided that one day I would like to base a novel here. It took me 12 long years to return to the palace to write that novel. I believe that The Trail of Four happened to me. ​An inner yearning which took root in 1998 on my first trip to Salzburg, saw the light of day in 2014, when I was invited back to the Seminar to write my novel…​

This book is very special to me – Because of the way it was born,  the way the Universe aligned everything in order to see its completion and because I feel that the Universe conspired for me to be at the right place at the right time. I say this because there were many strange little discoveries I made that were almost surrealistic. People went out of their way to assist me in research and comfort and made it so easy for me to write this novel. I would like specially mention the Marketing and Communications Director Thomas Biebl and the Schloss GM Daniel Szelényi.

How long did it take you to write it?

​A​ lot of research and time ​was involved (more than a year), into combining history with a contemporary​ but intricate​ plot-line to make it an interesting mystery thriller. Salzburg, its locales, history of the Schloss Leopoldskron, incorporating Salzburg’s culture to further the plot of the novel ​were all interesting elements ​which had to be logically incorporated into the story.

W​hen you write a novel based in another country, you are in actuality representing it in your way, from your own perspective and it is up to you to do justice to whatever you see and write. ​You’ve got to do the task well​. That sense of responsibility weighed heavily on me.

Also when you are dealing with a foreign locale, it is important to appear like an insider when you are actually an outsider. You have to work hard to make it all seem convincing and natural. This obviously takes time and dedication. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. In fact, I feel a huge sense  of gratitude because I feel like I was ​chosen to write this novel.​

Now, after two years, I sense a feeling ​of ​completion and closure… because it’s been a long journey, emotionally and mentally and at times physically. I feel that I was in this dream ​cocoon all the time​ with my characters​, sometimes happy sometimes struggling to breathe, and now I am elated that we can both spring out of the ​cocoon and prance ​out in the open​!​

How do you conquer the writers’ block (that’s if you get one)?

​I take long walks in nature, listen to music, chat with friends, spend time with my family and dogs, read books, meditate… In short, I don’t worry about the block. I let it dissolve on its own. ​

Name three books you wish you’d never read.

​I never finish the books that I don’t like, so there’s no wishing them away.​

Name an upcoming author you’re rooting for.

​Suhail Mathur, who is a young dynamic and talented author.

Is there any aspect about being an author that you dislike?

​While I love to interact with readers and receive their feedback, I don’t quite like the aggressive promotion and marketing part of the process. Today it’s no more enough to write a novel. You have to  get out there and try to promote and market it too if you want your book to be noticed. Especially if you are not a people’s person, you can have a tough time. I would much rather move on to my next book than market it. But you have to change with changing times.

What’s next?

A futuristic fantasy that I have completed and another ​surrealistic fiction that I am working on. ​

Other than that, the Pune Lit Fest takes up a lot of my time and I am looking forward to another fantastic edition this year. ​

‘The Trail of Four’

Where the Voice of Love and Reason, is the Voice of Revenge…

An international Mystery/Suspense Thriller, published by Bloomsbury. 

Feature Image credit: The Hindu