‘Most of my characters came to me fully formed’: Murder mystery writer Neha Kirpal

Meeti Shroff-Shah speaks to Neha Kirpal about her latest murder mystery and what inspires her to write.
Writer Neha Kirpal.
Writer Neha Kirpal.

What made you set The Death of Kirti Kadakia: A Temple Hill Murder Mystery in a posh Mumbai neighbourhood?

Temple Hill, the fictional neighbourhood, is an affluent area in Mumbai that still retains a lot of the city’s old-world charm. It is based in an area where I grew up and has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. When I was toying with the idea of writing the book, it made sense to set it there. Its sanguinity offered the most perfect juxtaposition for a crime.

Are your characters based on people you’ve known?

Some writers talk about nature beautifully, others are great at describing the action. I believe my strong suit is people. Most of my characters came to me fully formed. I didn’t really make a sketch with a list of attributes. They are not based on any people I actually know. They are composites of neighbours and relatives whom I’ve known all my life.

How did the Temple Hill story evolve? Did you have the plot chalked out beforehand?

Before I started writing, I’d planned the cliffhangers, red herrings and clues. Somewhere, however, along the way, my characters began to take on a life of their own. I realised that there was no point in sticking to the original twists or force-fitting the original character arcs. In the book, you make passing references to Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew.

Have their writings inspired yours?

Yes! To say that I was inspired by them would be an understatement. I was seven or eight when I read my first Nancy Drew and became instantly enamoured with her. Prodigiously talented, Agatha Christie has singlehandedly given 66 mysteries with stunningly devious plots. Of late, murder mystery, as a sub-genre, has been trending with OTT shows.

What is your take on them?

I love consuming murder mysteries in every format. On TV, I have thoroughly enjoyed Monk, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Broadchurch, Mare of East Town and more recently, Only Murders in the Building.

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The New Indian Express