Sriramana Muliya tells he chose to write short horror stories because he believes it is easier to shock someone with 2,500 words than 85,000

Sriramana Muliya started posting scary little stories on his blog (imsri.blogspot.in) “more as an outlet to my crazy and morbid imagination.” He had been writing these stories for six years before his wife and friends convinced him to publish. “By then I had written close to 85 stories. I submitted these and 30 were selected. I wrote a few original stories for the book.” And Frankly Spooking (Harper Collins, Rs. 299) was born.

Talking about the title, the 40-year-old says: “When I thought of a title, I wanted it to be scary yet tongue-in-cheek, much like my characters. My personal reason – ‘Because my ghosts don’t make any bones about scaring people. They’re quite frank about it.’

One of the reasons for the effective little shockers is the setting. Sriramana has given the havelis and white sari ghost a miss and introduced the supernatural into our everyday life. The mall, a lift or a pair of headphones take on an evil life of their own.

“Horror stories about haunted mansions, witch-craft and white sari ghosts are done to death and predictable. Village-lore is filled with such stories of haunted trees, gliding witches and what not. But it is not very often one sees or hears horror stories in a totally modern setting. This breaks the monotony and also brings in a certain shock value or thought that ‘what if a ghost suddenly appears right now as we speak?’ We tend to relate to it better, therefore it is scarier. And since I’ve mostly grown up in a city, my mind conjured up these stories in the surroundings I lived in – office, home, shopping mall etc.”

The R.T. Nagar-based writer counts “Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard and Stephen King” among his inspirations and his working on “a full length crime novel next. It doesn’t have any ghosts in it but ‘ghosts of the past’. It has a reincarnation angle to it, but with a twist. It’ll also feature Vishnu Shastry, the private investigator I introduced in Frankly Spooking. It’ll be darker and more complex.” On choosing the short story for debut, Sriramana says: “Short horror stories are easier to write, hence can become effective. It is easier to shock and scare someone with 2500 words than 85000.”

Sriramana chose spooky over gory in his stories because, “Gory is good for the visual medium. I basically wanted to play with the reader’s mind, their imagination and fears. And personally, I’m not such a huge fan of gore.”

About genre rules he cheerfully says: “there are no hard and fast rules. I try to retain the ‘shock value’ or the ‘gasp’ factor.”

Of the techno angle to the story, the technical writer at Cisco Systems says: “Well, for one, it can play with people’s minds much more effectively. A ‘ghostly’ message on someone’s mobile phone, a spooky picture that appears on one’s computer screen, or a virus that spooks the hell out of an Internet user.”

Sriramana who studied in Mysore has been in Bangalore for the past 16 years. He insists the city is good to writers. “I see a lot of aspiring/successful/veteran authors here in this city. It has a very vibrant and throbbing literary and cultural vein, especially in the local vernacular. The city has seen fitting homages paid to some literary giants of our state. It’s not just about pub-hopping or malls anymore. There are at least a dozen writing and reading clubs, there is theatre and now we have our very own literature festival, which, by the way was a huge success.”

While not all the stories in Frankly Spooking are set in Bangalore, Sriramana’s next book will be set in the city. “About a city lending itself well to a novel, my take on it is a story can occur anywhere.The city isn’t such an important character as it is a vessel that carries the characters and the story. I don't try to accentuate this by deliberately adding landmarks or language to glorify it. In a sentence, I'd say ‘Bangalore mutely watches the story unfold’.”