At the mind of it

Shobha Nihalani’s thriller is dedicated to people living with mental health issues

Published - December 04, 2015 09:55 pm IST

Shobha Nihalani.

Shobha Nihalani.

Starting on a flat note, Shobha Nihalani’s novel “Unresolved” builds the momentum rendering this psychological thriller a racy and fast-paced read and ultimately hitting the crescendo at the end. Beginning with the life of a newly-wed Maya, the Hachette publication revolves around her restlessness because of Deepak’s (her husband) nervy tension, hushed phone calls and sudden bouts of violence. What makes things worse is Deepak’s refusal to talk about his job while sternly warning Maya never to question him.

The author reveals that she was inspired by reports on women’s issues in the national media and Alfred Hitchcock’s dark depictions and portrayal of subtle nuances in his films. “In a way, I have taken a mix of two in terms of news and imagination.” On labelling it as a psychological thriller the writer explains: “Beneath the layers of story there is much doubt and fear as well as conditioning and control with the main protagonist worried about her state of mind because of a history of mental breakdown. Though eager to please, she is curious about her husband’s job to the point of obsession.”

Incidentally, the book is dedicated to people living with various types of mental health issues who suffer in silence akin to Maya. Making a point about how people should recognise and deal with it through her story, Shobha says, “When it comes to a mental health problem, the afflicted wants to hide the issue as though it is a weakness or a defect. These are not small issues, but it comes with a sense of shame, so no one wants to talk about it.” Similarly making a case for married women suffering without a protest through her characters, she feels the trend is changing with women studying and taking up careers while living their marital life.

A graduate in business administration, Shobha who undertook writing courses worked as a freelance journalist and copywriter, turning to writing fiction in 2002 and so far has penned “Karmic Blues, “The Silent Monument” and the Nine series of books. Fascinated by paranormal stories and conspiracy theories this avid reader of thrillers was in her words “so psyched by these various concepts that I was inspired to write in these genres”.

Inspired yes but is it easy? “No. The writing has to be sharp and entertaining, the characters coming across well-defined. The suspense must not be revealed too early in the story and the pace is important to keep up the thriller momentum.” Agreeing that sustaining reader’s interest is tough, the author says besides creating a tale, there has to be a relatable story. “Some aspect of the character or situation must resonate with the reader, e.g. a journey on a train or shopping in a market place and the character’s impressions of it.” The dramatis personae must be imbued with quirks and interesting personalities while the plot must have twists and turns thus keeping the story moving forward and emotionally involving the readers in the conflicts faced by the characters.

Denying a sequel is in the works, Shobha says with Maya overcoming her doubts and fears and Deepak going into a limbo the relationship swings between love and hatred. “They will forever remain unresolved,” she sums up.

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