Meet novelist Keran Pantth who loves writing ghost stories besides managing her hotel in Tasmania.
Born and brought up in Delhi, India, Keran is not only a qualified Physiotherapist, but she has also done her MBA in Human Resources. Before moving to Melbourne, she has lived in many cities in India, including Vizag, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore. In 2012, she was in Pune working in Wipro, when she got married, she had to leave her life in India to be with her husband Deepak in Melbourne. The boredom of waiting for her PR and because of visa restrictions involving work, she got into writing to fill in the void. So, one can say her career in writing started due to this weariness but then again, she always wanted to do write but never had the time in India. Keran wasted no time and got herself wearing her creative hat penning down her debut novel in 2012 ‘Beyond Forever in Love” published in 2014.
After that she was consumed by the lull again – Life happened. “I realised that the monotonous 9 to 5 job wasn’t enough for me! I wanted a challenge and change.’’ Says Keran.
Keran started to work with Chandler Macleod in workforce planning and later shifted to Medibank but soon realised she was meant to do something bigger and then the unimaginable happened. In 2017 along with her family, Keran shifted to Tasmania, where she and her husband took over a hotel. Talk about a challenge, it was not only colossal but running a hotel came with many provocations, especially when someone is a beginner in hospitality and a first timer in self-employment.
It was during the Covid lockdown that gave her the discipline and time to write her second novel, ‘CHECKIN CHECKOUT’ and immediately when that got published, the third book ‘IT FOLLOWS YOU’ soon followed.
From Physiotherapist to HR to Recruitment and finally a writer, what made you change your career so frequently?
The only major change I think I did was to leave Physiotherapy to do MBA. In Melbourne, I did whatever I could get which was associated with HR. But after five years of doing a corporate job, I realised that I desperately craved a change. Writing for me isn’t something full time, it happened in my life intermittently. Covid lockdown gave that time where, like others, I too visited my passion and completed my second book and then my third book.
How did writing come about in your life?
I don’t think it suddenly came to me. Even though I wrote my first book in 2012, my writing journey started way back in my childhood to writing my daily diary, which was replaced by my blog. It was in my bucket list to write a book someday.
I guess sometimes you need to do nothing to know what really drives and motivates you. Covid time has been an eye-opener in that aspect and I can certainly say that I have released two books during these times.
What genre fascinates you the most and why?
The genre that fascinates me the most is Thriller/Horror
I love this genre. I love stories that keep me on the edge of my seat. My inspiration to write a particular story comes from the fact that I myself would like to read it. Stories that make me excited!
What inspires you to write horror?
I love stories that are thrilling and scary. As far as inspirations for the stories or ideas, I have a highly overactive imagination and I often observe people, things, and situations. This gives me a lot of fodder for new stories.
What is the process that you take to write?
I try to write with a particular theme in mind. My last two books are anthologies of short stories and even though the stories are different from each other, the readers will find something to connect the stories to. Once I have a particular theme in mind, the stories come to me.
What inspires you to create characters?
My inspiration comes from people around me. People who have touched my life, sometimes random people. I believe that good character building is crucial for storytelling, and readers should relate to a character. Especially with horror stories, you need to make sure there is a good character and environment building for readers to feel scared.
I like to have characters which are inspired from real life, deemed by flaws, weaknesses, and issues.
Who is your favourite author and why?
Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and Neil D silva.
I like the way Stephen King’s characters think, I am also inspired by them as the characters are flawed and the way King goes into detail of character is great.
Edgar Allan Poe is another favourite; and his stories are so dark, contains symbolism. The gothic and mysterious way of writing terrified me a lot as a child.
Neil D silva is another favourite of mine when it comes to Indian horror writers. His stories are so intense, and his character building is great. Lucky that he endorsed my book too.
Do you think writing is a gift, talent, or skill?
I strongly think writing’s a skill. It may start as a passion which can be termed as a gift, but then passion leads to acquiring skills.
You can’t become a great writer just like that. You need to work on that storytelling skill.
Tell us about your book ‘It Follows You’? What is the idea behind it? How long did it take to write?
‘It Follows you’ has 12 short stories that coil around 12 protagonists who find themselves in unprecedented situations where evil follows them. All the stories are linked to each other with the same theme, which the readers would understand when they read it. Also, the stories are interspersed across different cities and villages in India and happen in a time frame extending from 1957 to 2019.
I have been carrying these stories over some time and these are the stories I heard during summer vacation in my ancestral village. Few incidents have happened with my relatives, friends, and the rest is all in the storytelling. But all the stories are smothered in with many regional and urban legends too.
It just took me two to three months to write the book.
What is your message to young writers?
Just do it! Don’t overanalyse. Definitely don’t get demotivated with negative feedback.
If you love writing, just go for it. Have faith in yourself, your ideas, and your stories.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself busy and definitely a few more books under my belt. I also see myself as an entrepreneur exploring something new.
I don’t have any short and long-term plans but I see myself enjoying my senior years.
A writer is never daunted by writing. Call it passion or call it an occupational hazard. Keran has just taken her passion to new heights, where she has opened doors to new challenges. It’s a new dawn for Indian Australian women writers, paving a path for the next generation to tell their stories and ideas and come along collectively as artists to unite creatively. We at the Indian Weekly and the G’day India not only wish Keran the very best for her many more horror stories but couldn’t help quoting her favourite author Stephen King “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”
By Nandita Chakraborty