For our seventh Facebook Live lockdown travel chat, we talked to novelist Hazel Manuel about her experiences travelling in and writing about India. She also shared her top tips for effectively travel journaling with us.
We discussed how important place is to a novel. A viewer asked if Hazel’s debut novel, Kanyakumari, could have taken place anywhere else in the world. The short answer is no. For the long answer, you’ll have to watch the chat! What it’s like to travel alone in India as a woman, how travel changes as you get older, and Hazel’s writing routine also made its way in to our conversation, which could have happily gone on for a lot longer!
About Hazel Manuel
We first interviewed Hazel in 2016, as part of our series about inspirational female travellers. Back then, we wanted to speak with her because she’d made the bold move of becoming a full-time writer after dedicating many years of her life to climbing the corporate ladder. It was a move she made after her first novel, Kanyakumari, won the Cinnamon Press Debut Novel award and she was offered a publishing contract.
Kanyakumari is set in India – Kanyakumari is the name of the southernmost town in India – and the country almost becomes another character in the book. We were also impressed by Hazel’s realistic portrayal of female friendship – something we think about a lot here at Thelma & Louise.
Kanyakumari’s narrative moves between two journeys around India, each set in different periods of time. The surprising adventures of 21st-century travel buddies Rachel and Gina are interwoven with the drama of Sandrine, who write letters home to her brother as she travels around India in the late 1960s.
If you haven’t already read Kanyakumari, pick up a copy. It’s perfect armchair travelling fodder, with its pages transporting you straight to India. Signed copies are available on Hazel’s website.
Since then, Hazel has published three more books and contributed to Meet Me There, a collection of essays that explore the ways in which place and location are central to the author’s work. She has also been writer in residence at an Ashram in Kerala twice (where she was commissioned to write a book about Ashram life). She has run a writers retreat in Tamil Nadu, spoken at the Goa International Literature Festival, and written for a Madurai magazine.
Let’s be clear here. Hazel is not a travel writer. She is a writer inspired by travel, and especially by India. In fact, the journal Hazel kept when she first travelled India eventually turned into Kanyakumari. Who better to ask for advice about journalling your travels?
Read Hazel’s top 3 tips for effective travel journalling, based on her wise words in our Live travel chat.
“India and writing for me are inextricably linked - much more so than anywhere else I've ever been.” - Hazel Manuel
As usual, we talked about the cultural snippets that are making life in lockdown bearable for us.
Cultural Escape: the books, movies and other audio-visual delights that are helping us through lockdown by transporting us elsewhere – without leaving our homes.
- Hazel’s film recommendation: Fire, part of Deepa Mehta’s Elements film trilogy
- Emma’s film recommendation: The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson
- Hazel’s book recommendation: Under the Pipal Tree, by Anjana Chowdhury
Watch the chat to find out exactly why they chose these films and books for armchair travel to India!
Have you got any tips for travel – armchair or otherwise – to India?